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Scientist questions India's 2020 science and technology plan
Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh is all set to unveil the updated version of the government's 2003 science and technology policy during the centenary session of Indian Congress in Kolkata from January 3-7, 2013. But a senior scientist has said that while a new policy is a welcome step - the government has not carried out 'inter-departmental or multi-disciplinary discussion in assessment of the policy' features.'

THE NEW policy has clearly focused on innovation, establishing research institutes and participation in mega science projects to achieve the goal of India entering the list of top five scientific powers by 2020. The policy also aims to bring private and public sector industries under an umbrella for delivering “measurable economic and social outcomes.”

Reacting to the government's ambitious plans, Dr. Dhirendra Sharma, Director, Centre for Science Policy. Dehradun told this citizen journalist , “Most of the time they make it a (matter) of vote bank politics. There have been no inter-departmental or multi-disciplinary discussion in assessment of the policy's features. You have raised the question - can they achieve what they have said? One point is that assessment, the feasibility of goals should be taken first. And there should have been assessment of the present level of development in every field (science and technology). This has not been done."

Dr. Sharma added that analysing our achievements, potential and planning for the future are critical in coming anywhere near a global power in science and technology. "The details have not come to me yet. Whatever they plan, they plan it in certain paper work without having critical assessment, involvement of the universities and those research-oriented strategies have not taken over. This is the past experience that we have had. For example, we have been asking - has there been an assessment of the post-Pokharan-II event. After Pokaharn, based on what we achieved assessment should have been done but it didn't. Most of the research, 70 to 80 per cent, is diverted towards defence and nuclear development, which remains a secret. So we have no way to assess what was our capability at the present level so that can achieve in the next 20 years. So the goals in science and technology policy are flawed due to incompetency and non-proper assessment of our capabilities."

The UPA-II government is trying to give momentum to growth of science and technology to accelerate the pace of discovery, diffusion and delivery of science-led solutions for serving aspirational goals of India for faster, sustainable and inclusive growth. The latest policy document will set up ground rules towards these objectives.

The department of science and technology in a recent survey has suggested that Indian research should be diversified to emerging areas such as computer sciences and drug discovery rather than being grounded in traditional areas such as agriculture and tropical medicine, which receives substantial government funding.

An analysis carried out by the Thompson Reuters, too, suggests that the country's research portfolio showed strength in physical sciences, despite resources being dedicated to agricultural sciences and plant and animal sciences. During the 1980s and 90s the country's research output was virtually stagnant when other Asian nations overtook India.

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