Jawaharlal Nehru made conscious efforts to enhance and modernise the scientific infrastructure in the country through setting up of a chain of national laboratories, institutes of higher technical education, universities etc.
Nehru was firmly committed to building these “modern temples” for national development and thus science and technology became an important tool for changing the society.
In pursuance of the nation’s commitment to using science and technology for development, the Parliament passed the Scientific Policy Resolution on March 4, 1958 which lays stress on Government’s responsibility to foster, promote and sustain by all appropriate means the cultivation of science and scientific research in all its aspects pure, applied and educational.
The policy also envisages a well-planned effort for promoting and encouraging the growth of S&T personnel on a scale adequate to fulfill the country’s needs for science, education, agriculture, industry and defense. The scientific policy resolution, in general, also aims to secure for the people of the country all the benefits that can accrue from the acquisition and application of scientific knowledge.
Recognising the new role that technology can play in the development of science, the Government of India in 1983 introduced the Technology Policy Statement (TPS) whose basic objective was to develop indigenous technology and ensure efficient absorption and adaptation of imported technology appropriate to national priorities and availability of resources.
Its aim was to attain technical competence and self-reliance, to reduce vulnerability, particularly in strategic and critical areas, making the maximum use of indigenous resources. It is also expected to provide maximum gainful employment to all strata of society with emphasis on the employment of women and weaker sections of society.
The TPS also aims at using traditional skills and capabilities, making them commercially competitive.
It also envisaged several other measures through which the technology would be so introduced and utilised in the society that not only will it reduce the demand on energy but will also ensure harmony with the environment and preserve ecological balance and improve the quality of the habitat.
In order to fulfill the objectives of the Scientific Policy Resolution and Technology Policy Statement the Government has made conscious efforts at planning science and technology activities and providing appropriate resources as part of the development process.
Ever since the first Five Year Plan, resources have been devoted to S&T through the programmes of various national laboratories and scientific departments.
Planning for science and technology is mainly achieved by preparing plans for the following three sectors:
(i) Plans for the six scientific departments viz., Science and Technology, Scientific and Industrial Research, Biotechnology, Ocean Development, Space and Atomic Energy;
(ii) Planning for Science and Technology component of more than 30 individual socio-economic departments which include organisations like the Indian Council of Medical Research, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, Departments of Communications, Electronics, Non-Conventional Energy Sources, Irrigation, Industry etc.; and
(iii) A separate science and technology sector in the plans of the states and union territories.
We have some old problems and the current decade will pose further new challenges. The resource crunch, the balance of payment position and the shortage of foreign exchange are hard realities. Liberalisation in technology transfer and trade has been intensified. Resources like energy are in severe shortage.
The increasing unemployment and continuing poverty make a threatening scenario. Improving living conditions of our population is a challenge demanding greater attention.
These national priorities would make increasing demands on the S&T inputs in planning. Thus, S&T activities can no longer remain peripheral to our economic planning.
How to produce more from less? There are ways through which it may be possible to achieve this. Conservation measures in every single endeavour, ranging from conservation of energy to conservation of forests have to be given a high priority. Indeed, conservation of everything from soil to oil should be the direction in which S&T will have to steer our action plans.
Consolidation of existing position in different sectors through in-depth reviews and purposeful modernisation of the manufacturing industry for higher quality and productivity acquire significance.
Commitment to excellence in everything we do has to become an essential ingredient if our endeavors have to yield results commensurate with our needs. Quality improvement in our products and related efforts would increase the demand for S&T and these would, in turn, create greater employment opportunities.
Above all, it is imperative that we spread the culture of scientific processes amongst the entire population before the end of this century. Such a spread is essential to increase the quality of life.
The changing global and national scenario is bound to make greater demands on S&T. Our policy to S&T planning has to be geared to face this demand.
Science and Technology would also have to encompass major strategies towards agricultural and industrial development and this has to take into account the overall objectives of the new industrial and trade policies, besides the changing international situation.
The Government policy framework will continue to encompass encouragement of entrepreneurship, development of indigenous technology through investment in R&D, bringing in new technology etc.
There has been a significant growth in our capability as also our accomplishments in several high technology areas such as nuclear and space science and technology, electronics and defence research and development.
Many new programmes are envisaged in these, so as to ensure (i) growth in these strategic and vital sectors, (ii) operationalisation of programmes that have been successfully demonstrated; and (iii) transfer of technology to other sectors, particularly in the broader production sector. There have also been significant developments in S&T related to the sectors with large societal implications such as in agriculture.
Efforts have been mounted for developing newly emerging key areas, e.g., microelectronics, informatics, biotechnology, new materials, renewable energy sources etc. A large base has been created in the areas of biological and industrial research which will be consolidated, expanded and utilised.
The total S&T expenditure forms about 2.26 per cent of the total public sector outlay. S&T should be an integral part of all sectors of our national activity.
The results of S&T are yet to be felt in terms of a major impact on the economic development, improvement in the quality of life of our people and in the availability of better goods and services.
During the coming years it should be ensured that the efforts in science and technology are not confined to laboratories and academic institutions but percolate to the grassroot levels so that science, technology and innovations increasingly become part of the life of our people.