NEW DELHI: Since 2009, every year around 70 scientists have left India’s premier defence research agency Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) citing “personal” reasons. But the resultant paucity of talent hardly seems to worry the DRDO. Here’s why—many of the top scientists have been posted in departments they have no expertise in or is not their core area of expertise.
For instance, a chemical engineer from IIT, who trained in the United States of America, is now responsible for maintenance of the campus. Similarly, a PhD in physics is looking after the stores of a Delhi-based laboratory. An instrumental engineer is currently in charge of security and an engineer in paint technology has been made the in charge of a canteen facility.
Insiders claim that nearly 30 per cent of the country’s scientific assets are engaged in ‘sundry jobs’ in 55 laboratories of the DRDO and the job profiles they’ve been given, have nothing to do their scientific and technical skills.
Top scientists of the country are engaged in handling administration, accounts, stores, security, building maintenance, canteen, welfare, etc.
“Using scientific asset of the country for such miscellaneous jobs is like killing their talent. And professional dissatisfaction is one of the main reasons for brain drain, as over 400 scientists from DRDO have resigned in the last six years. Non-conducive work environment could also be the reason for the exodus,” said a source.
This diversion of talent can seriously affect Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of self-reliance in the defence sector, especially at a time when several key defence projects of DRDO have witnessed repeated delays and a huge cost overrun. Recently, the PMO earmarked nine key projects on which the government has already spent `16,708 crore, but which are still far from being completed.
It is notable that the DRDO has just raised concern on shortage of its scientific assets and asked for additional 1,260 vacancies. But simultaneously, mismanagement of the skilled workforce has raised serious questions about the work culture of the defence research agency. Presently, the DRDO has a strength of over 7,000 scientists.
Interestingly, the DRDO has very clear-cut guidelines for promotions, which is based purely on merit without any linkage to availability of vacancies. The merit-based Flexible Complimenting Scheme, provided by DRDO Rules, clearly talks about how “it should be rigorous with due emphasis on evaluation of scientific and technical knowledge so that only scientists who have to their credit demonstrable achievements or higher level of technical merit are recommended for promotion.”
But, for instance, a senior scientist of a Delhi-based laboratory, who is heading the Works department, responsible for day-to-day building maintenance, has got outstanding in his Annual Confidential Report (ACR), an insider revealed to The Sunday Standard on condition of anonymity.
Interestingly, the DRDO has a separate administrative cadre to cater to these non-scientific jobs, which the agency appoints from the UPSC. However, senior scientists feel that DRDO’s admin cadre is the biggest hurdle in their day-to-day functioning, and this view was accepted by the top brass of the DRDO during its Directors’ Conference held at its Delhi headquarters in 2012, according to a senior official of the organization, privy to the developments.
“Appointment of a scientist in administrative job can only be made in a situation when the administrative cadre office is not available in the laboratory. But it has been a practice in the DRDO, where scientific community controls the administrative work,” an officer said.
When contacted, a DRDO official clarified that the use of scientific assets of the country for sundry jobs was due to absence of adequate strength of officers in the administrative cadre.
“Over the years, the administrative cadre has thinned. So we have to rope in scientists to take control of administrative work,” the official explained.
44 major ongoing projects had cost revisions Of the 530 ongoing projects, 136 projects are still stuck in the mission mode Key projects such as Agni missile, Nirbhay cruise missile, K-15, Nag and Astra missiles, Arjun main battle tank, Tejas Light Combat Aircraft have been delayed