A day after the Scientific Advisory Council (SAC) to the Prime Minister complained to Manmohan Singh about "excessive bureaucratic and political interference", its chairman, Professor CNR Rao, says bureaucratic intervention is only getting stronger and "oppressive".
"In recent times, the bureaucracy has become stronger… it has become oppressive," Rao told HT on Sunday. The advisory body that Rao chairs had urged the PM to end "excessive political and bureaucratic interference" in research institutions and universities.
The remark comes in the backdrop of the controversy at AIIMS where director P Venugopal was thrown out by a governing body headed by the health minister. The cardiologist made it back to his seat on the high court's intervention on Saturday, the same day the SAC expressed concern about interferences.
The SAC chairman, however, made it clear that the council's concerns did not have anything to do with the AIIMS controversy. That was between two individuals, Rao said.
He said systemic issues were plaguing research institutions across the country. "It is becoming very difficult to run research institutions (under these circumstances)," he said.
Rao wondered why bureaucrats should have so much control when the Government was loosening its grip on other sectors. "If you cannot run scientific institutions with the so-called liberal policies that are supposed to work for economic situations, I think it'll be impossible for science to operate," he said. "Science works when there is freedom; science cannot work when there is control."
He asked why a committee of IAS officers should approve the recruitment of directors in science institutes. "I think they should have nothing to do with it. We should have a parallel mechanism where scientists and technical people are recruited in a different way - not in the way administrative officers are recruited."
Rao also proposed a new system to fix the salaries of highly skilled scientists. "Why should a young scientist join the Government at pathetic salaries if the person can earn four times that in the private sector?" he said.
Incidentally, a commitment to autonomy, accountability and de-bureaucratisation of science and technology institutions was one of the five commitments that the PM had made to the scientist community in 2004. And which he reiterated a year later at the Indian Science Congress.