The Centre has decided to reduce the number of awards given to scientists and medical researchers on the grounds that they are restricted to only “really deserving candidates”, says the record of a meeting chaired by Ajay Bhalla, Home Secretary, and attended by senior officials of the country’s science departments.
The meeting, held on September 16, was attended by Secretaries and senior officials of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Earth Sciences, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Department of Atomic Energy and representatives from the Department of Health Research – Indian Council for Medical Research and the Office of the Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India. The Hindu has viewed the minutes of the meeting made available on September 23.
Several Ministries made presentations on the awards conferred by their respective departments. The DST gave 207 awards, of which four were National Awards, 97 were private endowment awards, 54 were lecture, scholarship or fellowship based awards and 56 were ‘internal awards’. The participants then agreed to retain only the National awards and do away with the rest. The Department could start a new scheme for scholarship/fellowship with “suitable honorarium and full justification and detailed guidelines”, the minutes said.
The Atomic Energy Department currently gave 25 “performance-based awards” given by public sector units affiliated to the department and 13 non-core domain awards. The quorum decided to do away with all awards and instead institute a new one “of very high stature”.
The Indian Space Research Organisation said it didn’t confer awards, save three internal ones. These too ought to be done away with and replaced with a National level award of “very high stature”, the meeting concluded.
The CSIR conferred seven awards, including the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Awards, that is given annually to accomplished scientists under 45 across departments and announced every year on September 26 at the institute’s Foundation Day. By norm, the awards this year were to be announced on Monday but was not done this year, several scientists told The Hindu. It couldn’t be immediately confirmed if this was linked to the meeting.
The meeting concluded that the SSB was a “high stature award” and therefore could be continued but a monthly allowance given to winners for 20 years would be capped to 15 years. The six other awards would be discontinued.
The Ministry of Earth Sciences conferred four National Awards. The meeting decided that the Dr. Anna Mani Award for women scientists ought to be merged with “awards given to women by other departments like the Ministry of Women and Child Development” and the other three awards ought to be discontinued and replaced with a “new national award”.
The Health Ministry would have to “rationalise” 51 Florence Nightingale awards given to nurses and “suspend” three national awards by the National Medical Council, it was decided.