India's science has received a 14 per cent boost in the 2011–12 budget presented yesterday (28 February) by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee.
The total allocation for scientific research in 2011–12 across eight key science-related departments and ministries, science and technology, agriculture, atomic energy, defence, earth sciences, health, renewable energy and space, is 355 billion Indian rupees (US$7.9 billion), up by 14 per cent from last year's US$6.9 billion.
Funding for the Ministry of Earth Sciences received a 23 per cent increase over last year, including a boost in funds for coastal research and the development of a multi-hazards early warning support system.
Although funds for the new and renewable energy sector increased by 20 per cent, most will go towards rolling out renewable energy projects, while funds for research, design and development declined by almost a quarter (US$9.4 million).
Anil Rajvanshi, director of the Nimbkar Agricultural Research Institute, a non-governmental organisation that works on rural technologies, told SciDev.Net that renewable energy technologies do not require fundamental new knowledge but do need substantial research to adapt the technologies to India's circumstances.
Chandra Bhushan, deputy director of the Centre for Science and Environment, criticised the decision to reduce research and development (R&D) funds in the renewable energy sector. 'If you want to usher in clean and green energy in India, then money should go into renewable energy [research],' he told SciDev.Net.
'Currently, renewable energy technology is a fringe business, due to its high cost and low efficiency. R&D holds the key to converting renewable energy from a fringe technology to mainstream technology in the clean energy sector.'
Funds for the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), which oversees crop research, were cut by six per cent in the budget.
M. S. Swaminathan, father of India's green revolution and a member of parliament, said: 'It is unfortunate that in a year of an emerging global food crisis and the persistence of food [price] inflation, an opportunity to accelerate agricultural progress and agrarian prosperity has been missed'.
He told SciDev.Net the reasons for the cut in ICAR funds are unclear, but should not be ignored as this 'not a small cut' for the sector.