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Over Rs 16,000 cr spent, DRDO yet to finish vital projects

The first of the LCAs was handed over to IAF 32 years after the project started.

ABHINANDAN MISHRA  New Delhi | 7th Mar 2015

ital defence projects that have been taken up by the country's premier Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) over the last several years, do not show any signs of completion despite thousands of crores of taxpayers' money spent on them.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, while detailing the nine major DRDO projects that have not been able to meet their deadlines, stated in Parliament that Rs 16,708 crore have been spent on these projects that were scheduled to be completed years ago.

Some of these projects, such as the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), Tejas, Phase II, which was expected to be completed by December 2008, has now been pushed to the end of this month. The government had sanctioned Rs 5,777 crore for this project. The first of the LCAs, which was conceived in 1983, was handed over to the Indian Air Force (IAF) in January this year by Parrikar, 32 years after the project started.

Similarly, the probable date of completion of the Naval Light Combat Aircraft (LCA, Navy) Phase I, which was expected to be completed by March 2010, is under revision. One of the reasons submitted by the Defence Minister for the delay is that "technology challenges have been significantly higher than originally anticipated". The sanctioned cost of this project is Rs 1,714.98 crore

The probable date of completion of another much talked about project, Aero Engine Kaveri, which was supposed to be completed by December 1996, is also under revision. Sources within DRDO claim that the project, for which the government had sanctioned Rs 2,839 crore, is likely to be shelved

The Air Borne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) System, for which the government has sanctioned Rs 2,275 crore, is running four years behind the probable date of completion. It was supposed to be handed over to the IAF in October 2011. This has now been postponed to December 2015.

Another crucial project, Long Range Surface-to-Air Missile (LR-SAM), which was allotted Rs 2,606.02 crore is also running four years behind its completion date. It was supposed to be completed by May 2011, but the DRDO has now promised to finish it by December 2015.

The helicopter version third generation anti tank guided missile, whose promised date of completion was December 2010, is now expected to be completed by January 2018. Air-to-air missile Astra too is running four years behind its scheduled date of completion and is expected to be ready by December 2016.

The project on the dual colour missile approach warning system for fighter aircraft and advanced lightweight torpedo, which were to be completed by the DRDO in 2013, are now likely to be executed by the latter part of 2015. For the financial year 2013-14, a total of Rs 10,610.17 crore was allocated to DRDO, of which Rs 5,552.57 crore was in revenue and Rs 5,057.60 crore was in capital.

A senior official with the DRDO stated that the "culture" of promoting scientists who are unable to complete their projects on time, instead of reprimanding them is a big factor behind the delays that have become synonymous with DRDO.

"The practice of seeking extensions for a project, one after another, has been condoned by successive Defence Ministers. Why would a scientist want to complete his project on time if he knows that even if he does not complete it on time, the project will be extended and he will continue to work on the same project? Scientists who retire are given extensions because they have been working on a project, so they would naturally want the project to go on and on," the official stated.

According to Parrikar, the government has taken many corrective measures to complete the ongoing projects on time like three-tier project monitoring and constituting a Project Monitoring Review Committee (PMRC). However, DRDO officials claimed that he was only repeating what has been said by Defence Ministers who came before him.

"Consortium approach, three-tier project monitoring approach, Project Monitoring Review Committee (PMRC) and Project Appraisal and Review Committee (PARC) have been there in the DRDO for the last 10-15 years. There is no new remedy which Parrikar has tried to suggest," the official claimed.

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