Super panel proposed to promote research

The setting-up of a national research body and reviving the cabinet committee on science and technology are among the steps the government is considering to promote a scientific temper in the country.

By Manoj Gairola
Published: Monday 15 February 1993

SETTING up of an Indian Research and Development Authority (IRDA) and reviving the cabinet committee on science and technology are among the steps expected to be taken soon to boost science research, Union minister of state for science and technology P R Kumaramangalam has told Down To Earth.

The minister said the government wants to ensure the nation's scientific and technological progress keeps pace with the requirements and advances in other fields.

Kumaramangalam explained IRDA will consist of scientists and industrialists and they will work for better application of indigenous research in domestic industries. There is a proposal to levy a 3 per cent cess on all imports of technology and reserve the money for IRDA activities, the minister disclosed.

The cabinet committee on science and technology, set up initially by the late prime minister, Indira Gandhi, will be revived as the apex body for monitoring science and technology activities in the country. Kumaramangalam said the draft policy on science and technology, slated to go to the cabinet soon for approval, also proposes forming a science advisory committee (SAC) to assist the Union cabinet. The SAC's 10 members will include scientists, industrialists and academicians. Another proposal, the minister said, is to allow industries duty-free import of research and development equipment worth upto 2 per cent of their turnover.

The proposed measures are being seen not only as efforts to tone up the country's scientific and technological research but also as attempts to mollify the scientific community which has been sullen because allocations for most scientific and technological bodies were slashed in a bid to curb the budget deficit. Another indication that the government wishes to appease scientists is the January 15 meeting that Union finance minister Manmohan Singh had with science and technology experts from major public and private sector establishments. The meeting is significant because for the first time, feedback was sought from the scientific community as part of the budget-making process.

Participants in the meeting stressed the need for increased governmental support for science and technology, especially as private sector involvement with research and development is marginal at best.

Meanwhile, Kumaramangalam scotched reports that the government is proposing the introduction of an exit policy of sorts for laboratories and that there is a plan to close down poorly functioning scientific institutions.

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