September 13, 2015

PMO Tethers DRDO Indolence

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has decided to crack the whip on India’s scientific community, and the first to be hit is the hapless Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), headed by S Christopher.
Perturbed over DRDO’s inability to meet deadlines for key projects that led to huge cost overruns, the prime minister has now asked all project in-charges to submit a monthly report to the highest offices of the government, including the Council of Ministers, defence minister and the Cabinet Secretariat.
Underlying nine incomplete key projects on which the government has spent Rs 16,708 crore, the move is towards fixing “accountability” on the project in-charges.
“Projects in-charge are requested to send update on test and trials conducted in the month along with crucial milestones achieved to the office of the Cabinet Secretariat, Raksha Mantri (defence minister) and Council of Ministers by 5th of every month,” states an official note from the government on August 25, a copy of which is with The Sunday Standard.
In his first interaction with DRDO scientists last year, the prime minister sent out a strong message by flaying their ‘chalta hai’ attitude and asked them to complete projects before deadlines to put India ahead in the world. He also underlined that technology in the defence sector is changing fast and India is behind because products that are “two steps ahead” come into the market “even before we conceptualise a system”.
A year later, things have not changed much in the country’s defence manufacturing sector and the Indian armed forces continue to import arms and ammunition. With imports of around 70 per cent of its military purchases, India is the world’s biggest weapons importer, ahead of China. This figure will be much higher if the total value of the foreign components in equipment, platforms assembled and manufactured in India is computed.
“Repeated delays can be attributed to many factors, including lack of infrastructure development. With this new instruction to submit monthly reports to higher ups in the government, we can also convey issues and problems that scientists face during tests and trials of projects,” said a senior scientist who did not wish to be named.
Key projects such as the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas Phase-II, which was scheduled to be completed by December 2008, has now been given fresh deadline of 2015-end. The government had sanctioned Rs 5,777 crore for the project. The first of the LCAs, which was conceived in 1983, is yet to see its first induction in the Indian Air Force (IAF). Technology denial by technologically advanced countries, inadequate production facilities and unanticipated complexities faced in the structural design were cited as the key reasons for its delay.
Similarly, the Rs 1,714.98 crore Naval Light Combat Aircraft project, which was given the probable date of completion of March 2010, is under revision. One of the reasons submitted by the defence minister for the delay is that “technology challenges have been significantly higher than originally anticipated”.
The much-hyped Rs 2,838 crore project to develop Aero Engine Kaveri, which was supposed to be completed by December 1996, has already been given extended deadlines and is also under revision. Non-availability of indigenous raw materials, denial of crucial systems and components and lack of test facilities have been cited for its inability to meet the deadline. Sources in DRDO have now indicated that the project has almost been shut down and will now be used as a power plant for combat drones.The Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) System, for which the government has sanctioned Rs 2,275 crore, is four years behind the probable date of completion. It was supposed to be handed over to the IAF in October 2011. This has now been postponed to December 2015.
The Rs 2,606.02 crore project to develop Long Range Surface-to-Air Missile (LR-SAM) was scheduled to be over in May 2011, but DRDO has now given a commitment to deliver it by December 2015.
The helicopter version third-generation anti-tank guided missile, whose promised date of completion was December 2010, is now expected to be completed by January 2018. Air-to-air missile Astra is running four years behind its scheduled date of completion and is expected to be ready by December 2016.
The dual colour missile approach warning system for fighter aircraft and advanced lightweight torpedo, which were to be completed in 2013, are now likely to be executed by the latter part of 2015.
For the financial year 2013-14, 10,610.17 crore was allocated to DRDO, of which Rs 5,552.57 crore was in revenue and Rs 5,057.60 crore was in capital.


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