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Supposed to give a boost to growth, scientific bodies face severe fund crunch

The department has been allocated an annual budget of Rs 4 crore this fiscal. It is, however, only a marginal increase over the annual budget of Rs 2.523 crore it was allocated last fiscal.

dehradun Updated: Jun 16, 2018 22:15 IST
Deep Joshi
Deep Joshi
Hindustan Times, Dehradun
Uttarakhand news
The department has been allocated an annual budget of Rs 4 crore this fiscal.(Bloomberg REPRESENTATIVE PIC))

The development potential of Uttarakhand remains grossly unrealised with severe fund crunch facing all the four state-run scientific agencies that provide crucial scientific inputs for framing development policies for the hill state.

“All development strategies are formulated on the basis of the scientific data supplied by our four scientific agencies but they all are facing budgetary constraints. As a result, the development potential of the mountain state remains unrealised,” said Ravinath Raman, secretary in-charge, the department of science & technology. “Efforts, however, are on to tide over the budget constraints by pooling in funds from various centrally funded schemes,” he added.

The department has been allocated an annual budget of Rs 4 crore this fiscal. It is, however, only a marginal increase over the annual budget of Rs 2.523 crore it was allocated last fiscal. A sizeable portion of that budget goes in paying employees’ salaries. “A slight increase in the budget has come as a relief but the amount is still far below the department’s actual annual budgetary requirement of Rs 10-15 crore”, said the official.

“As a result, all four scientific agencies, which provide crucial scientific inputs for framing of development policies for different sectors are being run on shoestring budgets,” he said. The state-run agencies Raman referred to are Uttarakhand State Council for Science and Technology (UCOST), Uttarakhand Space Application Centre (USAC), Uttarakhand Science Education and Research Centre (USERC) and the department of Biotechnology.

“The potential of these agencies to provide scientific inputs has been greatly circumscribed because we can’t equip them with state-of-the art technologies owing to the budget constraints,” Raman said. “As a result, they are also not able to hire highly qualified scientific staff to improve their potential to deliver.”

Citing the example of USAC, he said the agency “receives satellite imageries but it is heavily dependent” on the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) for their interpretation. “For, the agency concerned is neither equipped with state-of-the-art technologies nor does it have scientists qualified enough to interpret those satellite imageries. It (USAC) can’t afford to have this kind technology or highly qualified experts because it is short of funds,” Raman said.

According to him, the agency plays a crucial role in development because all crucial projects pertaining to infrastructure development, urban development, chakbandi (land consolidation) or soil quality tests etc are formulated on the basis of satellite imageries it (USAC) receives. “We need specialists from different fields to interpret those (satellite) imageries,” he said referring to geologists, geographers, hydrographers, experts in land reforms etc. “But we don’t have enough funds to hire all such qualified experts from a variety of fields,” the official added.

Referring to biotechnology he said the crucial discipline can bring about a transformation in sectors such as agriculture and health. “Owing to the budget constraints, however, we can’t afford to hire highly qualified scientists to carry out research and development relating to such a sophisticated field. As a result, all such R&D activities are being carried out by contractual staff.”

No wonder, Raman clarified, states like Gujarat and Karnataka are way “ahead of us” in biotechnology related R&D activities. “There is a lot of work to be done on biotechnology but even the basic facilities like state-of-the-art laboratories are lacking owing to shortage of funds,” he said citing an example of a laboratory to be set up on the city outskirts in Bhauwala. “It is a project worth Rs 5 crore but only a marginal amount has been released for the purpose, so far,” Raman said.

An official at USERC while requesting anonymity said, “thanks to the budgetary constraints dogging the agency”, the latter finds it difficult to even send its scientists to attend technology exchange programmes organised elsewhere in the country or abroad.

First Published: Jun 16, 2018 22:15 IST