Govt exhorts DRDO to revive work on biological defence initiative - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Tuesday 12 May 2020

Govt exhorts DRDO to revive work on biological defence initiative

Biological Warfare Convention 1975 prohibits offensive bioweapons, but allows antidote development

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 12 May 20

Niti Aayog member and former Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) chief VK Saraswat said on Monday that the DRDO must “revive work on a bio(logical)-defence programme.”  

Speaking at a videoconference on National Technology Day, Saraswat called on the DRDO to provide “more focus” on its six laboratories that work on life sciences.

While Saraswat did not directly suggest the Covid-19 pandemic was related to biological warfare, it is significant that the government is exhorting military laboratories to work concertedly on biological defence.

India is one of the 183 signatories to the Biological Weapons Convention of 1975 (BWC), which bans the possession of “biological agents and toxins” except for “prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes.” While banning the development or possession of offensive biological weapons, the BWC permits member countries to develop defensive biological means.

The DRDO operates six laboratories under its “life sciences cluster.” These include Defence Bioengineering and Electro-medical Laboratory, Bengaluru (DEBEL), Defence Institute of Bio-Energy Research, Haldwani (DIBER), Defence Food Research Laboratory, Mysore (DFRL), Defence Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences, Delhi (DIPAS), Defence Institute of High Altitude Research (DIHAR) and Defence Institute of Psychological Research, Delhi (DIPR).

Speaking on the occasion, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh congratulated the DRDO for “tackling the challenges posed by COVID-19 using state-of-the-art technology.”

“DRDO has developed more than 50 products in the last three-four months, like bio suit, sanitizer-dispenser, PPE (personal protection equipment) kits,” he said.

On Sunday, the DRDO announced the development of an “automated contactless UVC sanitisation cabinet, called the Defence Research Ultraviolet Sanitiser (DRUVS),” which sanitises mobile phones, iPads, laptops, currency notes, cheque leafs, challans, passbooks and papers without physical contact.

On May 4, the DRDO unveiled an “Ultra Violet (UV) Disinfection Tower” for chemical-free disinfection of infection prone surfaces in laboratories and offices, such as computers, printers and scanners. Using UV waves, the tower disinfects a small room in 10 minutes and a large room in 30 minutes.

On April 14, the DRDO unveiled a COVid SAmple Collection Kiosk (COVSACK), which allows health workers to collect samples from patients without wearing PPE kits, since the kiosk’s shielding screen protects the medical worker from the aerosols of the patient while taking the sample.

National Technology Day is observed on May 11 every year to commemorate the 1998 nuclear tests at Pokhran and to underline the need for self-reliance in critical areas.

1 comment:

  1. The information on the number of labs in DRDO LS cluster is incorrect. There are 9 labs not 6 as stated in the piece, most notably DRDE Gwalior which has been left out.

    Such basic errors need to be avoided.


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