NEW DELHI:Defence minister Manohar Parrikar has intervened in the controversial removal of project director of Agni 5, a day after the successful launch of the N-capable surface-to-surface ballistic missile. On February 2, Dr R K Gupta, project director of Agni 5, and the associate director of Hyderabad-based Advanced System Laboratory (ASL), received an official communication dated January 5, that he is no longer involved in the project. Gupta was replaced by his junior colleague, G Ram Guru as the project director with effect from February 3.
Parrikar is visiting the Hyderabad laboratory on Saturday to clear the air on the issue and till then, Gupta’s removal has been put on hold by the ministry, according to officials privy to the development. “Though no formal orders have been issued in the matter so far, the defence minister has asked V K Sekaran DG (Missiles and Strategic Systems) to keep the transfer order on hold till he gets a complete picture of the situation,” said an official. Parrikar will meet top officials of DRDO and ASL after attending a seminar in Hyderabad.
Gupta, in his representation to Defence Secretary R K Mathur on February 4 said, “My removal was premeditated with malicious intention by Dr V G Sekhran, director general, Missile and Strategic Systems, and Avinash Chander, former scientific advisor to Raksha Mantri,” as first reported by Express.
“With all humility and respect, I wish to bring to your notice that on February 2, I was relinquished from the post of project director Agni-5. I am shocked that in my entire carrier such a bad treatment is meted out to such a senior scientist with excellent track record throughout the service tenure,” Gupta had said in a communication to Mathur.
Sources claimed that the ministry is looking into decisions made by former DRDO chief Avinash Chander during his last month in office. The government will review not only Chander’s decisions on projects, but also on appointments and postings during January.
On January 14, the Appointments Committee of Cabinet had abruptly terminated the contract of Chander on recommendation of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar with effect from January 31.
Sources claimed that the removal of the project director in between will hit the programme, as the Agni-V missile system, which has attracted international attention and was touted as a game changer, was probably the most important statement of Indian strategic deterrence after the 1998 nuclear tests.
Two successful flight tests (April 2012 & Sep 2013) and one Canister Based Test (Nov 2013) of A5 configuration were conducted under Gupta’s guidance.
“The project has long way to go as some more tests will be conducted before it’s inducted into the force,” said a source.