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Published March 7, 2008 12:42 AM

Indian government boosts science spending

[NEW DELHI] India's new science budget, announced last week (29 February) includes a 16 per cent increase in science spending.

The 2008—09 budget also includes a new fund to attract students to science careers, the establishment of three new Indian Institutes of Technology and a rise in funds for manned space missions.

The total science budget is just over US$6 billion (around 242 billion Indian Rupees), compared with last year's budget of around US$5 billion.

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In his budget speech to the Indian parliament, finance minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said, "We must encourage our children to take to careers in science and research and development."

Chidambaram announced US$21.25 million (850 million Indian rupees) to introduce 'Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research' (INSPIRE) a scheme that includes scholarships for 10—17 year old students, for 17—22 year olds to continue science education and for 22—32 year olds to pursue a science career.

He also announced the establishment of three new institutes of technology in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan states, two new Indian institutes of science education and research in Bhopal and Thiruvananthapuram, and 16 central universities.

The announcements are in line with Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh's announcement, at the Indian science congress in Visakhapatnam in January 2008, of a slew of schemes to attract students to science and train the next generation of scientists (see Indian plans boost next generation of scientists).

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) received the largest chunk of this year's funds, getting around US$1 billion (40,740 million Indian Rupees) — a 23 per cent increase from last year — US$312.5 million (1,250 million Indian Rupees) of which will be used for manned space missions.

India plans to launch its first manned space flight by 2014. ISRO chairman G. Madhavan Nair told the International Astronautical Congress in Hyderabad in November 2007 the country was "entering into its second vision".

ISRO's 'first vision' was to use space technology for development activities such as expanding telecommunications, use of remote sensing technologies — for agriculture, forestry, land use and water resources mapping — and dedicated satellites for education and health.  

Chidambaram also said the government is working on a mechanism to coordinate measures to mitigate climate change. Ideas being explored include clean technology products, review of fuel emission and efficiency regulations, solar energy, trading platforms for carbon emissions and building sustainable green cities.

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