Science and technology: key element of India’s growth
India has much to be proud of its scientific and technological developments. It became the first to reach Mars on its initial attempt.
It boasts a thriving pharmaceutical industry that produces low-cost medications desperately needed by the developing world.
Then, there is Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) making headlines in space sciences.
And in his first year in office, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched an ambitious plan to make India a leader in solar power.
Such successes are solace for that country of 1.3 billion people, which leads the world in many other spheres.
India, under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has had a strong focus on science and technology, realizing that it is a key element of economic growth.
Science and technology have been an integral part of Indian civilization and culture over the past several millennia.
Few are aware that India was the fountainhead of important foundational scientific developments and approaches. These cover many great scientific discoveries and technological achievements in mathematics, astronomy, architecture, chemistry, biotechnology, metallurgy, medicine, natural philosophy and other areas.
A large number of products that had been imported into the country had to be manufactured to meet both civilian and military needs. Indian substitutes had to be found for imported materials and processes had to be developed which would use these materials in place of imported ones.
In these circumstances, the government of India constituted the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, which came into existence way back in 1942.
Today, India is among the topmost countries in the world in the field of scientific research, positioned as one of the top five nations in the field of space exploration. The country has regularly undertaken space missions, including missions to the moon and the famed Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).
In October 2014, Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO)’s PSLV-C26 successfully launched IRNSS-1C, the third satellite in the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), from Satish Dhawan Space Center, Sriharikota. This was PSLV’s 27th consecutive successful mission.
Currently, 27 satellites including 11 that facilitate the communication network to the country are operational, establishing India’s progress in the space technology domain. India is likely to take a leading role in launching satellites for the SAARC nations, and thus generating revenue by offering its space facilities for use to other countries.
In fact, there has been considerable emphasis on encouraging scientific temperament among India’s youth through numerous technical universities and institutes, both in the private and government sectors.
At present, the country has a total of 17 Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), 31 National Institutes of Technology (NITs), 677 universities awarding about 29,000 doctorate degrees, and about 40 research laboratories run by the CSIR.
India is among the world’s top 10 nations in terms of the number of scientific publications. Position-wise, it is ranked 17th in the number of citations received and 34th in the number of citations per paper across the field of science and technology (among nations publishing 50,000 or more papers). On top of that, the country is ranked ninth globally in the number of scientific publications and 12th in the number of patents filed.
With support from the government, considerable investment and development has incurred in different sectors such as agriculture, health care, space research, and nuclear power through scientific research.
For instance, India is gradually becoming self-reliant in nuclear technology. Recently, the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project Unit-1 (KKNPP 1) with 1,000 MW capacity was commissioned, while the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project Unit-2 (KKNPP-2) with 1,000 MW capacity is under commissioning.
In the field of missile launch technology, India is among the five top nations of the world.
No doubt, India has been the forerunner among the developing countries in promoting multi-disciplinary activities in the field of biotechnology, recognizing the practically unlimited possibility of their applications in increasing agricultural and industrial production, and in improving human and animal life.
The nucleus of research in this area is the National Biotechnology Board, constituted in 1982. A Department of Biotechnology was created in 1986.
Recently, the Biotechnology Consortium India Limited was set up.
It will play the role of catalyst in bridging the gap between Research and Development, Industrial and Financial Institutions.
Also, massive Biotech parks were established in India while the government provided tax deduction for research and development under biotechnological firms.
Some of the recent developments in the field of science and technology in India are simply outstanding.
To this end, it is important to note that Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is taking steps toward developing its own reusable rocket using a Winged Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD).
The ISRO has launched six satellites of Singapore aboard the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C29) from Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, marking the completion 50 launches from Sriharikota since 1979.
Not only this, the National Institution for Transforming India Aayog (NITI Aayog) plans to release a blueprint for various technological interventions which need to be incorporated by the Indian manufacturing economy.
Also, the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore has become the first Indian institution to enter the Top 100 universities ranking in engineering and technology.
As far as investment in science and technology is concerned, the Indian government aims to invest two percent of the country’s GDP on research and development (R&D) in its 12th Five-Year Plan period (2013–17).
Accordingly, the government has undertaken various measures for promoting growth of scientific research, such as — sustained increase in plan allocations for scientific departments, setting up of new institutions for science education and research, launch of new science, technology and innovation policy and creation of centers of excellence for research and facilities in emerging and frontline science and technology areas in academic and national institutes.
Indian government has also tied with several foreign countries and their institutions to promote science and technology.
Jitendra Singh, union minister of state (independent charge), science and technology and earth sciences, has launched a joint Indo-Canadian science program focusing on clean water technologies.
According to Singh, the new program would be pursued through a joint collaboration between the India’s Department of Science and Technology under the ministry and the National Science and Engineering Council of Canada.
The central government plans to soon institute a nation-wide consultation process with a view to develop the first publicly accessible science and technology policy.
The policy ‘Vision S&T 2020’ would articulate the country’s future toward self-reliance and technological independence in the 21st century.
Also, Nirmala Sitharaman, minister of state (independent charge) for commerce and Industry, has launched the ‘Technology Acquisition and Development Fund’ (TADF) under the National Manufacturing Policy (NMP) to facilitate acquisition of clean, green and energy efficient technologies, by micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).
On the other hand, the National Council of Science Museums (NCSM), an autonomous organization under the Union Ministry of Culture, is engaged in the establishment of science centers across the country.
NCSM is developing a Science City at Guwahati, Assam, which would be handed over to the government of Assam for future operations and maintenance.
The organization has received proposals from various state governments in India for setting up of such science cities.
NCSM has undertaken the Science Centers/Cities projects in a phased manner depending on the availability of resources, project handling capacity of NCSM, and existing level of science center activities in a particular state.
In the Indian budget, a few other initiatives have been taken in the field of science and technology.
One of them is the allocation of funds for space research that includes funds for Aditya-1, India’s first satellite to study the Sun, and is intended to launch after 2017. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced funds for two more IIT centers and five more medical schools on the model of the All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). Overall, the Ministry of Science and Technology, which is India’s main agency for disbursing research grants, received $1.42 billion in the budget.
Also, India’s leading research centers are seeking more scientific partnerships for the country’s remote areas, particularly the northeastern states while working with the Indo-French Center for the Promotion of Advanced Research (CEFIPRA).
CEFIPRA is India’s first and France’s sole bilateral organization, committed to promoting collaboration between the scientific communities of the two countries across the knowledge innovation chain.
In the field of nuclear energy, the India’s Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has developed and deployed technologies for the use of atomic energy in the areas of electricity generation, nuclear power, agriculture, food preservation, health care, isotope hydrology, R&D and deployment in areas pertaining to national security.
India is aggressively working toward establishing itself as a leader in industrialization and technological development.
Significant developments in the nuclear energy sector are likely as India looks to expand its nuclear capacity.
Moreover, nanotechnology is expected to transform the Indian pharmaceutical industry.
The agriculture sector is also likely to undergo a major revamp, with the government investing heavily for the technology-driven green revolution.