Taking into account present rates of inflation and increase in the salaries of government servants, as per the 7th pay commission recommendations, the spending on “scientific research (infrastructure, equipment, etc.) has actually gone down”, said a group of scientists on Friday in reaction to the Union Budget.
In a statement released by the Kolkata-based Breakthrough Science Society that had organised the ‘India March for Science’ protest on August 9 last year, demanding greater financial support for science, technology and education, the scientists said, “The inflation rate (consumer price index) is now around 5 per cent. This means that the budget outlays barely offset the effects of inflation. If we take into account the increase in salaries of government servants after the 7th pay commission recommendations, we find that spending on scientific research has actually gone down.”
The group’s President Dhrubajyoti Mukhopadhyay and General Secretary Soumitro Banerjee have signed the statement.
They claimed that the 2018-19 budget saw “marginal increase in the outlays in science, technology and education sectors”. The department of scientific & industrial research saw an increase of 3.4 per cent (Rs 4,629.70 crore to Rs 4,795.97 crore), department of science & technology budget saw an increase of 7.5 per cent (from Rs 4,726.71 crore to Rs 5,114.78 crore), the department of biotechnology budget saw an increase of 6.2 per cent (from Rs 2,260.11 crore to Rs 2,411.53 crore), the department of atomic energy budget saw an increase of 5.4 per cent (from Rs 13,209.94 crore to Rs 13,971.41 crore).
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Before the Union budget, more than 2,000 scientists and educators had submitted a petition to PM Narendra Modi, urging the government to increase financial support to science and technology to 3 per cent, education to 10 per cent of the country’s GDP. “India’s GDP growth rate is 6.75 per cent, which is more than the percentage increase in the budget of most science and technology related departments and of Ministry of Human Resource Development. Therefore it seems the financial support for science, technology and education has seen no real increase when expressed in terms of percentage of GDP,” the scientists said.