Even as the controversy over Bt brinjal continues, the Union budget presented by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee provides for a 32 per cent increase in the allocation for the Department of Biotechnology in the Ministry of Science and Technology.

The budget estimate for the department has been hiked to Rs.1,222 crore from the revised estimate of Rs.925 crore for the current fiscal. The estimate for research and development (R&D) in biotechnology in particular has been increased to Rs.394 crore from the revised estimate of Rs.309 crore.

Likewise, the allocation for assistance to autonomous institutions under the department has been hiked from Rs.229 crore to Rs.330 crore.

Following up on the declaration of 2010-20 as the Decade of Innovation, the budget also provides for an enhancement of the weighted deduction on expenditure incurred on in-house R&D from 150 to 200 per cent, and a hike in the weighted deduction on payments made to national laboratories, research associations, colleges, universities and other institutions for scientific research from 125 to 175 per cent.

Cuts for ‘Soleckshaw’

Further, the budget provides for a concessional excise duty of four per cent for the solar-powered cycle-rickshaw developed by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). In addition, the key parts and components of the environment-friendly rickshaw, named ‘Soleckshaw,’ would be exempted from customs duty.

CSIR Director-General Samir Brahmachari said that while the hike in weighted deductions on expenditure on in-house R&D and on payments to national laboratories and other institutions would encourage profit-making companies to invest more in R&D, the concessions for ‘Soleckshaw’ would help to promote its commercialisation.

It would now be possible to make the vehicle more efficient by incorporating higher-powered motors and lighter lithium batteries and equipping it with modern electronic systems, Mr. Brahmachari said.

The CSIR has so far given licence for its manufacture to small scale units. With the duty concessions, it would now be possible to rope in medium and large scale industry as well.

Other allocations

Among other things, the budget provides for an increase of 200 per cent in the allocation for the Department of Science and Technology’s flagship programme of INSPIRE — which seeks to attract talented youngsters to a career in science through financial support — from Rs.78 crore to Rs.240 crore. There is also a hike of Rs.30 crore in the allocation for the National Mission on Nano Science and Nano Technology, from Rs.70 crore to Rs.100 crore.

The budget provides for a hike of Rs. 51crore, from Rs. 94 crore to Rs. 145 crore, for the national polar research programme under the Ministry of Earth Sciences. The allocation for modernisation of the India Meteorological Department has also been hiked from Rs.137 crore to Rs.165 crore.