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Need to liberate science from shackles of bureaucracy: PM

January 03, 2010 15:58 IST
Terming as "unfortunate" regression in some sectors of Indian science due to red tape and political interference, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, on Sunday, asked scientists to engage with government to liberate it from shackles of "bureaucratism and in-house favouritism". Holding that time has come to give a "new boost" to science and technology, he asked Indian scientists working abroad to return to the country to convert the "brain drain" to "brain gain". Singh announced that the government was considering revision of the value of doctoral and post-doctoral fellowships as well as formulation of schemes that would cover all research scholars with some funding support.

"It is unfortunately true that red tape, political interference and lack of proper recognition of good work have all contributed to a regression in Indian science in some sectors from the days of C V Raman and others," Singh said inaugurating the 97th Indian Science Congress here.

He said he had taken note of 2009 Nobel laureate Venkataraman Ramakrishnan's remarks that there was a need for greater "autonomy from red tape and local politics" for Indian scientists. Singh said steps to improve science requires not only money but change in mindset, including that of the senior faculty and university administration. "I invite you all to explore all these issues and engage with us so that we can do what is needed to liberate Indian science from the shackles and dead weight of bureaucratism and in-house favouritism," he told a gathering of about 5000 scientists and educationists.  "Only then we can unleash the latent talent and creative energies of our scientists and engineers," Singh said.

The Prime Minister appealed to scientific institutions to introspect and to propose mechanisms for greater autonomy, including from the government, which could help to improve standards. "We must make special efforts to encourage scientists of Indian origin currently working abroad to return to India, including to coming to universities or scientific institutions for a short period. "In this way we can convert the 'brain drain' of the past into a 'brain gain' for the future," he said. Stressing on the centrality of scientific institutions in the innovation eco-system, he said, "The system must include industry, and providers of venture funds, as well as regulators who set high standards of performance for products".

Noting that the government has declared 2010-2020 as a "decade of innovation", he said, "We cannot continue with business as usual as we need new solutions in many areas to achieve the goals of inclusive and sustainable growth."      He pitched for a strong outward orientation of the innovation eco-system to stimulate innovation to find indigenous solutions for local problems.  "Solutions from developed countries are not always applicable. They are often too costly and at times not sustainable... Innovators must be challenged to produce solutions society needs," the Prime Minister said.

Singh said the scientific establishments must be central to the innovation eco-system but there was a need to think creatively on how to increase private investment in research and development. "Some innovative policy readjustments may be required to build vibrant public-private-partnerships in the S&T (science and technology) sector," he said. "Today, each operates within its own silo. Unless we close those gaps, our research and development sector may report high performance in terms of published papers but our challenges of the 21st century will remain unsolved," he said.Listing out steps taken by his government in the S&T area, the Prime Minister said a special scheme named Consolidation of University Research, Innovation and Excellence (CURIE) has been launched to attract more women to take up careers in science.

He said the National Science and Engineering Research Board will start functioning by March. The Board is expected to function as an independent body comprising eminent scientists which would allot funds for research projects, he said.The Prime Minister said the landmark agreement with the Nuclear Suppliers Group lifting long-standing restrictions on transfer of nuclear fuel to India has paved the way for an accelerated nuclear power development programme.

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