Emphasising the importance of science and technology, Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram has announced “substantial’’ increases in the budget for the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Departments of Atomic Energy and Space for the coming year.

While Rs. 6,275 crore has been allocated to the Ministry of Science & Technology; Rs. 5,615 crore has been allocated to the Department of Space; and Rs. 5, 880 crore to the Department of Atomic Energy.

These figures mark a big jump compared to the revised estimates for the Ministry and the two departments for the current year: Rs. 5,030 crore, Rs. 3,800 crore and Rs. 3,175 crore.

But, when one compares what has been proposed in the budget document for the current year, one finds that there is a hardly any increase: the Ministry of Science and Technology had been allocated a sum of Rs. 5,975 crore, the Department of Space Rs. 5615 crore and Department of Atomic Energy Rs. 5,600 crore.

In other words, there has been no change at all in the case of Department of Space, while in the case of the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Department of Atomic Energy there has been a mere increase of five per cent on budget estimate comparison.

The “substantial’’ improvement would, therefore, prove to be right only if the actual expenditure [revised estimate] turns out to be better this year. Much would depend on how the government’s finances pan out. One would have to wait till the end of the year for that.

The proposals for the coming year include the setting up of a new Rs. 2,000 crore fund to support promising research and development leads and convert them into products that would be of use to the common man. Among other things, the budget provides an allocation of Rs. 167 crore for the Mars orbiter mission, which is scheduled to be launched in November, Rs. 78 crore for the Chandrayaan 2 mission to the moon; and Rs. 27 crore for the proposed Human Space Flight Programme, which envisages sending a crew of two to three members for a low-earth orbit around the globe at a height of 275 km and then bring them back home safely. Currently, critical technologies required for such a flight are being developed as pre-project activities.

More In: National | News | Science | Sci-Tech