New Delhi: Although India has increased its budget for science and technology substantially in the past 20 years, it has been pruning the share key sectors such as energy, water and medical research receive from this.
Budgetary support for energy and water-related research, for instance, dipped from 26.7% of the research outlay in the seventh Plan (1985-89) to 13.21% in the ninth Plan that ended in March 2002.
Biomedical research funds in the same period fell from 7.5% to 3.9%. Policy planning in India is done in five-year intervals. The country is currently in the 11th Plan period.
To be sure, funds available for these sectors increased, but because the size of the budget grew about three times.
The analysis of expenditure trends on science and technology between 1985 and 2002 was done by the National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies (Nistads), a unit of state-controlled Council of Scientific and Industrial Research.
Although the findings are based on data available in 2004, the latest available with the science and technology ministry, Nistads director P. Banerjee said: “It’s still a good snapshot of research priorities today because funding patterns haven’t dramatically altered.”
The Planning Commission, India’s apex body that recommends government funding, has earmarked close to Rs75,000 crore for science and technology in the current Plan.
The increase in budget is largely because of a massive rise in funding for education as well as the near-constant allocation for space and defence research that together garners three-fourths of the Centrally allotted science and technology funds, Banerjee said.
India is locked in tough negotiations with developed countries for taking on emission cuts to tackle global warming, and a pivotal point is its demand for funding for clean energy technologies.
The relative decline in importance for energy and water-related research has serious implications for a rapidly developing nation because it means indigenous green technology would be hard to come by.
It also potentially ties India down to imports, which are often expensive and have severe technology restrictions, especially with respect to intellectual property.
Although the number of research papers relating to coal, solar, hydrogen and fuel cells published by the country’s scientists has almost trebled between 1995 and 2007, citations of these, a key measure to gauge quality, have fallen precipitously, Mint reported on 15 July.