NEW DELHI: You will be surprised to know where India’s premier defence research organisation has been spending its time and resources. The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), which has the onerous responsibility of developing state-of-the-art arms and ammunition systems for the Indian armed forces, has allegedly spent over Rs 5 crore of its funds, and its energies, in developing a chariot. Yes, you heard it right, a chariot (see pic).
It is not an ordinary chariot. To be fair to DRDO, we must confess that the chariot that it so painstakingly built over a period of one year has used copious amounts of silver (which explains its cost) and has all the embellishments you should expect from a royal chariot.
DRDO developed this hi-tech chariot and ‘donated’ it to Alandi Temple in June after a bullock—according to Director of Research and Development Establishment (Engineers) or R&DE, Pune, Dr S Guruprasad—was killed during the 21-day annual palki yatra to Pandharpur last year. He accepted that the chariot was built by the laboratory which he heads.
The story of this mind-boggling decision by an organisation which is supposed to serve the cause of science, and not religion, does not end here.
A senior scientist, who rebelled against this ‘absurd’ venture and filed a complaint with the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), had to pay for it. The DRDO has not only stripped him off his ongoing projects, but also transferred him out of the Pune centre to a post where he has been left to waste.
The scientist in his petition stated that since he filed the complaint under the whistleblower policy of the CVC, the identity of the complainant should have been kept confidential. The petitioner also stated that “the CVO is to ensure that no punitive action is taken by any concerned administrative authority against any person on perceived reason/ suspicion of being ‘whistleblower’.”
But “since filing the complaint, the conduct of higher officials, especially the alleged officials, totally changed and they started harassing him by removing him from all important projects and took away his project credits on which he was working since long,” said the petition, adding that even the scientist was removed from Combat Engineering Group and put on to Electro Mechanical Systems Group (Missile Launcher Group) wherein he had not relevant expertise. Subsequently, he was transferred out from R&DE (Engineers), Pune to a unit in Nasik.
The Bombay High Court, taking cognizance of the scientist’s petition, issued notices to the DRDO chief, Defence Secretary and the CVC on November 14 asking them to respond before December 17.
The scientist has alleged that the director of R&DE has utilised around Rs2.5 crore government funds to develop the rath. He claimed that the cost of the rath goes beyond Rs 5 crore, considering the manpower cost for one year. No sanction of the finance ministry was taken to divert defence funds to a religious activity, the scientist alleged.