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Fund crunch may ground India’s flight to overtake China in S&T

In Focus

Securing Budget papers outside Parliament

The annual budgetary proposals by Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee for the financial year 2012-13 do not reflect Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh’s recent indication of a higher allocation for science and technology.

Dr. Manmohan Singh had told the scientific community in January that “we must ensure a major increase in investment in R&D, including by industry and strategic sectors,” considering the declining position of India in science and technology.

Science & Technology can wait

In contrast, Science and technology received an allocation of only Rs. 2,873 crore against Rs. 2,349 – a mere 14 per cent increase, which belies Dr. Singh’s concerns of “too low and stagnant” spending on R&D and promises of increasing the total spending to at least 2 per cent of GDP by the end of XII Plan Period from the current level of about 1 per cent.

Ministry of Science and Technology, which includes three key departments steering science and technology – Departments of Science and Technology, Scientific and Industrial Research and Biotechnology – got the least, just a 10 per cent over the actual expenditure during the current financial year.

Department of Atomic Energy, which is in the focus with India making a leap in nuclear energy sector, will get an 18 per cent increase.

On the other hand, India’s moon mission gets a leg up in the budgetary proposals with an allocation of Rs. 125 crore. Indian Space Research Organisation gets an increased share of Rs. 2283 crore over its actual expenditure of Rs. 4432 crore during the current financial year.

ISRO is expected to launch its Mars mission in November next year, while the space agency has identified two more launch windows in 2016 and 2018. ISRO’s Human Speacelift programme has got a modest Rs. 60.46 crore in the budget, Rs. 170 crore for its plan for a regional navigation satellite system for the Indian subcontinent and 82.50 crore for Chandrayan-II mission, planned for launch in 2014-15.

But the finance minister has promised budgetary support to some individual institutions to promote research and create new knowledge:

  • Setting up of world-class centre for water quality in Kolkata – Rs. 50 crore
  • Kerala Agricultural University – Rs. 100 crore
  • University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad, Karnataka – Rs. 50 crore
  • Chaudhary Charan Singh Haryana Agricultural University, Hissar – Rs. 50 crore
  • Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology – Rs. 50 crore
  • Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University, Hyderabad – Rs. 100 crore

On the whole science and technology sectors get a short shrift in the annual budget, despite Prime Minister’s admission of poor funding or promises of higher allocation in the coming years to regain India’s preeminence in these sectors.

The health allocation in the budget has been raised by about 14 per cent. The sector gets Rs. 30,702 crore to improve better healthcare for the rural and urban poor. Funds have also been earmarked to expand healthcare services across the country, but a major chunk of it has been cornered by premier facilities in the national capital.

  • All Indian Institute of Medical Sciences gets Rs. 1,124 crore, up from its actual expenditure of Rs. 1022 crore during 2011-12.
  • Safdarjung Hospital – Rs. 467 crore; an increase of Rs. 122 crores
  • Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital – Rs. 322 crore against Rs. 283
  • Lady Hardinge Hospital – Rs. 223 crore, against Rs. 194 crore in 2011-12
  • Kalawati Saran Hospital – Rs. 61 crore against Rs. 56 crore

The budget has also made a provision of Rs. 1,544.21 crores for setting up of super speciality medical facilities like New Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences in different parts of the country. During the current fiscal, an allocation of Rs. 1,616 crore was made for this purpose. In the first phase six such medical research centres will come up in Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh), Bhubaneswar (Odisha), Jodhpur (Rajasthan), Patna (Bihar), Raipur (Chhattisgarh) and Rishikesh (Uttarakhand). In the second phase, two more centres will come up in Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

These super speciality centres will provide world-class medical facilities, besides medical education and research facilities.

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