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Arbitrary Cuts in Scientific Research Allocations Will Harm National Progress

Bharat Dogra |
Several vital ongoing projects could be adversely impacted due to budgetary constraints.
Scientific Research Allocations

Scientific research has a very important role in national progress. If arbitrary cuts are made in the budget allocated for this, this can be disruptive for several important projects. Certain fixed expenditures have to be met in any case, but nothing should affect the progress of real work.

The expenditure statement issued by the Ministry of Finance (2022-23) provides information about several such cuts that are difficult to explain, particularly when the budget for the next year is also lowered, denying any chance of making up the shortfall.

In 2021-22, the original allocation (Budget Estimate or BE) for crop science was Rs. 708 crore (one crore=10 million) to Rs. 615 crore while preparing the Revised Estimate (RE). Then the BE of the next year 2022-23 was further reduced to Rs. 526 crore.

In the case of horticulture science, the BE of Rs. 212 crore was reduced to Rs. 183 crore in 2021-22, then in the budget for 2022-23, the BE has been further reduced to Rs. 157 crore.

In the case of animal science, the budget was reduced from Rs. 302 crore to Rs. 262 crore in 2021-22 and in addition this budget has been reduced to Rs. 224 crore in the BE of 2022-23. Separately, we can see that the overall budget for livestock health and disease control was Rs. 1,470 crore in the BE of 2021-22, but was reduced to RE of Rs. 886 crore.

In the case of fisheries science, there was a reduction from Rs. 160 crore to Rs. 138 crore in 2021-22 and in the BE of 2022-23, there is a further reduction to Rs. 119 crore.

In the case of Natural Resource Management Institutes and Agro-Forestry Research, the reduction during the previous year was from Rs. 195 crore to Rs. 168 crore and the BE in 2022-23 has been further reduced to Rs. 145 crore.

The budget for National Agriculture Science Fund was reduced during 2021-22 from Rs. 48 crore to Rs. 42 crore and in the BE for 2022-23, this was reduced further to Rs. 36 crore.

The budget for agricultural engineering was reduced from Rs. 65 crore to Rs. 55 crore in the previous year and has been further reduced to Rs. 48 crore in the BE of 2022-23.

Even the budget for Climate-Resilient Agriculture Initiative was reduced from Rs. 55 crore to Rs. 47 crore during the previous year and the BE for 2022-23 is down further to Rs. 41 crore.

The budget for agricultural universities and institutions was reduced from Rs. 325 crore to Rs. 300 crore during 2021-22 and further to Rs.263 crore in BE of 2022-23.

The budget for the Department of Science and Technology was reduced last year from Rs. 6,067 crore to Rs. 5,240 crore in the process of moving from BE to RE. Within this, Research & Development (R&D) saw a reduction from Rs. 593 to Rs. 456 crore.

The component of innovation, technology, development and deployment saw a reduction from Rs. 951 crore to Rs. 700 crore. science and technology and human capacity building witnessed a reduction from Rs. 1,099 crore to Rs. 984 crore.

During 2021-22, if we compare the BE and RE, the budget of the Department of Space was reduced from Rs. 13,949 crore to Rs. 12,642 crore.

The research programmes of atomic sector are generally considered to be of a high priority. So, it is surprising to see that during the previous year, 2021-22, the allocation for R&D projects of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre was reduced from Rs 1,256 crore to Rs. 1,046 crore in the process of changing from BE to RE.

What is more, in the context of the R & D projects of the Indira Gandhi Centre of Atomic Research, the BE of 2021-22, which was kept at Rs. 300 crore, was brought down to the RE of Rs. 228 crore.

In the case of the R&D Projects of the Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology, the original allocation made in 2021-22 was for Rs. 180 crore, but this was later revised to just half of this, to just Rs. 90 crore.

An allocation of Rs. 75 crore was made during 2021-22 for grants to other institutions (in the overall context of atomic research), but at the time of preparing the revised budget, this was cut to Rs. 53 crore.

In the case of R&D projects of the Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre in 2021-22, originally an allocation of Rs. 80 crore was made. However, when he budget was being revised, this was cut to more than half to Rs. 35 crore.

In 2021-22, originally an allocation of Rs. 38 crore was made for the Radiation and Isotopes Project (BRIT) but in the RE, this was reduced to less than half, to Rs. 17 crore.

The original allocation for the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board Expansion Project in 2021-22 was Rs. 43 crore, but in this case also, while preparing the RE, the allocation was reduced to less than half, to Rs. 21 crore.

Under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, the programme of Atmosphere and Climate Research—Modelling, Observing System and Services (ACROSS), an allocation of Rs. 460 crore was made for this increasingly important work in 2021-22, but while preparing the RE this, too, was reduced to Rs. 339 crore.

From this review of budget allocations and revisions regarding scientific research and closely related matters, it is apparent that there have been significant budget cuts in quite a few important sectors. Although the impact and context of these cuts may not the same in all cases, it is most likely that in most cases these have had an adverse impact. Hence, efforts should be made to ensure more smooth progress of scientific research in various important disciplines by ensuring that it is not starved of funds.

The writer is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. The views are personal.

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