NEW DELHI—The Indian government plans to spend 21% more this year on science and technology, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee announced  today. But some scientists think the government, which finances about 80% of the country's investment in research and development, should take advantage of a booming economy to enact even larger increases.
The allocation for the Indian Ministry of Science and Technology  goes up by 17% over last year's total of $1.42 billion. The newly created National Science and Engineering Board will receive $75 million to support basic research following the model of the U.S. National Science Foundation, while the Indian Council of Agricultural Research  will launch a $38 million project to continue developing climate resilient crops.
In contrast, India's human space program has been cut by one-third, to $25 million. And funding for Chandrayaan-2, a collaboration with Russia for a moon lander and rover in 2013, has shrunk by $5 million. Officials at the Indian Space Research Organization , which receives a 14% increase over its current budget of $1.4 billion, declined comment on the reductions.
The Department of Atomic Energy will grow by a healthy 21%, to $2.5 billion, with $61 million for the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research in Kalpakkam, possibly for development of a new fuel for the fast breeder reactor. In contrast, the Ministry of Environment and Forests receives only 4.5% more and funding for India's flagship species protection plan, The Project Tiger , will fall by $5 million, to $36 million. Rajesh Gopal, project director, says the program "needed much more support" to finance an expansion of the geographical area now covered under the plan. India today has 1411 tigers protected in 39 specially designated sites.
"I am not very happy with these small increases' says C. N. R. Rao, a chemist at Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research  in Bangalore and science adviser to the prime minister. The new science board needs at least $250 million to get up and running, says Rao, who promises to lobby for a large increase in the next budget. "It seems science is generally not respected in this country," he says. "India just can't grow without doing good science."