Avinash Chander, a key leader in the Agni programme, will head DRDO for three years, starting June 1st
By Ajai ShuklaBusiness Standard, 1st June 13
The defence ministry (MoD) has appointed Dr Avinash Chander the new chief of the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) with effect from June 01.
This is being seen as a signal of the MoD’s approval of the sustained success of the DRDO’s missile programme, with the incoming chief having personally overseen the development of successive versions of the Agni missile.
As the Director General of the DRDO, Chander will also hold the posts of Scientific Advisor to the Raksha Mantri (SA to RM); and Secretary, Defence R&D.
Chander will succeed Dr Vijay Kumar Saraswat, like him a missile specialist. The careers of both have followed identical paths --- through Dr APJ Abdul Kalam’s flagship Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme. Later, as Director of the Advanced Systems Laboratory (ASL), Hyderabad, Chander developed the Agni from a 1,500-kilometre missile that was of practical use only against Pakistan (targets in China are all beyond this range) to a 3,500 kilometre range missile that was India’s first viable deterrent against China.
Last year, as the chief controller of the DRDO’s missile programme, Chander led the development of the 5,000-kilometre Agni-5 missile. In recognition of his success, Chander was awarded the Padma Shri on Republic Day this year.
Chander will take over the DRDO at a time of change. The impending announcement of major changes to the defence procurement policy (DPP-2013) places the DRDO front-and-centre in the MoD’s professed drive to develop defence equipment in India rather than rely on imports. With the private sector not yet able to spend large sums on defence R&D, key aspects of weapons development will continue to be undertaken in the DRDO’s countrywide network of 50 laboratories.
Chander will also inherit from his predecessor, Saraswat, a DRDO drive for more funding. The outgoing chief has expressed dissatisfaction with the DRDO’s allocation of just 5.2 per cent of the defence budget, which nevertheless amounted to Rs 10,610 crore for 2013-14. Saraswat asked the MoD for at least 7-8 per cent of the budget, which would have increased the allocation by Rs 3,650 crore this year.
Within the DRDO, Chander’s appointment has been greeted with relief. A senior scientist told Business Standard, “Avinash Chander had already been given two extensions of service, but the government has rightly taken the difficult decision to appoint him DRDO chief for another three years.”