Bangalore : Hiring of about 350 scientists and engineers by the state-run Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has been held up by the austerity measures of the union finance ministry, a senior official said.
"Though the (350) posts have been cleared by the prime minister's office, recruitment has been put on hold due to cut in budgetary allocation for us this fiscal (2013-14) by the finance ministry," DRDO recruitment and assessment centre chairman D.N. Reddy told reporters on the margins of a conference here.
Admitting that the research body has a shortage of 400 scientists and engineers, Reddy said fresh hiring may not take place till the general elections were held early next year.
"We got clearance from the PMO but not from the finance ministry due to austerity. We hope to get the ministry's approval after the elections.
"This is the first time we are affected by the austerity drive," Reddy said at the two-day National Conference on Condition Monitoring, organised by the DRDO's Bangalore-based Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE) and the Condition Monitoring Society of India (CMSI) at Vishakapatnam in coastal Andhra Pradesh.
Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram had recently directed all central ministries to prune their plan expenditure for fiscal 2014 to ensure that the budgeted fiscal deficit did not cross the targeted 4.8 percent of the national gross domestic product (GDP).
About 70-90 senior scientists retire every year on superannuation from 52 the organisation's R&D centres across the country.
"The freeze on hiring will delay current and new projects in missile technology, aerospace, electronics warfare like radars, armaments and protective and life-supporting equipment for the armed forces," said Reddy.
Some of the projects are the development of Agni-VI inter-continental ballistic missile with a range of 8,000-10,000km and manufacturing of more fighter jets like Tejas, the light combat aircraft (LCA) for the Indian Air Force (IAF).
Defence behemoth Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), which has an order to deliver 20 Tejas to the air force by 2016, is able to manufacture only two aircraft a year due to shortage of engineers and capacity constraints.
The organisation visits 18 institutes, including 16 IITs (Indian Institute of Technology), II.Sc (Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore) and the Defence Institute of Advance Technology, a deemed university at Pune in Maharashtra, for campus hiring of about 100 students in December every year.
"Response to join our organisation has been encouraging since the last two years due to slow down in the IT sector, which attracts more engineers with lucrative offers. In the absence of avenues for research and innovation in the IT sector, many engineers are looking for challenging opportunities in the defence sector," Reddy observed.
"Of the total defence budget, 23 percent is allocated for production and research activities. We (DRDO) get 6.5 percent (Rs.10,000 crore) of it (23 percent). Our budget has been cut by one percent to 5.5 percent, which is about Rs.1,000 crore," he noted.
Research projects were also affected during the last fiscal due to the austerity drive.
As a result of attrition, DRDO losses about 75-80 scientists every year for professional and personal reasons.
Of the total 35,000 employees in the DRDO, 7,900 are scientists, 12,000 engineers and around 15,000 are for administration functions.