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No Ulterior Motive in DRDO Chief’s Removal, Say Sources in Prime Minister’s Office

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Sources in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s office today denied any “ulterior motive” in the removal of top missile scientist Avinash Chander as the chief of the Defence Research and Development Organisation or DRDO. (DRDO Chief and Architect of Agni Missiles Avinash Chander Sacked)

Mr Chander’s contract, extended in November to May, 2016, was terminated yesterday. On Wednesday, he came to work as usual, saying he has received no official notice on his sacking, which was cleared by an appointments panel led by PM Modi.

“The PMO (Prime Minister’s Office) only processed the recommendation of the defence ministry, which wanted a new and younger head for the DRDO,” sources told NDTV.
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Mr Chander is likely to be replaced by Sekhar Basu, 62, the Director of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre.

Officially, no reason has been given for the sacking of one of the country’s finest missile scientists, often known as the “Agni man” for leading the long-range Agni series missile programme. He is also the scientific adviser to the Defence Minister, and is the main person for all defence technology related issues.

Many believe Mr Chander was instrumental in India becoming a missile power against all odds, when it was denied technology and had to face sanctions after its 1998 nuclear test.

His unceremonious exit has stunned scientists, but sources in the government claim it was not entirely unexpected after PM Modi’s criticism of what he called the “chalta hai (laid back)” attitude at a DRDO function in August.

“It is not that India lacks the talent pool but I think there is this ‘chalta hai’ attitude,” the Prime Minister had said, adding that the DRDO has to “decide whether it has to respond to the situation” and set the agenda for the world.

Many of DRDO’s projects such as the Light Combat Aircraft Tejas, Nag missile, long-range surface-to-air missile project and the Airborne Early Warning and Control System projects have been delayed by many years and seen several cost overruns.

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