Antony asks DRDO brass to curb attrition rate of scientists


New Delhi : With an average of 75 scientists quitting the Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) annually, Defence Minister A.K. Antony Friday asked the agency’s top brass to pay undivided attention to ensure fair and equal career progression and training opportunities to retain manpower and attract new talent.

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At the 35th DRDO directors meet here, Antony also asked India’s defence research organisation to focus on its core competence and high-end critical defence technologies.

“No amount of technology and financial resources can ever match the vibrancy of human resource. Effective HR policies are the key to a dynamic, vibrant and futuristic organization. I call upon chief controllers, directors and senior scientists in charge of laboratories to lead by example and maintain transparency and fairness at all levels, even in routine administrative matters. DRDO personnel at all levels must be given equal opportunities in matters pertaining to career progression and training,” he was quoted as saying by a defence ministry release.

“We want to retain and attract the vast pool of talent, but the government’s efforts must be backed up by genuine support so that its intentions are translated into reality at the ground level. The onus clearly lies on the top hierarchy of DRDO to create and sustain a creative, positive, vibrant and dynamic work environment, where the other levels of personnel feel motivated to give off their best and at the same time, their reasonable expectations are fully met,” he added.

Antony had 10 days ago told parliament that “the number of scientists leaving DRDO is less than one percent of the total strength” of over 7,800 scientists.

The defence minister said though DRDO had developed “spin-off” products that greatly benefitted the civil society, it must not lose sight of its prime objectives.

“Without discouraging such efforts, I would like to add in the same vein that such spin-off benefits must not be allowed to cloud the vision of DRDO. It must strongly focus its energy and resources on developing weapon systems and adequate high-end critical defence technologies for our Armed Forces,” he said.

Lauding the DRDO’s indigenous missile development programme, Antony said the country needed missiles that can reach targets 5,000 km away and a reliable missile defence system.

“India has been able to reach an appreciable level of competence in missile technologies, with a reach capability up to 3,500 kilometers. Now, DRDO is developing Agni missile, with a capacity to reach 5,000 kilometers. DRDO must also speed up the developmental trials and induction of interceptor missile for a credible ballistic missile defence,” he said.

Cautioning against delays in vital weapons projects that affected the operational preparedness of the armed forces, he said: “Time and cost overruns continue to be a matter of concern. While whole-heartedly appreciating DRDO, I have to give the other side of picture too. I am conveying the concerns of our armed forces. Such delays not only invite criticism, but also have an adverse impact the operational preparedness of our armed forces.”

Pointing out that the unconventional warfare and low-intensity conflicts have emerged as the new threats, the defence minister said the requirements of the soldier deployed in counter-insurgency operations and jungle warfare, including his mental health, must be met.

“I have recently asked one of the life science laboratories of DRDO to undertake extensive psychological research to optimise the stress profile and enhance the mental health of soldiers. The objective of this exercise is to further reduce the incidents of suicides and fratricides among soldiers. The earlier steps have resulted in a substantial reduction of such incidents and resulted in control and management of such aberrations in mental behaviour. Fratricides are more or less, under control,” he said.

At the meet, parliamentary standing committee on defence chairman Satpal Maharaj strongly advocated that the DRDO’s budget should be raised to 15 percent of the defence budget, just as some of the neighbouring countries were doing.

He also supported the DRDO staff’s demand to implement the sort of incentives that have been advanced to similar organisations like the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).