Financial crisis at the Indian Council of Forest Research and Education (ICFRE), which houses the Forest Research Institute (FRI) in Dehradun, has brought research work to a standstill.
The central government institute, Asia’s largest, now sustains itself through externally aided jobs.
The ICFRE management now mulls over diverting employees’ pension funds for maintenance work, sources said.
The fund crisis was discussed at a recently held meeting of the ICFRE management.
The ICFRE has declared declare a zero year for research, extension and education programmes in 2015-16 due to paucity of funds, revealed a letter written by it and FRI Forest Scientists’ Association (FoSA) to the director general of forests and special secretary of the union ministry of environment, forest and climate change.
“The apathy of the top management of ICFRE has been distressing the scientists of ICFRE as a majority of the research projects approved in the last three years by the Research Advisory Group (RAG) and Research Policy Committee have not been initiated and shelved without any concern for funding,” stated the FoSA letter to the Union ministry.
FoSA has complained that “the ongoing financial crisis of the institute will deprive the newly recruited scientists of ICFRE and FRI from becoming a part of long-term sustainable research projects and infrastructures including equipment and resources are sharply deteriorating for want of funds.”
FoSA has requested the union government to release at least Rs 50 crore for resumption of research and development work of ICFRE and grant Rs 500 crore to maintain the pension and health corpus of ICFRE, FRI employees.
“Indeed there is financial crisis in the institute for research and development and also the infrastructural facilities and maintenance works of the institute’s campus are in a shambles. This had been looming large over nearly past three years,” claimed FoSA president and research scientist Sudhir Kumar.
A source in the ICFRE told Hindustan Times that outsourced jobs and Centre’s grant in aid are the main budget support for the autonomous body.
According to the source, till now the World Bank sponsored forestry research program of Rs 904 crore and another Rs 100 crore special help granted by the Centre in 2009 had been pulling the expenses of the institute but now all external aides have been stopped.
“At present the only means of budget support to ICFRE is Centre’s grant in aid which can only to be utilised in paying salaries to 600 employees,” said a senior scientist at ICFRE. “That means ICFRE is now left with no funds to support its research and development activities,” he said.