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Defence Minister Parrikar defends sacking DRDO chief Avinash Chander

It started with Narendra Modi’s ‘under 75’ formula to rid Indian politics of geriatric policy makers and now the Union government looks all set to infuse fresh blood into the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO). That seems the most plausible answer to why the government sacked leading scientist and DRDO chief Avinash Chander even as Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar owned up the exit order approved by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet on Tuesday saying the top DRDO position should be held by someone younger and not who was on contract.

“I believe DRDO should be headed by a younger man… I had proposed for his removal and they have agreed to it,” said Parrikar.

The sacking has sparked a controversy with the Congress demanding answers over the manner in which the DRDO chief was removed.

The Capital’s security community has found the method of Chander’s removal inappropriate but endorsed the stated intent behind the move: a much-needed clean up of the defence research and development set up which has often drawn flak for missed deadlines and cost overruns jeopardising the modernisation of armed forces.

“I feel there should’ve been a more dignified manner in which the whole issue (Chander’s removal) was handled,” said air vice-marshal (retd.) Manmohan Bahadur commenting on the way a top missile scientist was clueless about his ouster.

Former chief of integrated defence staff L-G Anil Chait told MAIL TODAY that the decision to remove Chander after having acceded to his extension is unfortunate. “To bring energy and efficiency into the system, what needs to change are the rules of business which govern the organisation,” he said.

The former IAF helicopter pilot, however, added that hopefully the government’s message that ‘accountability will be demanded’ from DRDO scientists, will go through. “For too long, DRDO has had a free run,” he said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made it clear in August last year that DRDO will have to get its act together and concentrate on delivering rather than dragging its feet on developing critical technology.

Parrikar had followed it up by saying last month that the functioning of the research body was under review.

One of the suggestions being worked upon is bringing down the age profile of the scientists who head the organisation.

“Such senior positions should not be on contract. There are so many eligible persons. We will find someone good from the DRDO, the senior most person of a cluster head will head the organisation,” said Parrikar.