DRDO headless

July 09 2018

There was a time when the fabled scientist, former President of India, late APJ Abdul Kalam used to adorn the seat of the head of Defence Research and Development Organisation, or DRDO. But today, that seminal organisation remains headless for a month now. The last DRDO chairperson, Dr S Christopher, retired on May 31, and since then, the organisation has not found a suitable mandarin. For the moment, defence secretary Sanjay Mitra has been given charge for the next three months, but how much time he will be able to take out from his already chock-a-block schedule at the ministry remains a big question. A search committee has already been set up to find a suitable head for DRDO. But the process has got tied into knots, with differing opinions from two sections within the government. One group asserts that since the organisation works directly with the defence forces, its head should not be a bureaucrat but should be someone from the defence establishment itself. Sources tell us that even Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is lending her powers to this group. But on the other hand, another very powerful person, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval is contesting this view. The DRDO’s annual budget is Rs 20,000 crore. So far ahead of others in the race for this empire are four contenders: Dr Satish Reddy, Dr J Manjula, Dr Sudhir Mishra and Dr PK Mehta. Thus is the state of an exciting battle between the bureaucracy and the defence establishment, and who will win is anyone’s guess.

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