07 August 2006 ~ 0 Comments

Missions need science counsellors

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Missions need science counsellors India’s track record as a scientific stronghold is steadily crumbling into nothingness. With the rest of the world making fast strides into new areas of crucial scientific research, India is at a disadvantage at an initial level because it has only four science counselors in 160 diplomatic missions. A science counselor, usually a scientist, is responsible for keeping a tab on important scientific developments within the country. India has science counselors in Germany, USA, Japan and Russia; there used to be a science counselor post at the UK mission however it was abolished 20 years ago and has never been filled since. This is cause for concern indeed especially since the issue has larger repercussions. Inspite of this, the question is buried beneath other trivial undertakings. The babus’ apathy towards the necessity for a science counselor in Indian missions abroad arises from an innate desire to exert influence in every sphere, even in matters in which they have little or no concern. Ideally, institutes such as the IITs and the IISc should come under the jurisdiction of the Science & Technology Ministry and not, as they are, under the HRD ministry. However, the balance of power within the bureaucracy of the ministries is tipped in the favor of the HRD babus. Furthermore, whilst comparing the number of science counselors in foreign missions to defence counselors, the defence counselors clearly outnumber the scientists. The shares obtained from the budget pie by each department is also skewed in the favor of defence however, one must keep in mind that in a changing global scenario, an invigorated Science & Technology Ministry grants more diplomatic leverage with which to bargain. What remains to be seen now is the manner in which the Prime Minister handles this problem, shall he bring about a change within the power balance of the ministries, and ascertain which Ministry is better equipped to handle which institute? Shall the babus be brought in line or does the scientific downslide, as a consequence of neglect, continue?

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