NITI Aayog member V K Saraswat, who was earlier associated with the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO), exhorted researchers to “revive work on a bio (logical)-defence programme”.
He was addressing a video conference to mark the National Technology Day on May 11 - celebrated as the National Technology Day - when he urged DRDO scientists to shift focus on the six of its laboratories that study life sciences, reported the Business Standard.
The six DRDO laboratories that work on life sciences are: Defence Bioengineering and Electromedical Laboratory in Bengaluru, Defence Institute of Bio-Energy Research in Haldwani, Defence Food Research Laboratory in Mysore, Defence Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences in Delhi, Defence Institute of High Altitude Research in Leh, and Defence Institute of Psychological Research in Delhi.
Notably, India is among the 183 countries that signed the Biological Weapons Convention of 1975. This prohibits the possession of “biological agents and toxins” for purposes other than “prophylactic, protective, or peaceful”. The convention, however, allows member countries to develop biological weapons for defensive purposes.
Though the former DRDO chief did not directly relate the novel coronavirus pandemic outbreak with a biological warfare plan, any direction exhorting defence labs to step up the country’s biological defence system could be a strong implication of the same.
The DRDO has made significant contributions to India’s fight against the deadly novel coronavirus that has killed 2,293 persons in the country already. According to Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, “It has developed more than 50 products in the last three-four months, like bio-suit, sanitizer-dispenser, PPE (personal protection equipment) kits.”
These include the automatic contactless UVC sanitisation cabinet called DRUVS, the ‘UV Disinfection Tower’ for sanitising infection-prone surfaces in labs and offices, and the COVID-19 Sample Collection Kiosk COVSACK, which lets medicos collect samples without wearing PPE kits.