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It gives me immense pleasure to be amidst the scientific fraternity of the Defence Research and Development Organization once again to honour distinguished scientists and technologists who have made outstanding contributions to defence research and development. I extend to the awardees my heartiest congratulations. The nation is grateful to you for your dedication and committed service to our national causes.
Ever since its establishment in 1958, DRDO has made significant contributions in putting India on the path of achieving self-reliance in critical defence technologies. DRDO scientists have worked tirelessly in developing military technologies and infrastructure in a wide range of areas and activities.
The recent successful test firing of the Agni-5 missile is a particularly significant milestone. It shows the depth of our technical talent and our capacity to manage large and complex projects when we put our heart and mind to them. I congratulate Dr Saraswat and his dedicated team for this spectacular achievement.
The initial operational clearance of the Light Combat Aircraft Tejas and the first flight of a fully modified Aircraft for the Indian Airborne Early Warning and Control System are also noteworthy and praiseworthy achievements.
Nevertheless, I am sure you would all agree that we cannot afford to rest on our laurels.
As we look around us, a net deterioration in the international strategic and security environment becomes so obvious. Political uncertainties in our immediate and extended neighbourhood, civil strife and turmoil in the Middle East, terrorism and threats to cyber security present complex challenges that require both conventional as well as technological responses.
The Government is fully committed to modernizing India’s Armed Forces and providing them with the wherewithal they need to secure our frontiers. The question is how we can procure the requisite cutting edge technologies and platforms, even while promoting indigenously developed technologies that meet the required time and quality assurances standards.
The reality is that the share of indigenous content in defence procurement continues to be low. We need to take a hard look at the pipeline of our projects and focus our time and material resources on selected areas where we have demonstrated capacity to deliver projects within reasonable time and cost.
In the longer term, we have to build our domestic defence industry, in the public as well as in the private sectors, to a level where it can compete with global players not only in terms of developing state of the art technologies but also on commercial parameters and customer satisfaction.
Some of our companies already have the capacity to develop large sub systems. The challenge now is to create greater incentives for domestic industry to develop capabilities for system integration, which at present only a few companies have. We need to give the industry a boost and quicken the pace of development. The role of DRDO in this regard is truly critical, given that there are 800 enterprises supporting its projects and programmes.
The Government is currently examining the Naresh Chandra Committee Report, which has also made a number of important recommendations with regard to defence procurement. It calls for a long term policy for increasing indigenization of defence production and high tech industries in consultation and collaboration with the private sector. A committee led by Shri Ravindra Gupta is looking into this specific aspect and I look forward to receiving its findings soon.
I was very happy to learn that DRDO in collaboration with FICCI has developed a bio-toilet that promises to solve the problem of open defecation in rural India. If this green, cost effective “flush and forget” technology is successfully implanted, it will give a big boost to our Total Sanitation Campaign. Application of technology to social benefit programmes should be expanded further.
I would like to see a flagship national project on a major system in which DRDO can use its R&D expertise and synergize it with the production and project management skills available in our private industry. Such collaboration will bring greater efficiency to the work of DRDO and also allow it to focus on its core mandate of research & development.
The Rama Rao Review Committee Report on Redefining DRDO has made a number of useful recommendations. One of the recommendations was to rejuvenate the culture of research in the organization and set apart a certain percentage of the budget for R&D activities.
The Report also highlighted another issue that could slow down our ambitious plans for development of our high technology sector, namely, the growing difficulty in attracting and retaining high quality scientific manpower. There are no easy solutions to this problem. What is clear is that we have to change our current bureaucratic system of administering scientific and technical departments, particularly if we have to inspire young scientists to participate enthusiastically in the task of building India into a scientific and technological powerhouse. Organizationally too, DRDO should aim at becoming leaner and making the best use of its human, financial and technological resources.
Let me end by saying that I am very confident DRDO will continue to serve the nation with excellence in year that lies ahead. The presence of so many distinguished scientists here today is proof of that assertion. All of you have my best wishes and those of the nation for your future endeavours.