India’s premier DRDO loses one scientist every second day

April 27th, 2008 - 12:43 pm ICT by admin  

By Ritu Sharma
New Delhi, April 27 (IANS) India’s premier military research body, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), loses one scientist every second day to a plum post in the private sector. Figures from the defence ministry tell the sordid tale of the DRDO, which celebrates its golden jubilee this year.

According to the ministry, a total of 1,107 scientists, mostly young entrants, have resigned from the DRDO between 2003 and 2007, implying that on an average one person leaves every two days.

“These scientists work in the DRDO for two to three years, gain the experience of working on important projects, then leave for private research and development companies where they get fat salary checks,” said a highly placed DRDO official on condition of anonymity.

“We have a strength of 7,000 scientists at the moment, and the attrition rate is about 6.3 percent. And what is worsening the situation is that we are not able to attract enough candidates to fill up the vacancies,” the DRDO official said.

The private sector, which does not invest in research, has been lapping up the young scientists, who get comparatively lesser packages in the DRDO.

“At entry level a scientist gets a basic salary of Rs.8,000, which comes to a take home package of around Rs.20,000 per month. On the other hand, these scientists can easily get paid in millions in the private sector,” the official said.

Created in 1958 to be the country’s premier organisation in defence research and to enhance the country’s self-reliance in military requirements, the DRDO today is reeling under a major manpower crunch. It is able to fill up only 60-70 percent of the vacancies of scientists arising in the organisation.

The scientists in DRDO are in great demand in the private sector as they get to work in various areas like aeronautics, armaments, combat vehicles, electronics, instrumentation engineering systems, missiles, materials, naval systems, advance computing, simulation and life sciences.

It is not only the pay package that is bogging down the morale of the scientists but the lack of facilities, bureaucratic red tape and the slow and frustrating pace of research.

The sentiment is echoed by 23-year-old Manisha Mehta (name changed) who left the DRDO centre at Jamshedpur, after two years of service, to get a masters in business administration (MBA).

“In comparison to the private sector, DRDO’s pay package is nothing. And moreover the snail’s pace at which the research moves is really frustrating. Once I complete my MBA, a lot of avenues would open up for me,” Mehta said.

DRDO had sent a comprehensive proposal to the Sixth Pay Commission on incentives for scientists, including reimbursement of telephone and internet expenses, entitling all scientists to air travel on official duty, things that most private sector executives take for granted.

But the recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission have not gone down well with DRDO scientists.

“The pay panel has recommended a three-fold hike for the scientists at the entry level. But there is a hitch. Currently the basic salary of the scientist is Rs.8,000 plus other allowances. After the panel’s recommendations are implemented, they will get Rs.24,000 minus all allowances,” the official explained.

“The hike actually comes out to be only 20 percent,” he said.

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