May 7, 2001
Issue


 

COVER
   

Children For Sale
For as little as Rs 3,000, impoverished parents sell their children to adoption centres and unscrupulous operators in Andhra Pradesh, who in turn earn up to Rs 3 lakh from foster families. A look at the people involved, the law and where the process went wrong.

 

 
STATES
   

Amma Turns Red
J. Jayalalitha's hopes for contesting the elections have been dashed with the rejection of her nomination papers. But this does not deter her from stepping up her campaigning efforts for the AIADMK and assuming an aggressive stance.

 

 
NEIGHBOURS
   

Past Tense
The muted reaction of the Government to the massacre of the BSF troops raises many questions. A look at the past skirmishes between the BSF and BDR gives an insight into what led to the heightening of tension at the border.

 

 
BUSINESS
 

Coming To Life
With the end of state monopoly, private insurance companies are offering wider risk coverage and better customer relations.

 

 
PHOTO FEATURE
 

Starting Over
It's been three months since nature shook Gujarat, killing over 30,000 and shattering dreams. Despite government promises and generosity of individuals, rehabilitation is still to touch the lives of many. The story in pictures.

 

 
OTHER STORIES
     
 



 
  Home  
 

DEFENCE: DRDO

Defenceless Delays

The defence research organisation's tardy delivery of weaponry to the armed forces has a direct, negative impact on national security

 

MULTI-BARREL ROCKET
LAUNCHER

 

COST: Rs 80 crore
Delay: seven years

Pinaka, state-of-the-art weapon vital for destroying or neutralising enemy troop concentration areas, air terminal complexes, gun locations and communication centres. Seven years after it was to be used in action, several qualitative requirements-including fire power and loading time of salvo-have yet to be satisfactory.

 

In some ways, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has come a long way since it was created in 1958. Its budget has grown from a few hundred crores to Rs 3,500 crore. Six thousand of a staff of 30,000 scientists work round the clock in 51 laboratories across the country. And their aim remains to arm the defence services with world- class equipment and make the country self-reliant in everything from the socks and gloves soldiers in Siachen wear to the sophisticated missiles and armaments they use to destroy enemy targets.

In the wake of the arms-deal scandal, it's not just the import of defence systems that have come under a cloud. Questions are also being raised about DRDO's ability to deliver critical equipment that affects the country's defence preparedness. Worse, the charges levelled are of their tall promises having a direct, negative impact on national security, for neither the army, the air force or the navy can import weaponry unless the DRDO says that it is not in a position to produce it at home. Investigations into allegations made against the DRDO show that the charges are not baseless. V.K. Aatre, DRDO chief and scientific adviser to the defence minister, admitted as much to India Today, saying, "We are not running as fast as we should. Perhaps we are ageing."



"We are not running as fast as we should. Perhaps we are ageing."


DRDO Chief

It is not just a case of projects having been delayed by a few months or even a year or two. Take the example of the Battle Field Surveillance Radar (BFSR). Talk about its purchase first started in 1975. A young colonel posted as a military attache in the Indian embassy in Paris saw the BFSR at the Satory Armament Exhibition. Then, it could detect a tank as far away as 20 km and a man crawling on the ground at a distance of 1.5 km. The colonel immediately wrote to the then director, military operations, Major-General A.S. Vaidya and to Major-General K. Sundarji, about what he believed to be a valuable piece of equipment. Vaidya wrote back to him pointing out that the DRDO was in the process of developing a similar BFSR and that it would be offered for trials very soon.

Facts uncovered later showed that at this point, the DRDO had not begun working on the BFSR. Finally developed in the early 1990s, it was abandoned because the army was unhappy with its trial run. It is only this year that the army will finally have access to BFSRs-imported from Israel at a cost of Rs 80 crore.

The BFSR is only one example of the kind of promises the DRDO seems to be in the habit of making. The Multi Barrel Rocket Launcher (MBRL), or Pinaka, is a state-of-the-art weapon, vital for destroying or neutralising enemy troop concentration areas, air terminal complexes, gun locations and communication centres. The Pinaka was supposed to have been inducted into army regiments by 1994. Seven years later, even though the army agreed to DRDO's request for a reduction in range, the weapon is yet to make its presence felt. Which, as it later surfaced, was only one of the problems. Other qualitative requirements still have to be satisfied. Fire power, loading time of salvo and deployment time, for example, are crucial for the Pinaka and the DRDO still has to reach the desired level of performance on these fronts.

Matters came to a head in 1999, when the comptroller and auditor-General (CAG) rapped the DRDO for the delay saying, "Far from reaching the production stage, the DRDO is yet to develop various critical components of the system despite an expenditure of Rs 42.45 crore."

The DRDO had been sanctioned Rs 26.47 crore for the exercise. The CAG report also noted that the system would be vulnerable because "targets in depth are likely to be beyond reach". CAG pointed to another promise made by the DRDO-that of delivering the system by 2000 at an estimated cost of Rs 80 crore. In 2001, Aatre says, "we should have some good news soon".

For the armed forces this is simply another case of bad news prolonged to make it worse. Says Lt-General Vinay Shankar, who retired in January this year as the director-general, artillery: "Weapon systems quickly become obsolete. By the time DRDO is ready with a product, it is of little use, for our requirements have either changed or a more sophisticated version is available in the foreign market." Shankar's exasperation is substantiated by the BFSR catastrophe. By the late 1970s, France had updated its radar to detect a tank at 60 km from its original 20 km. Today, the DRDO is still working on a medium-range radar.


 
 
 
Care Today
     METRO TODAY
 
   

MetroScape

Focusing On Art
The brief for participants at
"Exhibit 'A' 2001" organised by the
200-member
Photographers'
Guild of India at the Nehru Centre, Mumbai, was clear—no advertisement and portfolio photos.
more...

Looking Glass

Delhi Poster:
One Page Classics

Calcutta Pub:
London Pub

Bangalore & Mumbai Rock Concert:
Bryan Adams

 

 
    Web Exclusives
DESPATCHES
 

West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya reflected optimism about winning the state election when he spoke to INDIA TODAY Senior Editor Sumit Mitra at the CPI(M) headquarters in Kolkata, minutes before rushing off for campaigning.
Excerpts:

 

 
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