India's satellite launch programme on Monday received a significant financial boost at a time when the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) is recovering from the scars of the controversy involving its commercial arm Antrix.
Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee also significantly hiked allocations for the INSPIRE fellowships awarded by the department for science and technology (DST) for promising young science students. The Budget also announced plans to change an earlier plan for a single innovation complex to start several such complexes — focused on translational research — across the country.
The Budget has allocated R292.46 crore for operating the Geostationary Satellite Launch Vehicle programme, including developing the new third generation GSLV Mark III vehicles that will allow India to send heavy satellites into geostationary orbits. India had allocated R250 crore for the GSLV programme last year.
The hike is particularly significant, space scientists said, because of setbacks suffered by the programme last year. Both GSLV launches in 2010 failed, forcing India to re-evaluate its Chandrayaan-2 moon mission. "The hike is indicative of the fact that the government continues to back the GSLV programme," a space department source said. The total allocation for the space department has increased from Rs 5,000 crore last year to Rs 5,700 crore this year.
The Budget has also significantly increased the allocation for the INSPIRE programme, from Rs 240 crore last year to R300 crore.
The INSPIRE programme is a key component of the government's strategy to draw young brains back to science.