A few days ago, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh during his visit to DRDO facility in Hyderabad, urged the institution to make India a “super-military” and “super-power”. The trust of the Defence Minister on the DRDO shows that the Indian government has confidence over its capabilities. No other government research institution like Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), and Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) are trusted so much by the government.
The reason behind the government’s increasing trust on DRDO is that the institution has transformed itself from lethargic ones like CSIR, ICAR, and ICSSR to an efficient and capable unit in the last few years. The Defence Minister recently inaugurated the Hypersonic Wind Tunnel (HWT) test facility at DRDO’s Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Missile Complex in Hyderabad.
Today the six-decade-old organization with 30,000 workers including 5,000 is among the institutions that are leading Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan through indigenous production of high-tech products.
In the Nehruvian economy, when every sector was getting a dedicated government research department- ISRO, ICAR, CSIR, ICMR, and ICSSR being some of the examples- the Indian government decided to merge the technical and production department of armed forces to come up with DRDO.
Most of these institutions are modelled on similar lines with various separate organizations across the country which operate under the leadership of the Chairman, who, in turn, reports to the responsible ministry. However, most of these institutions except ISRO, have achieved very little in decades of existence due to socialist work culture. Every year the Union Government spends billions of dollars on them and they have become a burden on taxpayers.
But, DRDO, the institution on whose overhaul the government focused for defence production indigenization drive, is giving very good results in the last few years, especially since the appointment of G Satheesh Reddy as its Chairman in August 2018. He was appointed in August 2018 for a two-year term and the government gave him an extension of two years given the extraordinary performance of the institution under his leadership.
In the last four months, DRDO has conducted tests of 12 missiles- which is sort of a record- with the latest being a lethal anti-tank missile. In the wake of the ongoing LAC standoff with China since June, these successive tests have become even more important and signal aggressive posturing by India.
As per the DRDO scientists, development and testing of these high-tech missiles is a very complex task.“The warheads, flight systems, guidance systems, software, electronics, communication systems, high energy fuels, various motors, stage separators in multi-stage missiles, all have to be tested. There are Standard Operating Procedures in place. In almost all cases, missiles are developed in collaboration with various DRDO facilities. There are course corrections, user feedback that has to be incorporated,” said the scientists.
Moreover, testing of a missile needs approval from many ministries and departments, and testing of such a large number of missiles in a short time is definitive evidence of the Modi government’s pro-activeness and minimization of bureaucratic hurdles.
The Modi government is overhauling the research institutions in different sectors. ISRO has been working very efficiently since decades and DRDO is being overhauled by the government under the leadership of G Satheesh Reddy. ICMR has also built significant capabilities and was overhauled in the fight against COVID-19. The next order of the reform should be in ICAR, which the government is already liberalising to ensure its contribution to the dream of “New India”.
With a network of more than 50 laboratories and a budget of around 16,000 crore rupees, DRDO has an important role to play in indigenisation of defence production. In the last few years, DRDO has been turned from a Nehruvian disaster to a ‘Modi’fied wonder, and the other research institutions of the government should definitely learn from its success.