The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is on an introspection mode. To find solutions to make it a worthy organisation backing India’s armed forces, DRDO has set up a panel

The five-member committee has members from IIT, ISRO, IAF and DRDO, with a 45-day deadline to submit a prescription for a healthy road ahead. DRDO’s activities have been on the radar ever since the NDA government came to power in 2014. Yet, for some cosmetic changes, nothing much visible has been achieved to change the fortunes of India’s largest defence R&D wing.

Its chairman Dr G Satheesh Reddy, who took charge in 2018, got a two-year extension last week. With the panel’s findings, he probably will have a great opportunity now to fix issues that have been dogging DRDO for a long time.

Many insiders in DRDO say that Dr Reddy has brought in a series of transformational changes in the organisation. But, a section also feels that the changes haven’t touched all clusters.

Technology overlap and HR practices definitely need a fresh look. The big question is: can the 5-member panel find quick-fix solutions for such a massive organisation spread across India with 50-plus labs, in just 45 days?

With some of the finest aerospace and defence brains in the 5-member panel, it is left to be seen whether more time is given to the team to look into issues in depth, especially under these pandemic conditions. That would probably make the exercise meaningful, making DRDO a swift and sure unit.

Friday Files

Air Marshal Anil Chopra (Retd) is one of the most inspiring aviators around. Among the most active on social media, this veteran air warrior keeps his communication innovations on various platforms buzzing.

Among his most popular initiatives was his ‘Friday Handout’, a compilation of amazing facts that used to hit your inbox every week.

This emailer, painstakingly put together, was crisp, knowledgeable and backed with some stunning images. Currently anchoring AirpowerAsia on the web that puts aviation and military power in perspective, Air Marshal Chopra (Retd) is a pioneer Mirage-2000 pilot and retired as IAF’s Air Officer Personnel.

“The Friday Handout will be back soon,” he promises, while his other communication initiatives keep landing on social media handles regularly.

And, the recipients can’t miss his now-popular signature line in mailers: “Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. Leave the rest to God.”

Scared Sources

In the last few years, virtually every defence contact has become wary about speaking over landline or mobile phone. Normal calls are a strict no-no in many cases. Everyone seems to be scared of someone.

Hence, communication modes have switched over to mobile applications such as WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram. However, despite the end-to-end encryption on WhatsApp, there is still a belief that it is ‘not safe’.

Even harmless queries from journalists are not answered on regular calls, especially by officials at the higher level in the Ministry of Defence and in the Services. Everyone wants to be safe and does not want to be at risk of being ‘heard’ or being ‘hauled up’.

The big question is, who are they scared of? And, why?

Fan Page

Social media is abuzz with fan pages for India’s armed forces. In addition, there are several pages and accounts dedicated to defence assets on land, sea and air. Most of these pages are run by die-hard fans of India’s aerospace and defence sector. One such page that’s probably growing in popularity by the minute is ProudArmyFans, a page on Facebook, with 2.1 million followers. The page predominantly backs Indian Army’s efforts while featuring developments from other Service wings as well.

“We are on Facebook since 2009, and we take very careful precautions in not sharing any information that would undermine the security of those who serve and protect us,” says one of the main Admins, not wanting to be named, adding that the page’s growth is a professional team effort.

Your Take

Finally, your views as loyal readers of Onmanorama always matter and here are a selected few based on the question posed on Twitter. What is hampering ‘Make in India’ in aerospace & defence?

Lack of orders to private companies for their own and DRDO-developed technology and products. The General Staff Qualitative Requirements (GSQR is a fundamental process that sets the tone for any capital procurement), created after copying global products with lack of capabilities for indigenous production. Hence we go for imports. And, finally, a lack of accountability from bureaucracy. (Maj Manik M Jolly (Retd), Rohtak)

Technology development is slower and none parts with it. The moment India races towards the finish line to achieve a technological breakthrough, foreign manufacturers come with a tempting offer at very low prices. We need to resist this move that will wipe out the skills of our MSMEs. Even if we have to pay more to our industry, in the long run, it will benefit us. It will only help grow our ecosystem. (Shiv Sastry, retired surgeon, Bengaluru.)

The non-level playing field for private companies, pathetically slow tendering process, low defence budget, bureaucracy, the favour of foreign companies, and dependency on old technology are some of the factors hampering Make in India. (Ashish Gautam, student, Agra)

The main hindrance is the gap between our manufacturing capabilities and expectations from the product. We want the world’s best product from an ecosystem that hasn’t invested in R&D much. (Apurva Mahyavanshi, employment-seeker, Mumbai)

Quote Note: Soldiers need weapons to win war, not armchair mantras. — Maj Gen KS Venugopal (Retd), former GOC, Karnataka & Kerala, Sub Area Command.