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PM ‘chalta hai’ stick for defence scientists

New Delhi, Aug. 20: Prime Minister Narendra Modi today turned the national defence research outfit’s annual prize-giving ceremony into an occasion to mildly berate it for lagging behind in its projects.

“The Prime Minister made an impassioned appeal for speeding up defence programmes to keep pace with the world, where technology has become the key driver of defence products. The Prime Minister exhorted DRDO to visualise, anticipate, and eventually set the agenda for the global defence community,” said the official press release from the Prime Minister’s Office.

But Modi was more blunt than that at the Defence Research and Development Organisation’s ceremony.

“I think there is this ‘chalta hai’ (lackadaisical) attitude”, he told the assembly of distinguished scientists, military top brass and defence ministry officials. It was time for DRDO to “decide whether it has to respond to the situation” and set the agenda.

“We can be the world leader by not following but by showing the way…. The time demands (it)... the world will not wait for us. We have to run ahead of time. That is why whatever we do, we should try hard to do it before time. It should not be so that a project is conceived in 1992 and in 2014 (we say) it will take some more time. The world will go ahead,” Modi said.

Among the notable DRDO projects that have been in the making for 30 years or more are the “Tejas” light combat aircraft, a nuclear submarine and combat helicopters.

India still does not make a rifle that the army can use as the standard issue weapon.

It is conducting a competition of global arms makers to find rifles of different calibre, as also artillery pieces, missiles and almost everything that it requires in its arsenal.

In this background, Modi praised the scientists who he described as devoted men and women who reminded him of the “rishi-mann” — “the mind of a sage.”

At the same time, he urged them to develop products that connect with the end-user — the soldier. He said the soldier can suggest many practical innovations in defence technology. “Has the soldier met the sage who toiled for fifteen years to develop a good product for him,” Modi wondered.

Drawing parallels between his government and the DRDO, the Prime Minister said: “People say that Modiji, we have lot of hopes and expectations from your government…. I have hopes from DRDO because I know that DRDO has the capability to perform.”

Defence minister Arun Jaitley reminded the gathering that national security was topmost priority because India is in a disturbed neighbourhood. He, too, urged the DRDO to expedite projects.

“So far we have lived with an error, where we were quite satisfied partly researching and partly manufacturing ourselves and substantially relying on equipment from outside. I think that equation is slowly changing; but this slow pace needs to be expedited … (but it cannot be) an expedition itself”, he added.