At a time when Indian scientists are being lauded the world over for their ability to send a spacecraft to Mars on a tiny budget, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) faces the major challenge of filling its top level posts that have been lying vacant for several months now.
The DST does not have a permanent secretary and the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) has not had a full time director general for some months. Besides, several CSIR labs are working under acting directors.
Secretary-level posts in the DST, Earth Sciences, Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and Department of Biotechnology are usually reserved for eminent scientists. For the first time, the government has invited nominations from the public for the posts of secretaries and director generals.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been stressing on academia-industry interaction and broadening international collaborations, but the absence of a full timer at senior posts could be a roadblock.
The department has been without a permanent secretary since April this year when T Ramasami retired from the post. Professor K Vijayraghavan, secretary of the Department of Biotechnology, has since then been given the additional charge of DST. Senior scientists feel that while a stopgap arrangement may not have a direct fall out on daily functioning; it will affect the overall performance.
Former DG CSIR, R Mashelkar told HT: “The absence of a permanent leader will affect the performance in the labs. It is imperative that announcements of the successors should be made in advance.”