5:21 pm - Saturday July 21, 1668

Parrikar explains DRDO chief’s removal, says ‘no controversy’

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Parrikar said he was of the view that the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) chief’s post should be held by a young person and not by someone on contract.

“His (Chander’s) tenure ended in November. After that, he was on contract,” Parrikar said, adding there was no controversy on the issue.

Chander had retired on November 30, 2014, but was to hold charge till his contract expired on May 31, 2016. This was in line with his appointment order issued on May 31, 2013.

The government had even issued an order on November 27 last year saying Chander would “continue to be in operation” for the next 18 months — making his sacking all the more unexpected.

The government had put up Chander’s exit order Tuesday on the Department of Personnel and Training website even before informing him, triggering speculations.

The appointments committee of the cabinet (ACC) approved the termination of Chander’s contract with effect from January 31, a good 16 months before it was to end. Strangely, the ACC order was taken off the DoPT website later in the day.

Taking up the issue, Congress general Secretary Digvijay Singh said, “Would the government please explain?”

In an exclusive chat, Chander had told HT Tuesday, “I am hearing this from you. It has come as a shock to me. I haven’t received any order from the government.”

The sacking was first reported by HT on its website.

“It is the government’s decision to end my contract but I had no indication this was coming. No idea why it has happened,” the 64-year-old had added.The DRDO had in August come in for sharp criticism from Prime Minister Narendra Modi over delays and cost overruns in key military programmes. Modi had said India had the potential to be a world leader in the defence sector but was being held back by a “chalta hai” attitude.

In another snub to him, the NDA government had last year turned down a DRDO request for grant of extension to four senior scientists who had attained the age of retirement.

As chief of India’s premier defence research agency, Chander also held the posts of scientific adviser to the defence minister and secretary, department of defence R&D. He is credited with shaping India’s strategic missile programme.

The DRDO was set up in 1958 to develop indigenous military technology and cut back on arms imports. But India holds the dubious distinction of being the world’s largest weapons importer, sourcing 70% of its defence requirements from abroad.

A search panel headed by the cabinet secretary will pick Chander’s replacement from among top DRDO scientists.

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