In unceremoniously sacking Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) Chief Avinash Chander, the NDA government has once again created a controversy that was completely avoidable. Chander, considered an eminent scientist for having mentored India’s missile programme after his eminent predecessor APJ Abdul Kalam superannuated, was allowed an extension to his present position for 18 months, when he retired in November 30 last year. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has said that decision to end Chander’s contract was taken on his recommendation, as he did not want a senior position to be held by a person on contract. No issues on this count Mr Parrikar.
Every government has the right to formulate its own policy. However, the controversy and embarrassment to the senior scientist could have been avoided had you articulated your views as firmly, when an extension was given to Chander in November last year. The late night announcement came as a bolt from the blue and motives have naturally been attributed for the unceremonious sacking of a scientist, hailed as “Agni Man” for ensuring the development of India’s missile arsenal.
India developed a significant missile arsenal against all odds, when it was denied technology and had to face sanctions after its 1998 nuclear test. No wonder the Prime Minister’s Office has been left red-faced. It was forced to issue a clarification denying that there was any “ulterior motive” in the removal of top missile scientist as DRDO chief.
Parrikar has said that he will find someone good from within the DRDO, who has the urge to develop the organisation further. If the minister was unable to find somebody for the coveted post, where was the need to rush Chander’s removal? Moreover, instead of unilaterally terminating the contract, the government could have talked Chander into resigning from his post, saving all round discomfiture.
DRDO may not be the most proficient organisation, but its our flagship entity, as far as defence research and technology development goes. Engaging these bodies with controversy should be the least desirable outcome. The government needs to show greater astuteness while dealing with matters of such significance. The unseemly manner of ejecting a premier scientist could also send a wrong message to young aspiring scientists. It is a well known fact that many upcoming scientists are drawn to the private sector. Such a unilateral move, however, could further muddy the waters for DRDO, as they seek fresh talent.