COVID-19 put a spotlight on sci-tech & thus 30% hike in its funding: Dr Vardhan

This year the budget of DBT includes a Special AtmaNirbhar Package of Rs. 900 Crores for Mission COVID Suraksha – The Indian Vaccine Development Mission

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The Union Minister for Health & Family Welfare, Science & Technology and Earth Sciences, Dr. Harsh Vardhan addressing a press conference on Science and Technology related budget announcements 2021-22, in New Delhi on February 15, 2021. The Secretary, Department of Science and Technology, Prof. Ashutosh Sharma, the Secretary, DSIR and DG, CSIR, Dr. Shekhar C. Mande, the Secretary, Ministry of Earth Sciences, Dr. M. Rajeevan, the Secretary, DBT, Dr. Renu Swarup were also present.
New Delhi: Speaking to the media persons on 15th February, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Science & Technology and Earth Sciences, Dr Harsh Vardhan mentioned that there has been a 30 percent increase in the budget of his ministries put together for the year 2021-22 compared to the last year. “The last year has been a very challenging year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and science and technology has played a crucial role in tackling various problems caused by the COVID-19. There are various new schemes in this new budget which would further boost science and technology ecosystem in the country, reach its benefits to the people and help the country become a major force in S&T globally,” he added.
This year the budget of DBT includes a Special AtmaNirbhar Package of Rs. 900 Crores for Mission COVID Suraksha – The Indian Vaccine Development Mission.
Outlining the annual agenda of the Department of Biotechnology, Dr Renu Swarup, Secretary, DBT spoke about mission COVID Suraksha which was announced with a provision of Rs 900 Cr for supporting the development of a comprehensive ecosystem for enabling the development of a safe, efficacious and affordable vaccine for COVID-19. “A total of 30 vaccines have been supported in which 6 are out and rest are in various stages of progress.
A total allocation of Rs 50,000 crore has been made for over 5 years to develop National Research Foundation, an autonomous body envisaged to support researchers working across several streams of S&T with a special focus on universities. This will ensure that the overall research ecosystem of the country is strengthened with a focus on identified national-priority thrust areas.
The budget also declared setting up of umbrella structures in nine cities for building better synergies among R&D institutions, Universities and Colleges supported by the government while also retaining their internal autonomy. This will be coordinated by the Ministry of Education, and a Glue Grant will be set aside for this purpose. The Department of Biotechnology is implementing the URJIT clusters (University Research Joint Industry Translation Clusters) which are being set up in 10 locations as per the Budget Announcement in February 2020. These will complement the activities of the Umbrella Structures.
The recently presented Budget 2021 includes several initiatives to promote science, technology and innovation with applications in the country. It substantially boosts support for R&D in the key identified areas of national priorities. These are also in line with the projections in the draft Science Technology and Innovation Policy 2021 put up for public consultations.
Speaking on the occasion, Dr.Shekhar C Mande, Secretary, DSIR and Director General, CSIR, said that India has received global attention and appreciation for the efficient and effective handling of COVID-19 pandemic. This has been owing to the all-round and focused efforts initiated, coordinated and steered by the Government of India.
The launch of a Hydrogen Energy Mission by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy was declared for generating hydrogen from green power sources, its storage, transport and utilization. The Department of Biotechnology is developing a Biomass to Hydrogen Mission which will be important from the R & D perspective. Department of Science & Technology and Council of Scientific & Industrial Research will also be contributing to this mission.
Delineating the achievements of the science Ministries, Prof Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, Department of Science & Technology, said, “India is placed at 3rd among countries in scientific publication featured within the top 50 innovative economies globally reached 3rd position in terms of no of Ph.Ds, in size of higher education system as well as in terms of number of startups. On the whole, we are on the positive climb.”
Dr M. Rajeevan, Secretary, MoES, spoke about improvements in weather forecasting, gains for India’s agricultural workforce and fisherfolk communities and drinking water for Lakshadweep Islands, accurate prediction of tropical cyclones and fieldwork by disaster management agencies, commissioning of an urban flood early warning system in Mumbai, augmentation of Doppler Weather Radars over North West India and a very high-resolution operational air quality forecast model for Delhi.