Never-before science dole

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  • Published 28.03.07

New Delhi, Feb. 28: The government has proposed a never-before 50 per cent increase in the outlay for the department of science and technology in a budget that officials described as “exceptionally” friendly to science.

The proposed outlay for the department is Rs 1,775 crore, a steep rise from the revised estimate of Rs 1,177 crore for 2006-07. The ministry of earth sciences, too, gets a 50 per cent hike with an outlay of Rs 887 crore.

“The effective year-to-year rise for science and technology is higher than ever before,” DST secretary Thirumalachari Ramasami said.

Much of the extra funding will go into new schemes to draw students to science careers and rejuvenate the infrastructure for research in universities.

“These are long-term investments for the future of India,” Ramasami said.

The science and technology outlay includes an investment of Rs 100 crore into a scholarship scheme to be offered to 10,000 “best-in-class” students of the BSc and MSc courses.

India’s space budget will rise by 28 per cent with a funding of Rs 3,858 crore, including Rs 50 crore for the first formal project towards a manned mission — the design work for an indigenous space capsule capable of holding two astronauts.

“We’re calling this ‘pre-project investment’ — an effort to generate basic data that will help us determine the expected cost of the full project, the schedules, and the technologies it will require,” a space official said.

The department of space outlay also includes Rs 75 crore for an Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology to help develop high-quality scientists and engineers keeping in mind the future requirements of the space programme.

About Rs 240 crore — more than a quarter of the outlay for the ministry of earth sciences — will go into efforts to improve weather and rain forecasts through a modernisation plan that will involve improving the weather observation network.

The proposals include certain tax benefits for investments in select areas in biotechnology, information technology, nanotechnology, seed research and development, and drug discovery research.

The outlay for medical research, though, has dropped 17 per cent. The Indian Council of Medical Research will receive only Rs 234 crore in 2007-08 against a revised estimate of Rs 283 crore for 2006-07.