Inaugurating the 101st Indian Science Congress (3—7 February) in this city, winter capital of northern Jammu and Kashmir state, Singh said achieving that vision lies in increased investments in education and nurturing a new generation of young scientists.
“Our ability to contribute to the world of science depends crucially on the quality and the strength of our educational system,” Singh said. “In the next few years, we will have the largest young population entering higher education. We need to ensure that the best among our young people take up science as a career and to do this we must ensure that it is attractive enough for them to do so.”
Singh noted that over the last ten years India has established eight new Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and converted an existing institution into an IIT. This has expanded the famed chain to 16 campuses spread across the country.
Singh said he was satisfied that a scheme to attract talent into science studies and research, called INSPIRE has emerged as one of the government’s “most highly acclaimed and recognised programmes. It has rewarded more than one million children and generated over 400 patent-grade innovations from our young Indians.”
International surveys, Singh said, have shown that India now scores well in terms of salary structures for scientific personnel. “Our gross expenditure per full time R&D personnel is increasingly comparable in purchasing power parity terms to some of the most developed R&D systems of the world.”
Singh also pointed to numerous fellowship schemes to support both young and senior scientists. A new initiative is the institution of 25 Jawaharlal Nehru Fellowships, under which eminent scientists anywhere abroad are invited to work in India for 12 months over a three year-period.
Ranbir Chander Sobti, general president of the Indian Science Congress Association, said that despite far lesser funding available in India five of the country’s IITs rank among the world’s top science and technology schools.
“India spent 0.9 per cent of its GDP on R&D in 2001—2012, while the figure for Brazil during that period was 1.17 per cent, Russia 1.25 per cent, China 1.7 per cent and South Africa 0.93 per cent,” Sobti said, referring to comparable countries in the BRICS grouping.