Indian Scientists Welcome Triumvirate of Science Leaders

India’s prime minister Manmohan Singh, elected to a second 5-year term, has named leaders with deep technical expertise to his cabinet. The new science minister is Prithviraj Chavan, 63, a politician from western India who was educated as a mechanical engineer at the University of California, Berkeley. Chavan, a close adviser to Singh, spent his early years working on military electronics in the United States; recently, he has served on government commissions that direct India’s nuclear and space programs. Chavan said “funds will not be short” when it comes to his “first love,” science and technology.

In another decision, Singh appointed Kapil Sibal, a lawyer and respected former science minister, as minister of Human Resources Development, which includes the education portfolio—a sign that the government aims to continue its expanded emphasis on higher education (Science, 13 June 2008, p. 1415). Sibal, 61, says he “hopes for a synergy in science and education like never before.”

An articulate mechanical engineer, Jairam Ramesh, 55, becomes minister of environment and forests, a key post involved in negotiations on climate change. Ramesh signaled no change in policy, however, saying, “India cannot take on any binding [carbon] emissions reduction targets,” given that it needs to keep the economy and energy production growing vigorously. Ramesh was formerly the minister for electric power.

The ministerial trio “is the best combination I have ever seen,” says Chintamani Nagesa Ramachandra (C.N.R.) Rao, a solid state chemist who until recently served as chair of Singh’s Scientific Advisory Council.

During his election campaign, Singh promised to “carry out a massive renewal” of science and technology; now his words are being put to the test.

Posted in Asia