Restructuring DRDO: A Critical Perspective by Trade Union Leader C. Srikumar

C. Srikumar, the General Secretary of the All India Defence Employees Federation (AIDEF), has expressed concern over the Indian government’s decision to form a high-level committee to review and redefine the role of the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO). He believes that such restructuring could be a historical blunder and calls for a more holistic approach to strengthen India’s defense capabilities.

Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Raksha Mantri Rajnath Singh has established a 9-member High-Level Committee of Experts, led by Prof. K Vijayaraghavan, to assess DRDO’s role and relationship with academia, industry, MSMEs, and startups. The committee is also tasked with recommending a system of project-based manpower and addressing performance issues within DRDO.

Srikumar questions the need for such a committee, emphasizing that DRDO already boasts a substantial pool of scientists and experts within its ranks. He criticizes the appointment of outsiders to assess DRDO’s functioning, highlighting the alleged ineffectiveness of the Ministry of Defence. He also points out that bureaucrats with limited understanding of defense matters are often assigned to the ministry, which may hinder informed decision-making.

The trade union leader also raises concerns about comparing DRDO with ISRO, emphasizing their distinct roles and objectives. While ISRO focuses on limited space-related missions, DRDO is mandated to research diverse products, from food to missiles, with a customer-centric approach for the armed forces.

Srikumar suggests that instead of restructuring DRDO, efforts should be directed towards streamlining decision-making processes within the Ministry of Defence. He highlights the need for timely evaluations and reduced bureaucratic hurdles to enhance efficiency.

Additionally, he questions the government’s increasing allocation of the Defence R&D Budget to the private sector and emphasizes the importance of recognizing DRDO’s achievements. He calls for the involvement of DRDO employees and their representatives in decision-making processes.

In conclusion, C. Srikumar advocates for a revamped Ministry of Defence and urges the government to focus on strengthening the capabilities of the workforce within organizations like DRDO and the Ordnance Factories. He believes that a structured coordination and cooperation between these entities, with the support of political leaders, is essential to reduce India’s dependence on defense imports and bolster national security.

Srikumar’s perspective serves as a reminder of the complex challenges and considerations involved in restructuring a vital organization like DRDO within the broader context of India’s defense ecosystem.

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