By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 14 Jan 2015
With the media citing top government sources in reporting the termination of employment of the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) chief, Dr Avinash Chander, the man in the eye of the storm says he has received no official intimation of a removal.
On November 28, 2014, Chander had been given an 18-month extension to allow him to head DRDO till May 31, 2016.
Earlier, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had appointed Chander for a three-year term, starting from June 1, 2013, though he had already been given two extensions of service.
Speaking to Business Standard on Tuesday, Chander stated that he had not been informed about any change in his contract.
“I am also hearing about this in the media. However, neither the DRDO, nor I personally have received any intimation of my contract termination”, said Chander.
Defence ministry spokesperson, Sitanshu Kar, also stated that he had no knowledge of any such decision.
Rumours about the DRDO chief’s likely removal have swirled since the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government took charge in May.
At that time, it was widely reported that Chander’s employment would be terminated on November 30, 2014, when he would reach the age of superannuation, i.e. 65 years.
Expectation of change was further fuelled on Modi’s first visit to the DRDO on August 20, when he publicly criticised the DRDO’s “chalta hai” (anything goes) attitude, and suggested that the DRDO should empower younger scientists.
However, that expectation was belied in November, when Chander was given an 18-month contract to continue till May 2016.
Top government sources confirm to Business Standard that there was no pending investigation or charge sheet against Chander.
Chander, a missile guidance expert, is one of the DRDO’s most accomplished scientists and a key member of the core team of APJ Abdul Kalam.
As Director of the Advanced Systems Laboratory, Hyderabad, Chander played a key role in evolving 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.
In 2013, as the chief controller of the DRDO’s missile programme, Chander oversaw the development of the 5,000-kilometre Agni-5 missile and the K-15 submarine launched ballistic missile.