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India hikes science budget despite slowdown
07-10-2009, 02:33 AM,
#1
India hikes science budget despite slowdown
India hikes science budget despite slowdown

Boosts for human space flight and atomic energy.

K. S. Jayaraman
Indian scientistIndian research has received more cash in the latest budget.Punchstock

Despite the economic slowdown India's government will spend 289 billion rupees (US$5.9 billion) on research and development this year, 19% more than last year, according to the budget for 2009–2010 announced on 6 July.

The largest allocations are for atomic energy (71.7 billion rupees), the space programme (49.6 billion rupees) and defence research (47.6 billion rupees), while eight 'national missions' or programmes to combat climate change — announced by the government last year — are to be launched.

The final 2009–2010 budget has only just been announced, although India's financial year runs from 1 April to 31 March, because the country held a general election in May. The outgoing government passed an interim budget to cover the period from 1 April till the end of June, and the budget announced on 6 July takes this interim budget into account.

Heads of government scientific departments say that although none of their projects has been shot down because of the economic slowdown, the increase in their budgets is less this year than in previous years.

"Allocations for us had been increasing by 30% each year, but this year it is only 20%," says Thirumalachari Ramasami, secretary of the Department of Science and Technology. The departments of health research, biotechnology and industrial research have received only 4–12% increases, but "none of us feels that our projects will suffer," Ramasami told Nature News. Funding for Earth sciences has, however, increased by 50% to 12.1 billion rupees, with a provision of 5.48 billion rupees for oceanographic research, including the setting up of a third Indian station in Antarctica and purchase of research vessels.
Space race

The 40% hike in the space budget from last year's 35 billion rupees is largely to go towards developing semi-cryogenic rocket engines, building a space capsule to carry a two-person crew into space by 2015 and for setting up the Indian Regional Navigational Satellite System along the lines of the US GPS (Global Positioning System), space department spokesman S. Satish told Nature News.


The budget for higher education increased by nearly 41 billion rupees to 154 billion rupees, including 4.5 billion rupees for new institutes of technology. In a move to draw students to science, the budget provides for interest-free loans for those pursuing approved courses of study in technical and professional schools. Another 5.4 billion rupees has been set aside for a National Knowledge Network of gigabit bandwidth to connect educational institutions across the country.

Ramasami admits that doubling investment in science from the current 1% of national income to 2% as proposed last year by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh may not happen unless businesses spend more on research and development. "Right now 80% of R&D is done in the public sector, and the private sector ploughs back less than 0.4% of its turnover [into] R&D, and most of [that is] by the pharmaceutical industry," Ramasami says. "The government alone cannot do the entire R&D, and the corporate sector has to invest in research as [a] priority and not just wait for budgetary stimulus from the government."

http://www.nature.com/news/2009/090708/ful...s.2009.652.html
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