Former oil minister dismisses rumours that he is not happy with the change in portfolio
The new Union Minister for Science and Technology, Jaipal Reddy, aims to improve the ranking of India among countries with the highest output in research. Speaking soon after assuming charge, Reddy said he would work towards bringing the country in top five from its current ninth position in research.
He pointed out that under the 12th Five Year Plan, the Planning Commission has approved Rs 60,800 crore for the science ministry. Reddy, who was earlier the Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas, was given the new task in a major Cabinet reshuffle by the UPA government on October 28.
Reddy has replaced Vayalar Ravi who had stepped in after the demise of the then minister Vilasrao Deshmukh. He said a major priority area for the ministry would be developing low-cost healthcare technology. “Science for reducing water use in agriculture would be another area of focus. Water is wasted because of use of pre-modern technology,” he added. Under the Union Ministry of Earth Sciences, which has fallen in his kitty by default, he said he would focus on improving the tsunami warning system. Climate change will continue to be an important area for the ministry, Reddy added. He said that currently around 1.5 lakh scientists are employed across the country, and under the 12th plan the ministry wants to bring this number to 2.5 lakh.
Dismissing rumours that he was not happy with the change in portfolio, he said he was “intellectually excited” to be part of the ministry. Media was abuzz with rumours that Reddy had been removed from the oil ministry due to corporate pressure from Reliance Industries Limited (RIL). Reddy had been a major bottleneck for RIL during his term. Reddy's major run-in with RIL happened when he brought RIL’s gas fields in Krishna Godavari Basin under the scrutiny of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India following decline in the basin’s gas production last year. He also rejected RIL’s plea to revise gas prices this year.
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