Little room for SC/ST scientists in biotech bodies

RTI enquiry reveals poor representation

Updated - July 22, 2019 01:10 pm IST

Published - July 21, 2019 11:36 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Close-up of a hand holding a chemistry test-tube with a chemical solution in a bio-chemistry DNA genetic research laboratory, GMO, human, animal, plants genetics research.

Close-up of a hand holding a chemistry test-tube with a chemical solution in a bio-chemistry DNA genetic research laboratory, GMO, human, animal, plants genetics research.

Scientists from Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) are grossly under-represented in scientific institutions funded by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), a Right To Information query by a researcher has found.

Several of these institutions just about meet the government prescribed criteria for reservation — 15% for SC and 7.5% for ST. However, the RTI responses perused by The Hindu show that posts of scientist and technical grade staff (where reservation rules are not mandatory) see only single-digit representation from the reserved categories (excluding the Other Backward Classes category).

For instance, in the National Institute of Immunology (NII), an organisation funded by the DBT, 34 out of 208 permanent employees belong to the SC/ST category. However, only two from the SC category were scientists (Group A scientists in the pay grade level 10 and above, where SC/ST reservations don’t apply). There was no scientist from the ST category.

In the Regional Centre for Biotechnology, another DBT institute, set up under the auspices of the UNESCO, four of the 44 permanent posts were held by SC/ST candidates. However, none were in the scientist category.

The Pune-based National Centre for Cell Sciences had the highest representation of SCs and STs among scientists — five in the SC category and two from the STs.

Of the 16 DBT institutions, only nine responded to a request for information on representation of scientists, said Ashok Kumar, the RTI applicant. Mr Kumar is a doctoral candidate at the Translational Health Science and Technology Institute (THSTI) in Faridabad, also an autonomous DBT institute. The THSTI records just two of its 32 permanent employees from the SC/ST category of whom one was in the scientist grade.

Responding to queries from The Hindu , Secretary, DBT, Renu Swarup, said the DBT was apprised of this problem last year and had taken corrective action. “A couple of institutes had a problem of representation. We now have a formula in place to ensure that scientists are adequately represented and our hires as of this May reflect this. However, recruitment also has to factor available vacancies, backlog, and skills required,.” she said.

In response to a query in the Lok Sabha in December 2018, the government had said that in Central Universities, 193 of the 936 ‘Professor’ grade posts were from the SC/ST category as were 395 of the 1838 ‘Associate Professor’ posts.

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