Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, November 30
As part of its restructuring process, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has, in an unprecedented step, shut down three of its laboratories and merged its mandate and staff with other establishments.
This is the first step towards minimising functional overlap between laboratories having a similar charter and rationalising expenditure, sources said. More laboratories are expected to be shut down or merged in the near future.
Two laboratories in Delhi, the Defence Terrain Research Laboratory (DTRL) and the Laser Science and Technology Center (LASTEC) and one in Hyderabad, Advanced Numerical Research and Analysis Group (ANURAG) are now no longer functional as independent entities.
DTRL was involved in the analysis of terrain characteristics and providing geo-spatial solutions and terrain intelligence for the armed forces. Its staff has now been merged with Snow and Avalanche Studies Establishment (SASE) based at Chandigarh that is working in avalanche forecasting, structural control in snowbound mountaineous areas, data collection in cryospheric regions and creation of snow cover information system. SASE has been renamed as Defence Geological Research Establishment.
LASTEC was working in the fields of laser sources, laser countermeasures and laser spectroscopy and was involved in the development of high power laser sources and related technologies for directed energy applications as well as detectors, weapon locators and laser illuminators.
ANURAG’s mandate was advanced computing concepts and technologies including design and development of high performance computing systems using parallel processing techniques with indigenous architecture and application specific integrated circuit based products or critical applications.
The staff of LASTEC and ANURAG are being relocated to two other laboratories in Hyderabad, where several DRDO laboratories, especially those involved with the development of missiles, are already based.
The relocation of staff has also created some immediate functional issues like fixing of intra-laboratory seniority, allocation of tasks and responsibilities, availability of accommodation, disruption of family life and children’s education.
Set up 1958, DRDO is the research and development wing of the Ministry of Defence, responsible for the design of indigenous weapon systems and allied technology. It has 52 laboratories spread across the country that are categorized into seven technology clusters named Naval Systems and Materials, Aeronautical Systems, Armament and Combat Engineering Systems, Missiles and Strategic Systems, Electronics and Communication Systems, Life Sciences, and Micro Electronic Devices, Computational Systems and Cyber Systems, all manned with a strength of about 5,000 scientists and 25,000 scientific, technical and support staff.
While DRDO is said to be India’s largest and most diverse research organisation, it has often drawn flak for delayed projects and missing repeated deadlines with huge cost overruns. Parliament’s Standing Committee of Defence as well as the Comptroller and Auditor General of India have commented critically on its performance and the status fo some of its projects.
In August this year, Dr G Satheesh Reddy, Secretary Defence Research and Development and Chairman DRDO, had constituted a five-member committee under the chairmanship V Ramagopal Rao, Director, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, to review the existing structure of DRDO and the charter of duties of its laboratories, redefine the mandate of laboratories on the basis of current and futuristic defence requirements and minimise the overlap of technologies they are working on at a time when increasing stress was being laid on self-reliance and the import of a large number of weapon systems and military equipment has been banned.
There have been attempts in the past to restructure DRDO and streamline its functioning. The last was in 2008 by the P. Rama Rao Committee that had, among other recommendations, suggested that DRDO concentrate only on core technologies of strategic importance. It was on the advice of this committee that the aforementioned technology clusters were created.