Pune: PK Mehta, Director General of city-based Armament and Combat Engineering Systems (ACE), a Defence Research and Development Organisation establishment, and Major General Ajay Gupta, Director of Ahmednagar-based Vehicle Research and Development Establishment (VRDE) are facing allegations that they have misused their financial powers for sanctioning of fallacious defence projects costing Rs 93 crore.
A complaint was received by the Prime Minister Office and DRDO HQ, Ministry of Defence, about sanctioning of projects without project requirement from user - the Army in this case. The matter was reported by a serving officer of Indian Army to MOD and PMO.
The complaint letter dated March 11 states that the three defence projects were aggressively pursued by Gupta and sanctioned by Mehta in later half of 2017, without any requirement from the Army.
Corruption in DRDO
A highly placed source in DRDO lab, on condition of anonymity, told Sakal Times that the process of sanctioning of technology demonstration projects in DRDO has become very casual. The projects are being sanctioned without issuance of PSQRs from users’ (Army, Navy, Air Force) participation and requirement. He said, “It’s high time the Ministry conducts an enquiry in sanctioning of projects as there is lot of corruption going on in DRDO.
The sanctioning authority with Mehta is Rs 50 crore per project while Gupta’s power is Rs 5 crore per project. Together they have sanctioned projects worth Rs 93.67 crore.”
When Sakal Times contacted Mehta, he said, “Many a times, users are not aware of the technology so there are projects which are sanctioned without their requirement. It is sanctioned only after being reviewed by various experts. Even after the sanctioning, we have to look for the outcome, because in research and development there are chances that a project can be a failure.”
“Interest of nation is most important and we have to be independent in the manufacturing of defence projects and we are working on it under ‘Make in India’ programme of government,” added Mehta.
Despite repeated attempts to contact Gupta on phone and through texts, he was not available for comment.
KK Mishra, Joint Director (Retd), DRDO, said, “How can they sanction the projects without requirement from users. Defence projects are not some college projects one should remember that huge amount of money is invested in them. Participation of user is required before sanctioning of such projects. Many a times senior authorities sanction such projects for their own benefits. In past also people have sanctioned projects and gained monetary benefits from them.”
Defence expert Lt Gen DB Shekatkar (Retd) said, “It is surprising that a project has been sanctioned without requirement of user. For procurement of any armament or equipment for armed forces, user requirement is necessary. Such matters should be inquired into by Army headquarters.”
THE THREE PROJECTS THAT WERE NEVER NEEDED
- The first project of the ‘Development of 70 T trailer for MBT Arjun MK-II tanks’ was sanctioned by Gupta on August 30, 2017 worth Rs 4.23 crore. The project was a Technology Demonstration (TD) project with the project no TD/17-18/ VRD.
- The second project, sanctioned by Mehta, was ‘Development of Armoured Personal Carrier (APC) 6X6 on September 25, 2017 worth Rs 49.49 crore (TD/17-18/VRD 67). The projected was pursued aggressively by Gupta.
- The third project, ‘Development of Wheeled Armoured Platform (WhAP) CBRN was sanctioned by Mehta on November 8, 2017, worth Rs 39.955 Crore.
- These projects were sanctioned without any user requirement from Army.
MEHTA AND GUPTA'S MURKY PAST
- PK Mehta, DG (ACE), Pune is in the race to become next Secretary and DG of DRDO. His contender is Sudhir Mishra, Head Brahmos Missile.
- In 2017,a group of 12 young scientists of Advanced Centre for Energetic Materials (ACEM), Nasik has written to the then Defence Minister Manohar Parikarr and Dr S Christopher, Secretary and DG, DRDO about the harassment meted out to them by PK Mehta - going as to say that some of them will end their life.
- As reported by Sakal Times, Maj Gen Gupta is already under the CBI's scanner for compromising the establishment's security by meeting two foreign nationals of a private company without official clearance to do so.