Union minister Harsh Vardhan seeks white paper on civil aircraft project, NAL activities

Written by: Dr Anantha Krishnan M

Bengaluru, April 5: Union Minister of Science & Technology and Earth Sciences Dr Harsh Vardhan said on Sunday that he has sought a white paper on the research activities of National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) in Bengaluru.

Responding to a specific question from OneIndia on the status of NAL's civil aircraft programme, the minister said he has asked Council of Scientific and Industrial Research's (CSIR) acting Director-General (Dr M O Garg) and NAL Director (Shyam Chetty) to make a white paper on the civil aircraft programme and other activities of NAL.

"I am of the opinion that we need to re-orient our research. The CSIR needs to definitely take a fresh look at the activities they have been doing in the last six decades," Dr Harsh Vardhan said.

Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and NAL have already formed a special purpose vehicle (SPV) to undertake a 70-90-seater civil aircraft programme on a public private partnership (PPP) model.

The SPV was necessitated after the much-hyped National Civil Aircraft Development (NCAD) programme was put to a slow death during the UPA-2 regime.


To a query as to why 17 of 37 CSIR labs in India are currently being headed by acting or stand-by directors, the minister said that the process to find suitable candidates is on. "There could be vacancies, but no work is getting affected. It's a time-consuming process," he said.

To another related query on why CSIR has been running on acting Director-Generals for over one year now, the minister said: "Acting DGs too are capable of doing a good job."

When asked about the status of NAL's ill-fated Saras project, the minister seemed to have no answer.

S&T efforts should aid the society

Finally, when quizzed about the vision of the Science and Technology Ministry, Dr Harsh Vardhan said that scientists should ensure that the benefits of their research should reach the common man.

"We are asking the scientific community to brainstorm at all levels so that the society gets maximum benefit from S&T advancements. We need to make technology people-friendly and cost-effective. The S&T research should get connected to the people. Else it's meaningless," Dr Harsh Vardhan said.


He said the government is keen to bring back scholars who have left India for better job opportunities.

On his maiden visit to NAL facilities ever since taking over as the S&T Minister in May 2014, Dr Harsh Vardhan played to the gallery while addressing the team of scientists and engineers.

"I never imagined that so much of technology goes behind an aircraft. I am amazed that these technologies ensure that we have a safe and enjoyable flight," the minister said.


Saying that even a small discussion over a tea can lead to many national missions, Dr Harsh Vardhan asked the scientific leaders to take suggestions from non-skilled people as well to improve S&T in India.

(The writer is a seasoned aerospace and defence journalist in India. He is the Consultant Editor (Defence) with OneIndia. He tweets @writetake.)

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