For months, the Narendra Modi government is sitting on a proposal to create 436 new posts for scientists at the Defence Research and Development Organisation, which is in desperate need of additional manpower due to its expanding research mandate. The agency with 52 laboratories has been tasked with several new projects ranging from next generation missiles to unmanned combat drones by the central government, but manpower shortage remains a matter of concern for the top brass.
While the authorized strength of scientists in DRDO is 7,353, the existing held strength of is 7,107.
Since the scientific manpower is insufficient for the committed R&D projects, its own manpower planning board in April 2010 recommended hiring another 4,966 scientists.
The proposal was subsequently toned down by the Union Finance Ministry that slashed the number to 1,316 posts. The Department of Expenditure further lowered the figure and cleared only 436 posts in the first phase.
However, the final approval for those 436 posts from the Cabinet Committee on Security headed by Modi was yet to come, sources told DH.
Reached out for a reaction a DRDO spokesperson, refused to make any comment.
But its officials recently conveyed to a panel of lawmakers that since 2001, DRDO was managing its task with same authorization inspite of more than six times increase in its outlay from the 9th plan period (Rs 13,866 crore) to 13th plan period (Rs 90,000 crore).
The scientific manpower authorisation for all these years was fixed at 7,255 compelling the organisation to 'optimally utilise the scientific manpower'. To make the matter worse, 142 Scientists left DRDO between 2014 and 2018 on personal grounds.
In a 2018 report, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence noted that there were 93 on-going major projects in different DRDO labs, including Agni IV and Agni V ballistic missile, Nirbhay cruise missile, submarine-launched K-15 missile, anti-tank Nag missile, beyond visual range Astra missile for the IAF, airborne radar AWACS, Arjun battle tank and Tejas Light Combat Aircraft.
Out of 30 major on-going projects (each costing more than Rs 100 crore), there have been cost revisions in six and time revisions in 16 projects. Besides, 12 projects are more than five years old (sanctioned prior to 2011) while 17 major projects were approved during the 11th five year plan (April 2002 to March 2007). None have been completed.
Several Parliamentary Committees over the years have put in record their dissatisfaction on the "inordinate delay in execution of almost all DRDO projects", which had become a common phenomenon.