DRDO’s activities in Ladakh

Dr Sudershan Kumar

Since its inception, DRDO has been playing a pivotal role in fostering India’s growth in the defence sector. Being the R&D wing of Ministry of Defence, Government of India, it has strived to achieve excellence with a mission and a vision to empower India with cutting edge technologies and to achieve self reliance in critical defence technologies and systems while equipping the armed forces with state of art weapon systems as per their needs in view of emerging security threats.The organization which started in the year 1958 merely as an Inspection agency has transformed over the years into one the most prestigious organizations of the country. With 54 R&D laboratories and a work force of around 7600 scientists and engineers, it has become an indomitable might. Over the years DRDO has not only made India Aatm Nirbhar in missiles, electronic warfare and under water technologies but also extended horizons in development of technologies in live sciences. Moreover, it has been the front runner in providing technological solutions to the problems faced by troops guarding our borders be it any terrain or area. The Union Territory of Ladakh is one such not so congenial terrain. This cold dessert region of Ladakh has a strategic significance for India by virtue of its location in Western Himalayas. It is bordered with Tibet to the east, Himachal Pradesh to the south Union Territory of Jammu-Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan (ill legally occupied by Pakistan) to the west and south west corner of Xinjiang across the Karakoram pass in the north.This cold desert lying at an elevation varying between 8500 feet to 16500 feet from MSL characterized by low relative humidity, (20to40%), low atmospheric pressure, (493mmHg),low atmospheric oxygen high wind speed, very low annual precipitation and sub zero temperature up to (-40degree C) during winter months is too arduous for any living being. The extent of the extreme weather condition can be gauged by the plight of man sitting in sun under the shade who can have frost bite and sun stroke at the same time. For our soldiers giving their duties in such incompatible and harsh conditions is unimaginable. To provide solution to soldiers deployed in this in hospitable terrain and to the inhabitants of the area,DRDO has provided number of technologies.These technologies include alocal cream to reduce cold injuries, wearable health monitoring systems which can be donned easily, non conventional energy bases shelters, space heating and high altitude bio digesters. DRDO has also developed prophylactic supplements like herbal tea,sea buck thorn juice, sea buck thorn omega fatty acid capsules and UV protective cream for reducing high altitude adverse effects on soldiers posted in these inhospitable areas. Besides Food Research Laboratory of DRDO has provided number of Meal ready to eat (MRE) combinations for break fast, lunch and dinner with caloric value around 450 k cal.One of the innovation in this case is the food which can be eaten with out further processing or warming. Besides DRDO has also provided dual use technologies for the upliftment of socio economic conditions of local population of Ladakh.Firstly, in the field of agriculture especially the growth of vegetables and animal fodder,agro technologies such as trench green house,double poly green house,fibre reinforced green house have found wide acceptance among the local farmers of Ladakh,who are able to grow 48 different varieties of vegetables through out the year. As a result 70 to 80 percent needs of fresh vegetables are met through these local produce.DIHAR has also established dairy herbs for distribution of high yield progeny,developed packages for poultry ,survival gardens for medicinal plants and solar poly dryer for high altitudes.Besides, every year DIHAR organizes Kisaan, Jawan and Vigyaan mela at Leh and Partapur which provides common platform for interaction between armed forces and civil population. Presently at DIHAR R&D efforts are also going on for development of technologies for universal availability of non conventional energy resources in the region for generation of electricity and space heating applications.The research being pursued is on utilization of photo voltic cell, solar concentrators and wind turbine for both electricity generation and space heating with objective to provide energy security at remote locations through in situ energy generation. These technologies ,when matured at commercial scale can greatly reduce carbon foot prints and dependence on fossil fuel in Ladakh region. Secondly, there is a scarcity of water in this cold arid region.Hence the judicious use of water in irrigation, drinking and for common use is imperative.Hence, standard low cost irrigation system(DIHAR),back pack high altitude water purifier with capacity 12to 18 litre/hr(DLJ) and water mist systems(CFEES) have been developed.
Third,for better connectivity DRDO laboratories have also developed mountain foot bridge both with short and long span and high yield polymer concrete composite for emergency purpose.
It is heartening to note that in the year 2020 unlike rest of the country the union territory of Ladakh is facing dual brunt of Covid-19 pandemic crisis as well as back stabbing by People Liberation Army of China by unilaterally changing status quo at Line of Actual Control(LAC).Till date in Union Territory of Ladakh nearly 1285 Covid-19 cases have been reported. Out of these 1063 have recovered. Still there are 218 active cases.There have been 4 deaths.These numbers may change. In order to test covid -19 virus,DRDO has also established state of art test facility at DIHAR. This facility can test 50 samples per day and will be of immense use to future bio threats and for carrying out R&D in agro animal diseases.Besides DRDO has also a developed variety of protective gears against Covid-19.
As far as the hostilities by our adversary is concerned, according to latest reports, PLA has refused to disengage from finger four point of Pangong Tso lake area showing its adamancy despite all the diplomatic and military level talks. It seems, these Chinese are toeing the strategy by Mao’s where in they aim to win war by hook or crook, paralysing the enemy,creating confusion in enemy’s command and inflicting grave injuries to the enemy side both physically and psychologically. Indian authorities should take cognizance of this and be prepared for a long brawl. From the published and open literature ,it emerged that DRDO has been once again on the forefront as it has developed drones called Bharat which could facilitate accurate surveillance along the Line of actual(LAC) in Ladakh. This is one of the most trusted surveillance system of the world.The small, yet powerful drone works autonomously at any location with impeccable accuracy.The unibody mimetic design with advanced released technology is a potent combination of surveillance mission. The most important aspect is that this UAV can survive the most harsh climatic conditions.Besides, DRDO developed missiles have also been deployed in to counter Chinese build up at LAC.The author is of the opinion that the cost effective innovative technology will always play a key role for over all development of Ladakh.DRDO along with other research organization will have to play greater role in that.