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Govt to trim science, health awards, establish Nobel-like ‘Vigyan Ratna’

The decisions were taken during a meeting chaired by Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla on September 16.

Union Home Secretary, Ajay Bhalla. (File)

The Centre has asked its various science departments as well as its health department to trim the number of awards they give out and ensure instead that the few conferred are of greater value.

It has also asked the departments to institute in consultation with the Principal Scientific Advisor a Nobel-like science award — Vigyan Ratna — which could be of the stature of the Bharat Ratna.

The decisions were taken during a meeting chaired by Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla on September 16.

According to the minutes of the meeting, seen by The Indian Express, Bhalla highlighted Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision to transform the awards ecosystem, which includes ensuring transparency to select “really deserving candidates’’.

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Sources said that prior to this meeting the Science Ministry evaluated over the past eight months all the science awards given out by each department. This, they said, is simply a part of the Centre’s plan to rationalise all its awards and added those conferred by the Home Ministry too underwent through a similar process.

“Across the sciences and earth sciences ministries, there are 801 awards given in total. Now, across these ministries, only six awards will be given,” a senior official in the Science and Technology Ministry said.

“We found that in many departments, there were overlapping awards. Many awards were set up by private individuals, in the name of a scientist, which the government would contribute to. There was a need for rationalisation. Our aim is that the awards that are given are prestigious and hold some weight,’’ the official added

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Besides Bhalla, the meeting on September 16 was attended by Secretaries and officials from the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), the Earth Sciences Ministry, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, the departments of Space and Atomic Energy, Science & technology, Health and Family Welfare, the ICMR and office of the Principal Scientific Advisor to the government.

DST & DBT

The Department of Science and Technology (DST) gives 207 awards, of which four are national awards, 97 private endowments, 54 lecture/ scholarship/ fellowship-based awards, and 56 internal awards.

It has now been told to discontinue all private endowments as well as the ones based on lecture/ scholarship/ fellowship and start a new scheme for scholarship/ fellowship with a suitable honorarium.

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While internal awards too are to be discontinued, the DST can instead merge these awards, which often function as incentives for scientists, into proposed fellowships or scholarships.

The six fellowships given by the DBT, as awards, will now be fully converted into fellowships. The National Biotechnology Innovation Award will continue.

ATOMIC ENERGY, ISRO

The 25 performance-based awards given by the Department of Atomic Energy, which are conferred by PSUs under it, as well as the 13 non-core domain awards, are all to be discontinued and instead a “new award of very high stature may be instituted for scientists in the field of atomic energy’’.

The three internal awards instituted in ISRO will also be discontinued, but like in the atomic energy department, a national level award of “very high stature’’ is to be instituted for the field of space science.

CSIR AND EARTH SCIENCES

Out of the 7 awards given by CSIR, the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar award, one of the most prestigious scientific awards in the country, will continue, while the other six will either be scrapped or merged into other awards.

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The CSIR will also now consider whether to swap the monthly remuneration given under Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar award, to giving a lump sum amount. It was also agreed that the duration of the monthly remuneration would be capped at 15 years.

Out of the four national awards given by the earth Sciences ministry, the Dr. Anna Mani Award for Women Scientist is to be merged with awards given to women by other department like the WCD Ministry, while the other three awards are to be scrapped and replaced with one award “of high stature’’.

HEALTH & FAMILY WELFARE

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The Department of Health and Family Welfare has 8 national awards and 9 private endowments awards. The 51 awardees who presently receive the National Florence Nightingale Nurses Award is to be rationalised.

The Kayakalp award is to be discontinued “as it is basically an incentivising scheme’’.

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Three awards conferred by FSSAI are to be discontinued too. The three national awards given by the National Medical Council are suspended and instead the health department is to “recast these 3 award (including the B.C Roy award) and institute a new award of a very high stature.’’

All 9 private endowments awards are to be discontinued.

Of the 37 awards given by the ICMR (which includes 32 endowment awards), CNMC-STS Award will be converted into a research grant, two ICMR awards for biomedical research, that is, ICMR- Dr. B R Ambedkar Centenary award and Subhash Mukherjee award, will be discontinued. All 32 private Endowments Awards should be discontinued.

According to officials, the departments have been asked to submit an action taken report within ten days to the Home Ministry. They said a review meeting in this regard will soon be held by the PMO.

First published on: 27-09-2022 at 04:11:43 pm
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