DRDO moves to stem exodus of scientists

By Ritu Sharma, IANS,

New Delhi : Hit by an exodus of key scientists, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is moving to get its act together with the defence ministry permitting it to hire scientists on contract. The step may help in cutting short the gestation period of many of its projects.

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DRDO has been hit by a talent crunch with a large number of scientists leaving for plum packages in the corporate world.

“The ministry has given the green signal to contractual appointments so that bright scientists can be hired. Their accountability will be fixed and they will be required to deliver within a stipulated time frame,” Chief Controller (Research and Development) W. Selvamurthy told IANS.

Such scientists will be paid a fixed remuneration based on the quality of their work and their experience.

A number of DRDO projects have been plagued by cost and time overruns, forcing the armed forces to resort to the import route.

Among the major DRDO projects that have suffered huge time and cost overruns are the development of the Arjun main battle tank (MBT) and the Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA).

DRDO has, however, been instrumental in developing a series of tactical and strategic missile systems like the Prithvi and the Agni, some of which have been inducted into the armed forces.

DRDO, which celebrates its golden jubilee this year, has lost around 1,100 scientists between 2003 and 2007, implying that on an average one person leaves every two days.

Selvamurthy said that the defence ministry has also agreed to the DRDO demand for enhancing the professional update allowance for its scientists.

“Earlier, everyone used to get around Rs.5,000 per annum as professional update allowance for becoming member of a scientific society or subscribing to magazines. But now the ministry has accepted a differential professional update allowance based on seniority,” Selvamurthy told IANS.

The scientists will be getting the allowance in three categories of Rs.10,000, Rs.20,000 and Rs.30,000 based on their experience and rank.

The attrition rate in DRDO, which has 7,000 scientists, is about 6.3 percent. And what is worsening the situation is that the organisation is able to fill up only 60-70 percent of its vacancies.

DRDO scientists are in great demand in the private sector and find jobs in areas like aeronautics, armaments, combat vehicles, electronics, instrumentation engineering systems, missiles, materials, naval systems, advance computing, simulation and life sciences.

In a bid to check the exodus, DRDO has sought financial incentives for scientists who obtain patents and whose research work gets published in high-profile journals.

“Annually DRDO scientists get around 50-60 patents. We are hopeful that the demand will be granted,” Selvamurthy said.

Another demand aimed at retaining bright minds in DRDO is that the government share the royalty earned by commercializing a technology with its inventor.

“The payment given to DRDO scientists cannot equal that given by the private sector, but incentives like sharing the revenue generated by commercialization of technology can be a performance booster,” Selvamurthy added.