Tuesday, September 16, 2008

DRDO seeks foreign help in attracting, retaining talent

Bleeding from an exodus of talent, India’s premier military research body Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is seeking tips from other countries in attracting and retaining the best scientific brains.

We have organised an international workshop on ‘Future roadmap for Science and Technology Network’, where experts from the US, Britain, Australia, Germany and Israel will deliberate upon the issue, said Arun Kumar, director of the DRDO’s Recruitment and Assessment Centre.

‘Our main objective is to gain from their experience in highly specialised areas like scientists’ recruitment and retention,’ Kumar added.

Former president A.P.J. Kalam, who once headed DRDO, will inaugurate the four-day workshop that will also see participation by scientists and other stakeholders from the public and private sectors, as also the government.

DRDO, which celebrates its golden jubilee this year, loses a scientist every second day to a plum post in the private sector. According to the defence ministry, 1,107 scientists - mostly young entrants - have resigned from DRDO between 2003 and 2007.

DRDO has a strength of 7,000 scientists, and the attrition rate is about 6.3 percent. The DRDO anually recruits 900 scientists. The private sector has been lapping up the young scientists, who get a comparatively lesser packages in the DRDO.

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 for scientists that arise in the organisation.

DRDO scientists are in great demand in the private sector as they have considerable expertise in areas like aeronautics, armaments, combat vehicles, electronics, instrumentation engineering systems, missiles, naval systems, advance computing, simulation and life sciences.

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

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 - perks that most private sector executives take for granted.

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

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