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Which Indian organisation has done pioneering research on high-yielding varieties of cauliflower, potato and tomato? Which has developed the technique for producing mushrooms in the hills? And a standardised method of spawning with sawdust, leaf straw, grains of barley and wheat?
It is the Defence Research and Development Organisation.
Over the last four decades, the DRDO has been able to conserve, preserve, stabilise, design, fabricate and engineer a vast array of food products. Indeed, vegetable research and agriculture production are areas of genuine achievements in the DRDO's armoury.
But where is the ambitious Light Combat Aircraft that the DRDO has been promising for the last 17 years? Why is Arjun, the indigenous version of a world class battle tank, an utter failure?
Years ago, when weapons ballistics became a major headache in accuracy of fire, the army pleaded with the government to purchase four ANTPQ-37 artillery location radars, which can trace the trajectory of approaching shells. The DRDO insisted it could indigenously produce those radars.
It took the Kargil conflict -- in which the armed forces suffered heavily due to lack of artillery location radar -- for the organisation to admit that it was just not up to it.
The DRDO was formed in 1958 by amalgamating the army's Technical Development Establishment and the Directorate of Technical Development and Production. It was then a small organisation with 10 laboratories. Today, it has 50 labs and a workforce of more than 5,000 scientists and nearly 25,000 scientific, technical and supporting personnel.
Its labs spread across the country are engaged in developing defence technologies covering various disciplines like aeronautics, armaments, electronics, combat vehicles, engineering systems, instrumentation, missiles, advanced computing and simulation, special materials, naval systems, life sciences, information systems and agriculture.
Yet, several major projects for the development of missiles, armaments, Light Combat Aircraft, radar and electronic warfare systems have been languishing in DRDO laboratories. So much so that the armed forces now openly complain that the organisation is incapable of producing what they want.
The army, for instance, has been waiting for years to induct the multi-barrel rocket launching system, Pinaka. The nuclear submarine programme continues to drown even after the investment of several billions over the past 15 years.
What ails the apex defence research organisation that India's missile man Dr Avul Pakir Jainulabeen Abdul Kalam led for long, and is currently headed by the dynamic Dr Vasudev K Aatre?
Associate Editor George Iype met with scientists, officials and experts in New Delhi, Hyderabad and Bangalore to investigate. The first of a six-part series:
ON TO 'How long should we wait?'
Design: Dominic Xavier
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