Tuesday, February 26, 2013

What do we do with DRDO, Ordnance Factories, Defence PSUs.?

By Group Capt A. G. Bewoor VM(G)


1 When the Saras crashed killing its crew, the deafening silence in the media from those who know about flight testing, who know about design & manufacture of aeroplanes, who know how flight testing is done, what are the unforeseen dangers in this activity was rudely apparent. What is the Saras for? Who would use it? What kind of pilots would fly such a piece of aeronautical disingenuity? Was the Saras made to order, or was it created without any Qualitative Requirements? Which potential airline or military user was consulted before the Saras design was frozen? Which certification agency oversaw the progress of Saras from the drawing board to the shop floor, and into the air? These and many more questions are out of public domain, and alas, neither the media, nor the aeronautical engineering community, nor the Office of Scientific Adviser to RM, nor Parliament, nor the Defence Ministry have demanded answers from the Designers or the Flight Testing agency controlling the Saras programme.

2. Whither Accountability. What can one say about the accountability of these organisations? Three precious lives of the Indian Air Force perished with the Saras. Why were they doing this job on an aeroplane which would never to be inducted into the IAF? Why was this piece of poor aeronautical engineering thrust upon the IAF?

Why Does the Fauj Get Unusable Weapons ?

3. Enough Is Enough. Which logically leads us to a very basic question, why did the IAF do this for a lemon of an aircraft? No Chief of the IAF will ever buy the Saras. Which VIP will fly in this piece of unreliable aeronautics? Just because NAL can make nothing better, must we accept it and then precipitate an avoidable tragedy? What are the credentials of NAL to design aeroplanes? Are NAL designers willing to travel in the Saras? Indeed, the IAF must support indigenous industry, and IAF has done so for decades, many times against better judgment, and what is more, the IAF has sacrificed in men and efforts, to boost indigenous technology. After 26 / 11 Mumbai, everybody was shouting, "Enough is enough" Is it not time for us faujis to say the same thing about DRDO, specially after the Saras crash?  Arguments and justification for PSUs / DRDO / Ord Factories continuing to design and manufacture what the Armed Forces do not want, will remain. It has to stop somewhere, maybe this accident should galvanize us into affirmative action to resist being burdened with weapons that we do not need today, and we will pucca not need it tomorrow.

4. India’s Security is In Jeopardy. Some classic examples of our R&D failures are the Arjun tank, INSAS rifle, Saras, Kaveri, Akaash, Nag, Indra Radar, and so many more unknown to me and India. During Aero India 2009, I was staying at the BSF Mess, and a young constable asked me "Saab, why have we been given the INSAS rifle? It stops more often than it fires". After pumping crores into Ordnance Factories, they make unreliable rifles for our jawans? The recent revelations about DG Ordnance Factory Board, taking bribes from suppliers, tells us what is happening in that organization. What is worse, no one seems to want to remedy the malaise.  We faujis have made so much fuss about 6th PC, OROP, Warrant of Precedence, fasts at Jantar Mantar, but no protest from any quarter, over all these years, about useless equipment being dumped upon the disciplined faujis. In turn the fauji fights and wins the battle. Is this not willful dereliction of duty by successive DRDO scientists, and their Supreme Commander, SA to RM? Each of them, without exception is guilty. Most SA s and their scientists are alive and flourishing. Even today in 2009 is it not shameful that we are importing flak jackets and winter clothing? Should DRDO / PSUs be even tasked to design and manufacture equipment for Armed Forces? Won’t a chotta entrepreneur in NOIDA or Erode do a better job? Or better, ask Tirupur, they will replace their traditional hosiery with armored jackets for Armed Forces, CISF, BSF, and ordinary cops. When ever the Armed Forces want a weapon system, the DRDO invariably says “We can make it” and they have an unassailable record of never delivering, finally, we import that same equipment at 10 times the cost when we first wanted it.  Stories of this perfidy are too many to enumerate. In the interim, battles take place, and till now over the last 62 years, the fauj has delivered victory to India, except in 1962. DRDO cannot boast of such a record. Why not?  Let’s forget the investment poured into DRDO, let’s look at the loss of lives because of their incompetence and negligence, just for that they should be punished. What needs acceptance is that this constant failure of DRDO has placed India’s security in peril. This story is not written to list the unerring failures of our DRDO laboratories, Defense PSU s, Ordnance Factories. It is to seek severe overdue disciplinary action against those who have put India in jeopardy, by constant failure to give what is promised to the Indian Armed Forces to fight for India and her people. Can punishment be delayed further? Should it be delayed any further? Who will do this noble task?

Who Gets Punished for Non- Performance & Manpower Shortage ?

5. No Accountability.  Fauji officers who under perform or who commit blunders, get punished, they miss promotions and the majority in any case waste out with as little as 25 years of service. DRDO scientists continue unhindered till 60 years even when they do not deliver. Which DRDO boffin was punished for the Jaguar that blew up over Pokhran, or for repeated failed missiles?  Has anyone from Ordnance Factories been punished for the INSAS rifle?  For nearly 35 years of their service, DRDO scientists fail to make what they are paid for, fail in delivering goods, fail to even copy a weapon system, and then they retire gracefully with full benefits. Can there be a more pitiable state of affairs in the scientific community of India? How much longer will DRDO and its associates gobble up large parts from the Consolidated Fund of India, with zero returns? How much longer must the Armed Forces be held hostage by non-performing technocrats? Will no one find medicine for this malady? Can India continue to accept this treachery? Is there no one who will free us from these incompetent high priests of technology? Can not the media seize this opportunity to reveal the truth and force remedial action? How come that great SA to RM could not ‘ignite the minds’ of his non-performing scientists? The basic cause is that motivational fuses were never inserted into DRDO scientists.

6. Manpower. Defense Labs complain of manpower shortages, that salaries in the private sector are attractive, ‘scientists’ learn their trade with DRDO and walk away merrily into the waiting arms of the corporate world. Who has created this escape system? DRDO bosses themselves for painless exit of Scientists at all levels. On the other hand, the fauji has great difficulty leaving before superannuation, that very same fauji who has to fight with poor quality weapons that DRDO produces. There is but one solution for this, and it has been mooted by persons more competent and knowledgeable than the author. Merge the 40 odd DRDO / CSIR / PSU laboratories that work for the Armed Forces into 10 to 12 laboratories to do worthwhile work. Do the same thing with Ordnance Factories. Relocate manpower to achieve 100% manning. Those who do not agree can go home. Difficult indeed, but inescapable, and the economic imperatives of the day demand it is done, sooner than later. Let the Saras crash be the catalyst for this overdue tidying up. It is pertinent to keep in mind that this is not just an economic solution but ineluctable for India’s security. With tight economic constraints, and their constant poor performance, downsizing DRDO / PSUs / Ord Factories is inescapable. Tragic though it was, let something beneficial emerge from the passing away of the Saras aircrew. Some people have opined that the engine of the Saras is very reliable, so what? Till now no one has manufactured a Flying Engine, and pilots do not fly engines. Some years back Govt announced that 25% of all work in DRDO’s would be outsourced. Immediately, DRDO / Ordnance Factory employees went on strike. Observe their scandalous conduct, they will not do it themselves, and neither will they let more competent designers / manufacturers make weapons to fight our foes, if this is not “sleeping with the enemy” what is?

7. Problem of Shutting Down Laboratories. For years we have been constrained to take precipitate action to rectify the systematic non-performance of DRDO. One cause was the Communist and Trade Unions, but today’s economic realities present a rare opportunity to strike at the root of the malaise. The Trade Unions dare not protest against irrefutable evidence of poor results from DRDO, despite technological and financial support for the last 60 years. Politicians of all hues will hesitate to protect recurring drain on India’s resources. There is a need for TV channels / newspapers /journals to persistently highlight as “breaking news” the unlimited failures of DRDO. Just as they forced Govt to take action in the Jessica Lal and other similar perfidies, they must be convinced to boost India’s defense capability by exposing the lethargy and insensitivity of these so called ‘scientists’. The gridlock established by DRDO and its politico-bureaucratic masters has to be smashed if India is to produce weapons systems that she desperately needs. Or else we will remain a hollow power, despite our enviable manpower and infrastructure. Look at ISRO successfully completing the Moon shot in just 300 crores, and compare it with the wasteful gobbling up of 100 times that money by DRDO, and no tangible results. Latest news reports say that DRDO is recruiting from IITs because of economic slowdown. Will 500 M Techs / MBAs from IITs / IIMs change the non-performing culture that is ingrained into DRDO psyche? No. Unless an undeterred campaign of removing nonperforming deadwood is done ruthlessly, fresh inductions into DRDO will be swiftly corrupted into their culture of ‘araam se’. Nations that can generate their own defense capability with reliable industry are respected. India cannot be a regional power with DRDO as it is functioning now, sadly the world knows it, Indians are living in denial of this fact. A very dangerous state of affairs.

No Danger to Their Own, What An Idea !

7. Another reason for this crass callousness by DRDO is that none of their kith or kin will ever have to use the equipment they design & manufacture? Not one son, not one son-in-law, not one daughter, not even a nephew of a DRDO scientist will join the Armed Forces / Paramilitary units. If sacrifices were necessary from 50s to 80s to build indigenous industry with unstinting support from the Armed Forces, it has been done in full measure. That support has not been redeemed by DRDO, now the Armed Forces must seek retribution by demanding that DRDO delivers what we need, not what they can make. Serving senior offrs have to take up this cause, and the retired fraternity must also do it. The unlimited Think Tanks of New Delhi, full of senior retired military officers, should concentrate on these matters instead of conceptualizing on Afghanistan, Iraq, Nuclear war. Such issues mean nothing to the fighter pilot, to the missile boat CO, to Havaldar Gurbachan Singh in Tangdhar, and Constable Bose in naxal hit Orissa. Think Tanks refuse to look at internal threats and re-equipment of the fauj with reference to indigenisation. It is not fashionable, and anyway who cares? What use is a treatise on “USA / China / Russia equation with India’s Pivotal Position”, to our fighting troops? It is about time the Think Tanks started caring about in-house matters rather than fancy "global, intercontinental, universal, all encompassing" issues which are valueless for Major Yadav, Chief Petty Officer Iqbal, Wg Cdr Ghosh, Inspector Ghorpade, and BSF Commandant Hussain.

8. Examples of DRDO’s betrayal are innumerable to list. The truth is that they consistently fail Indian Armed Forces, therefore all Indians and naturally India. Who will make them accountable? The only solution is to have just10 to 12 worthwhile design / production laboratories and hand over the rest to private industry. Let’s get rid of what can be best described as jetsam. Permit Tata, L&T, Mahindra, Wipro, Leyland, Reliance, Birlas to take over DRDO Laboratories that have failed India for years. Whether we make these industrial houses work for us, or Govt makes crores in the sale is not germane. Aim is to have a DRDO giving faujis what we want, and keep doing it. Place the DGOF under the Integrated Defense Staff, make HAL answerable to DCAS / DCOAS / DCNS for their respective projects. Does this sound outlandish, it does because everyone wants it to happen, but shy away from saying it. Unless we force the issue it will not get done, we remain militarily stagnant.

9.  How long do we keep doing this baby sitting, when will we demand that DRDO / PSUs grow up, to be treated as adults. Who will be punished for failure of Kaveri? Who will be punished for failed missiles? Is this not placing India in danger, and broadcasting the glaring holes in our defense? When Lt Gen Kapil Vij moved his Corps way up front during OP Parakram, he was sacked. When Kargil happened the Brigade Cdr was sacked, When Gen Niranjan Prasad withdrew forces in 1965, he was sacked, when Gen Pathania retreated from Se La / Bomdi La he was sacked. When will the thousands of DRDO / PSU/Ord Factory scientists, who have failed India incessantly, be sacked? Many of our Scientists have blood on their hands, not the enemy's, but Indian blood. Not all the perfumes and attars of India will wash the stains. (With apologies to Shakespeare)


9. The ‘atmas’ of the Saras crew demand action. There are people who can make it happen. Media help is necessary, criminal neglect needs to be exposed with facts and we the faujis have those facts. It is the sacred duty of senior officers from Army / Navy / Air Force / Police with powerful contacts to protect the interests of the men they commanded and from whom they received undying loyalty. If they turn away from this responsibility, then they too are culpable of willful negligence and become a part of the conspiracy of keeping India militarily and economically weak.

Published in IDR IN 2009

The views expressed by the author are personal 

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