Sacked for being too old to head the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Avinash Chander, 64, was working on a project to create a pool of more than 10,000 young scientists working on cutting-edge military technologies by 2020.
In an exclusive interview to HT, his first after being sacked on January 13, the country's top military scientist hoped his successor would vigorously pursue the project for which Chander was willing to scoop out more than Rs 1,500 crore from the research agency's budget of Rs 15,282 crore.
He said the DRDO had set in motion a process to create the scientific workforce that would steer India towards self reliance in the defence sector.
"We were targeting to set aside 5% to 10% of our budget to groom scientists in academic institutions by setting up Centres of Technology there. I am sure the project will be followed up and it will materialise in the next five years," said Chander, whose contract is being terminated on January 31— 16 months before his term ends.
Chander may have lost his job as the government wanted someone younger to man the key post but he insisted that younger scientists gained exposure during his term.
"Earlier, scientists became directors at the age of 58 or 59. But during the last two years, people aged 45 have also made it to that position," he said.
He said the DRDO had implemented several measures suggested by the P Rama Rao committee to improve its functioning, except two.
The creation of a commercial arm and a defence technology commission is still underway. The measures were approved in May 2010.
"Whatever had to be done at our end has been done. The government has to follow it up now," he said.
Asked if his removal from the post could have been handled better by the government, he said, "I am quite satisfied with my achievements and the opportunities I got. I have nothing more to add." His exit order was put up on a government website even before he was informed of it.