NEW DELHI—A week after being named India's science minister, on 19 July Vilasrao Deshmukh assumed the post. He is the fourth science minister since Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's second 5-year term began in May 2009.
A 66-year-old grassroots politician and lawyer from the western state of Maharashtra, Deshmukh last studied science in college. He previously served as minister for rural development, a flagship program of the Singh government. The Times of India newspaper labeled the transfer a "demotion." In accepting his new position today, Deshmukh insisted that is not the case. He delayed moving to the science ministry, he says, because he had been busy this past week standing for election to a cricket management body in Mumbai.
Many Indian scientists say they are unhappy that the country's most powerful science position has been reduced to a game of musical chairs. Science programs take a hit and suffer setbacks with these frequent changes, says department secretary T. Ramasami. However, he says, "This is the only ministry we have so how can we complain."