India's premier defence research organisation, DRDO on Wednesday said China was spending close to 20% of its defence outlay on research and development as compared to a mere 5-6% in India. Seeking enhanced budget, it also pitched for increased manpower saying that a top heavy institution with a narrow base is not an ideal situation.
Director general of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) S Christopher said there were a few issues which continued to remain a cause of concern and came in the way of the organization's growth.
"There is a need for enhanced budget and augmentation of scientific manpower. A mere 5-6% of defence budget for R&D is inadequate to meet the aspirations of India's defence needs especially when China spends about 20% of their defence budget for R&D," he said inaugurating the 39th Directors' Conference of DRDO here.
He said the manpower has remained stagnant since 2001.
"This is an issue which DRDO has been pursuing for a long time and currently a case for 436 scientists is with the government for approval," he said, adding that any research and development institution depends on new blood to work on technological needs of tomorrow.
"Today the average age of scientist in DRDO is over 40 years. A top heavy and narrow base is not a healthy structure for R&D organisations. We hope the government will appreciate the gravity of the situation and take appropriate measures to ensure manpower," he said.
On his part, defence minister Manohar Parrikar assured DRDO of all help but said the scientist need to constantly upgrade themselves and duplication of work should be avoided.
He also asked the DRDO scientists to "learn" from 'rishis', who overcame jealousy and anger since "many tussles and politics" had been seen in the scientists' community.
Addressing the gathering, the minister said education does not have any value if it does not come with integrity.
"For an educated person, to have humility is one of the most important virtues. I think the scientist community should choose to make it part of their overall behaviour and set up. This one apsect...I see many tussles. Politics is everywhere but it is also being sometimes played in a wrong sense. I understand you have high aspirations," he said.
Giving the assurance that he will definitely look into the issue of manpower requirement, Parrikar said, "But I think it can also be substituted by involving yourself in more technology institutes like IIT and others" with the participation of students.
He said DRDO has done a lot but it needs to do more particularly in cyber and space technology.
The Defence Minister said while DRDO has done great in missile technology, "we still lag behind in seeker technology for which we have to depend on foreign players".
He said DRDO should work towards becoming self-sufficient in major areas in the next 5-10 years.
Parrikar also asked the scientists to "roll up their sleeves" as he wondered why one cannot produce a basic assault rifle for the armed forces or a good bullet-proof jacket for the troops.
He said DRDO should also focus on exports to friendly countries.
Noting that Indian defence export is about $150 million, he said, "Why don't we target $1 billion" if not more in the next 2-3 years.
He said the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) has export potential provided the scientists resolve "some small issues".
Meanwhile, Christopher listed induction of indigenous submarine INS Arihant, which can carry nuclear missiles, as a target for next year, besides testing of indigenous Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) System.
In January, then DRDO chief Avinash Chander had to go as the government had cited the need for induction of younger leadership. In June, the Defence Ministry had separated the posts of the Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister and that of DRDO Director General.
Meanwhile, talking about Apacahe and Chinook helicopter deal with the US cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Security yesterday, Parrikar said it will bring on offset worth "almost $1 billion", 55% of which will be direct export from here.
Offset policy was first introduced as part of the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP), 2005, under which a foreign company has to invest back a portion of the deal into India. Parrikar also gave out DRDO awards for this year including the DRDO Lifetime Achievement Award to Dr S Arunachalam, former chief of the orgnaisation.
Navy Chief Admiral Dhowan also released a compendium of DRDO developed defence products with export potential.
Meanwhile, Parrikar released a book on the guidelines of transfer of technology to private companies.