Prime Minister Narendra Modi waxes eloquent about ancient India’s excellence in scientific research and assures his countrymen that soon India will be among the top countries as far as achievement in science and technology is concerned, and his followers have started branding India as ‘Vishwaguru’. While it is true that many Indian scientists have made their country proud through their path-breaking research, it cannot be gainsaid that they have to work under severe constraints. The current level of expenditure in Science and Technology (S & T) is abysmally low, and if India aspires to be among the top countries in the world in knowledge generation through research in S & T, it has to substantially increase the outlay in research. After the Prime Minister’s tall words on India’s scientific aspiration, one expected increased budgetary allocation to the Ministry of Science and Technology. This hope is totally belied as we find that out of a total budget of Rs. 45,03,097 crore, only 16,361 crore have been allocated to the Ministry of Science and Technology, a measly 0.36%. South Korea which began its independent journey at about the same time as India allocates 4.8% of GDP on science and technology, for USA and China the corresponding figures are 3.45% and 2.4% respectively.
Out of the total allocation of Rs. 16,361 crore, Rs. 7,391 crore is allocated to Department of Science and amp; Technology (DST), Rs. 2683.9 crore to Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and Rs.5746.5 crore to Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR). It is claimed by the Finance Minister that the allocations are more than in last year’s Budget. But if we factor in an inflation of about 5%, the increase for DST is miniscule and for DBT and DSIR it is actually reduced. We should also remember that 90% of the funds of these Departments are spent on salary and very little is left for supporting scientific research.
The other Departments involved with science and technology research are Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and Department of Space (DOS). The allocations to these Departments are Rs.25,078 crore and Rs. 12,543 crore respectively. Compared to DST, DBT and DSIR the latter allocations seem to be more liberal, but this is because of obvious political reasons. Both DAE and DOS are involved with Defence research (nuclear armaments, missiles and satellites). The financial matters in DAE are opaque to public scrutiny, but it appears that in DAE a major part of the funds is used for building and maintaining reactors, and very little is left for supporting research in DAE-funded institutions. In the DOS a major activity is commercial satellite launching.