India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called for changes in the bureaucratic system of managing the scientific community in the country so that youngsters are inspired to join the task of converting the nation into a technology powerhouse.
"We have to change our current bureaucratic system of administering scientific and technical departments, particularly if we have to inspire young scientists to participate enthusiastically in the task of building India into a scientific and technological powerhouse," Singh said here.
He was speaking after giving away the 2011 annual awards to Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) scientists at a function here in the presence of Defence Minister AK Antony and DRDO chief Dr. VK Saraswat.
This reference to the scientists management was made by the prime minister while touching upon the recommendations of Rama Rao review committee on redefining DRDO submitted four years ago that called for rejuvenating the culture of culture of research in the organisation and set apart a certain percentage of the budget for research and development activities.
The report also highlighted another issue that could slow down India's ambitious plans for development of high technology sector, namely, the growing difficulty in attracting and retaining high quality scientific manpower.
"Organisationally too, DRDO should aim at becoming leaner and making the best use of its human, financial and technological resources," the prime minister added.
The DRDO awards are given every year to honour individual scientists and teams for their outstanding contribution in furthering efforts for self-reliance in developing cutting edge Defence technologies.
Expressing happiness over DRDO collaboration with FICCI to develop bio-toilet that promises to solve problem of open defecation in rural India, Singh said if the green, cost-effective flush and forget technology is successfully implemented; it would give a big boost to India's total sanitation campaign.
"Application of technology to social benefit programmes should be expanded further. I would like to see a flagship national project on a major system in which DRDO can use its research and development expertise and synergise it with the production and project management skills available in our private industry. Such collaboration will bring greater efficiency to the work of DRDO and also allow it to focus on its core mandate of research and development," he added.
He also applauded the DRDO for the successful 5,000-km Agni-5 tests and the Light Combat Aircraft obtaining initial operational clearance.
Cautioning about the security scenario, Singh said: "As we look around us, a net deterioration in the international strategic and security environment becomes so obvious."
"Political uncertainties in our immediate and extended neighbourhood, civil strife and turmoil in the Middle East, terrorism and threats to cyber security present complex challenges that require both conventional as well as technological responses," he added.
He referred to the Naresh Chandra committee report on national security and noted that the government is currently examining it.
The report has called for a long-term policy for increasing indigenisation of Defence production and high-tech industries in consultation and collaboration with the private sector.
Informing the DRDO scientists that the government is fully committed to modernising the country’s armed forces and providing them with the wherewithal they need to secure the frontiers, the prime minister said: "The question is how we can procure the requisite cutting edge technologies and platforms, even while promoting indigenously developed technologies that meet the required time and quality assurances standards."
"The reality is that the share of indigenous content in Defence procurement continues to be low," he rued.
"We need to take a hard look at the pipeline of our projects and focus our time and material resources on selected areas where we have demonstrated capacity to deliver projects within reasonable time and cost," he added.
Noting that India needs to build its domestic Defence industry, both in the public and private sectors, in the longer term, Singh it has to reach a level where it can compete with global players, not only in terms of developing state-of-the-art technologies, but also on commercial parameters and customer satisfaction.
"Some of our companies already have the capacity to develop large sub-systems. The challenge now is to create greater incentives for domestic industry to develop capabilities for system integration, which at present only a few companies have.
"We need to give the industry a boost and quicken the pace of development. The role of DRDO in this regard is truly critical, given that there are 800 enterprises supporting its projects and programmes," he said.