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[NEW DELHI]  Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has vowed to reform science in this country by unshackling scientific departments from bureaucratic red tape, simplifying funding proposals and finding a balance between private sector incentives and the public good. 

Inaugurating the five-day 102nd session of Indian Science Congress on Saturday (Jan 3) in the port city of Mumbai, Modi remarked that meeting application requirements for scientific projects should not be more complex than research, and approval processes should not become deterrents.

Modi told the cream of India’s scientific community gathered for the Congress that he would help them “restore the pride and prestige of science and scientists in our nation; revive the romance for science in society and rekindle the love for it in our children.”  

Modi said he wanted government departments to see “how to apply science and technology and promote research to improve their work. Each (department) should have an officer focusing on science and technology relating to its area of work; and, allocate a percentage of its budget for such activities.”

Krishnaswamy VijayRaghavan, secretary, department of biotechnology, tells SciDev.Net that Modi’s inaugural address “was meant for an audience of the entire country and the world” and forward looking. “It praises post-independence science, which is very important because for all this time, we have praised science and individuals long gone.”

VijayRaghavan said India now has a “major now-or-never opportunity, when all the components are in place —but we need to collaborate, to converse more, both nationally and internationally.”

Modi had, in his speech, emphasised international collaboration among business enterprises, researchers and scholars at universities and laboratories in such areas as clean energy, agriculture, biotechnology, medicine and healthcare, while keeping affordability in view.

Sachin Chaturvedi, director-general at the Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS), a major government think-tank, said, “Without actually saying the word ‘frugal’ he (Modi) emphasised it by referring to ready access to technology and easy adoption.”

Chaturvedi noted that Modi addressed wider concerns across India's science policy such as “the role of the private sector, frontier areas of science like biotechnology and nano-sciences and the comparison with China.”

“What struck a note with me was his mention of having science and technology as a theme on India’s Republic day (Jan 26) — to reclaim it as a source of pride, to connect India with science again,” Chaturvedi said.

Sessions at the Congress are due to cover a wide variety of topics but themes of focus include biodiversity conservation, space application, genetically modified crops and the use biotechnology in agriculture and clean energy systems.

This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's South Asia desk.