Sunday, July 08, 2007

The War at DRDO Bhavan

Considering the requests that emerged in the comments section of the teaser post to this one, I'm going to keep this one really short. Wasn't planning on a long editorial (I'll save that for the comments section!) so here are the facts. The phrase "bullet points" would be most appropriate in the circumstances, but I think I'll just go with it like I normally do.

Dr A Sivathanu Pillai (in photo on right), the very visible CEO/MD of BrahMos Aerospace, also Distinguished Scientist and Chief Controller R&D at DRDO Headquarters, retires on July 31. As a Distinguished Scientist in the middle of important programme(s), Pillai would in normal course be given the traditional two year extension before he retires. For the record, Pillai turns 60 on July 15.

The procedure is fairly straightforward and has reasonably been passed on to leagues of Distinguished Scientists at DRDO over the years. The procedure begins with DRDO chief and the Defence Minister's Scientific Advisor, Manthiram Natarajan, who initiates a file with a recommendation and forwards it with comments to the Defence Minister's office. The file hasn't been moved. Multiple senior colleagues of both within DRDO confirm in private that Natarajan has long been known to be vehemently against recommending Pillai's name for a two-year extension, something that was considered a virtual given considering the very real achievements that Pillai and his team were perceived to have delivered by the government.

In an unprecedented move, the Defence Minister's office recently raised a question. In a noting sent by AK Antony himself (with inputs by the Defence Secretary), Natarajan has been asked why Pillai has not been recommended for an extension, as would be the normal practice in the circumstances. Caught on the wrong foot, Natarajan has called for a peer review committee to convene on July 17 to look into the matter. In what supporters of Pillai within DRDO think is preposterous, Natarajan has invited his predecessor Dr Vasudev K Aatre to be part of the peer review as a special member. Pillai's supporters insist that this is a very considered move considering that Aatre, like Natarajan is known to deeply dislike "Kalam's missile boys".

Speak to anyone at DRDO Bhavan now, and there's a palpable sense of embarassment. Those who support Natarajan's move insist that tenure extensions would discourage growth and freshness in leadership, though this doesn't explain recommendations for two-year extensions for other Distinguished Scientists. BrahMos officials reveal that their boss has spent a very tense few months shuttling between getting things going for the air and submarine-launched versions of the weapon system, and thinking about the possible end of his own career at DRDO this month.

26 comments :

Anonymous said...

nail on the head. the drdo fraternity respects both tremendously but the current spat is just too much to bear. thanx for bringing it out to public.

rajan

sniperz11 said...

Dr. Aatre was also offered an extension of service if you remember but turned it down as he felt that it would create stagnancy at the top. He also recommended a fixed term of 5 yrs for all new SAs, which would be enough time to do something, but not too long to create stagnancy at the 2nd and 3rd levels.

Going by that history, it is possible that he may recommend a new appointment. However, to pin this on a so-called 'dislike' of Kalam's Pandavas is a very easy way to try and discredit him and any opinion that the committee may take.

Of course, given that a coterie was formed by Dr. Kalam in the top echelons of DRDO, populated by his 'boys', it seems dangerous to the efficacy of the organization that this should continue. Shiv, with your previous stances on coteries in the MoD and other places, you should be aware of how damaging they can be. Sure, the guys are extremely qualified, but the media does tend to put them, along with Dr. Kalam on a pedestal and deify them. While they deserve it, it doesn't behoove that the many other equally, if not more qualified scientists are ignored because of this groupism.

I certainly hope, Shiv, that you are not writing with an agenda, because this post seems to be so. I hope even more fervently that you have realized the amount of damage that a badly researched & written piece would do to DRDO morale. I hope to see a more in-depth and balanced article, with more info... right now, its just hearsay.

Anonymous said...

Pillai's supporters insist that this is a very considered move considering that Aatre, like Natarajan is known to deeply dislike "Kalam's missile boys" .

Shiv, not a bad one. It is Ok to have gossips. Otherwise, life will be monotonous. I have a doubt Shiv. Why Natarajan and Aatre are disliking "Kalam's missile boys". Apart from Natarajan and Aatre who else dislike them. Can you list who are those "Kalam's missile boys".

Joe

Anonymous said...

Shiv, few more questions...

Is this the first time to have Peer review committee for the extension.

Does Natarajan gave extension to other distinguished scientists without any Peer review committee ? Who are they ?

How many of "the notables" have been given extension or denied extension. Yep, Aatre is one.

Being 60, I think, Pillai is already under extension. Is it a norm to give more than one extension? What is max number of extension one can be awarded. Who are they ones who received more than one extension and who got the max?

Thanks in advance...

Joe

Anonymous said...

all these details are way too much for Aroor to write about. see its like this. the evil Natrajan has denied good Pillai his due. rest follows. this is all ego and professional jealousy, and intrepid Aroor has done it again!
sing Aroor, Aroor to the tune of Batmaaaan, that 60's TV show, and you will be awed. truly we are privileged.

Anonymous said...

the enmity between the two scientists is anything but new. i have worked closely with dr AS pillai in 1997, and know him to be a very accomplished and humble person. his relation with natarajanji are not the very best. and to clear up any doubts, shiv has got the right info this time. it is the hot topic of disc in most of our labs currently. a letter has even come from rci and itr demanding that dr pillai be given more tenure. and answering the other question raised here, kalam's missile coterie consisted of a few very close members. among the ones at the hq now are of course dr prahlad, dr saraswat and dr pillai.

Zero said...

Queenie Aroor does it again,

Next he will report that Brigadiers daughter ran with colonels servant.

Thats Queenie's defence news.

Go Queenie! hehehhee!

Anonymous said...

Every office has issues, rumors like this. Does this piece really need reporting?

sniperz11 said...

Exactly anon... this is just office gossip thats been put to print. It'll remain that way till Shivji can come up with facts and details, and write an unbiased report without any convictions or agendas.

@Zero, I think you should give the queenie stuff a break.... the only thing it does is lower your credibility and make us ignore your comments. If you indeed have a coherent argument to make, please make it without insults.

Anonymous said...

Office gossip or not, it sure is interesting! ;)

Anonymous said...

In an unprecedented move, the Defence Minister's office recently raised a question. In a noting sent by AK Antony himself (with inputs by the Defence Secretary), Natarajan has been asked why Pillai has not been recommended for an extension, as would be the normal practice in the circumstances.
You said that it was an unprecedented move. That means never before has the DM's office sent a note asking why a recommendation for extension was not given.
1)Why was this unprecedented move taken?
2)What is the force behind this unprecedented move? Have you tried to explore this angle?
3)How do you define "normal"? What are the equivalents of Brahmos corporations for Drdo?
4) What was the "normal" extensions given to the people at the helm for these brahmos-like organisations. Please note Brahmos is not a completely drdo's subsidiary, but is a somewhat special case. How many such organisations are there?
5) What are the cases in other complete drdo's subsidiaries? Among its numerous subsidiaries, in how many of them was people at the helm always given the extensions? For how many years? Important subsidiaries will suffice.

And now in the comments, we have the statement

"a letter has even come from rci and itr demanding that dr pillai be given more tenure"
Was such a letter really sent? What were the guiding forces behind this letter? Is this also an unprecedented move? These questions are to the anon, who gave this statement. If Shiv can answer it, well and good, otherwise frankly no big deal for Shiv.

In what supporters of Pillai within DRDO think is preposterous, Natarajan has invited his predecessor Dr Vasudev K Aatre to be part of the peer review as a special member.

6) Apart from the questions asked by Joe, what exactly makes this step preposterous? Was in earlier peer reviews, no special members were alloted or special members were alloted but their predecessors were not made as the special members? Frankly taking advice from a predecessor in peer review is not too uncommon. Atleast normally unofficially, his opinion is taken into consideration.

The statement
"
BrahMos officials reveal that their boss has spent a very tense few months shuttling between getting things going for the air and submarine-launched versions of the weapon system, and thinking about the possible end of his own career at DRDO this month."

7) Was the Drdo boss feeling that possibly he is thinking more about this?

The above are mostly and frankly rumours, which are their in every organisation, whenever the tenure of a chief is going to end. The most important question to be asked is:
8) Who are waiting in the wings for this post? What are their qualifications and does the drdo chief feel that it is their qualities which will be suited for the brahmos corporation for the future?

Yes, Mr. Pillai could be a great guy. I am not debating that. Who are the possible replacements and what do they bring to the table? Can it be that they can bring more tenure so that Brahmos corporation can be taken to a new higher level? Does the Drdo chief believe that now that development of brahmos has reached a certain stage, now it is important to have a "marketing" brain at the helm, as you know that Brahmos is going to be sold to foreign countries and people's skills instead of scientific skills will be more important?


Huh, Shiv, frankly you outdid yourselves this time. With all the trailers you gave, I thought it would be a scoop at the very very highest level where the drdo's top 2-3 get into such muddy waters, that they do not allow any file to pass. This whole thing is about whether there will be an "extension" (note not even promotion) for a person in one of drdo's several organisations. Story for the nannies.

Ravi

Zero said...

Sniper,

I plan to have no credibility like queenie Aroor. It sells like hot cakes.

Zero said...

Anon,

Queenie tried the suave words he learnt from phoren. Hence all that blarb he wrote. Did you ever make sence out of his blarbs? In school we learnt "nakal bhi akal se karo." Queenie has not learnt it. He copied and pasted his indian express articles and made it worse. Now he reports lost buffalos and defence page 3 equivalent.

Anonymous said...

zero, unfortunately you are fixated on the past and sound highly frustrated doing so. as someone who doesn't really care about his credibility, i would advise you to cut the juvenile tone and argue if you can, or else, observe and learn. you have said before you are from drdo, so at least show something for it.

Zero said...

Queenie is anon skin,

Matter of time. I have to join back. Then poof.

You have already killed our credibility. Insulted us and repeatedly called us mediocre.

Now whats left of credibility?

Argument from us non credible DRDO guys? Queenie, high expectations. You know we cannot deliver. Or we might deliver late.

till then

Go Queenie! hehehehe!

Anonymous said...

zero you are joining back drdo? imagine the prospects for drdo with duh-duh cretins like zero contributing to self reliance, especially when he cannot peel his eyes away from shiv aroor's blog! i've been reading this blog for a few weeks now, and while i have problems with a lot of what goes on it, i think people like zero are a waste to the organisation they say they belong to. if you're in drdo, do some work and prove yourself, instead of wagging your flacid self at a blog that has no bearing on you. you sound constipated with your queenie stuff. find fault with aroor and batter him like i do when i want to (for eg. in the sulur post, which was ridiculos). stop taking another blog down to the level you're obviously so comfortable in. be mature, because you can cause a lot more harm that way. everyone just skips your comments otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Somewhere in mid 2001 I remember to have seen on NDTV a program on the first launch of Brahmos missile. Seeing a totally different kind of its quick movements, I got interested and started reading/watching articles on Brahmos fully since then. What I could gather from media and conclude based on the information thus gathered is
- in flat six years Brahmos has Fifteen successful flights
- Indian Navy has acquired Brahmos 3 years ago
- President has handed over Brahmos to Army last month
- Army chief has lauded its capabilities
- Brahmos has precisely hit ships and land targets etc during its 15 trials
- It is universal and very easy to operate
- Indian industry is manufacturing Brahmos
- About half of its technical content and three quarters of manufacturing content is Indian
- Brahmos is one of the top 4-5 successful grand products of DRDO.
- ‘Brahmos model’ is being professed for following in other govt programs
- At least 3-5 countries are ready to buy Brahmos
- AND All this is because of Dr Pillai’s driving force behind the Program

Thus it is evident that Dr Pillai has
- made India proud to possess Supersonic Cruise missile
- made Indian teams work within India (not in US) to the best of their capabilities
- made India come on the threshold of being a sophisticated weapon developer
- made Other countries aware of the capabilities of Brahmos
- made evident the benefits of being open about country’s defence products

To reach this stage in such a short span of six years Dr Pillai certainly would have given every second of his own time to the country. If such politics need to be played for granting a meager extension of couple of years, it is highly unfortunate. I wish our country a better luck.

Zero said...

Anon,

i am perfectly okay with how I am. My organisation is perfectly okay with my work. Its perfectly ok for you to write on me. Its perfectly ok for Queenie to be a traitor.

This is a perfect world.

Now an advice for you. Queenie, its perfectly ok for you to post as anon against me.

The blogs level is as i see it, its always third rate. Since we are mediocres we like third rate places, hence I am here.

Anonymous said...

zero the only thing that is corect in your statement is that you are mediocre. and now you are calling me also queeni! i guess you do have unsorted childhood issues. all the best with drdo (mu ha ha ha ha)

Zero said...

You are absolutely right Queenie Aroor! Another blame from you will not make any difference.

You are third rate, your articles are third rate, your blog is third rate, your show on TV is a third rate (check TRP ratings). You are a queenie reporting colnels dog lost types of news.

Anonymous said...

zero is abhiman! the mr hyde who comes out at night! as shuklaji had once said, what a wonderful name it is - zero. well done abhiman. why don't you just batter aroor under your own name??

Zero said...

Does it matter?

We are talking Quenie Aroor!

Anonymous said...

>>To reach this stage in such a short span of six years Dr Pillai certainly would have given every second of his own time to the country. If such politics need to be played for granting a meager extension of couple of years, it is highly unfortunate. I wish our country a better luck

anon, nobody is denying the contribution from Pillai. Infact, there are incidences where change of guard had impacted the smooth running of the business. Few comments above here is splendid analysis by Ravi, just go throu that. Many views expressed here are only critical of the way this piece is written and not about the Pillai's extension, if u see.

Finally, what do you think about the lieutenants of Pillai, whether they can hold the mantle like Pillai ?

Joe

Anonymous said...

Extension is very bad for DRDO. It demotivates other scientist.Recently so many were given extension,It is not clear what great thing they have done ? If they got extension then Dr Pillai is best among the lot fit for extension.

Anonymous said...

such extensions deny other equally capable scientists a chance-one of the reasons for increasing attrition among drdo scientists at all levels.achievers should also retire gracefully and be a role model for others by taking up alternative jobs or social service.

Anonymous said...

wasn't Aatre considered one of kalam's missile boy's too??