Sibal proposals to promote biotechnology

P. Sunderarajan

To boost manpower availability

Assistance planned for UG colleges offering life sciencesScholarship proposed for meritorious poor studentsPlan to create pool of scientists for flexibility in their recruitment

NEW DELHI: There is some good news for students aspiring to take up a career in the upcoming sector of biotechnology. The Union Science and Technology Minister, Kapil Sibal, has announced a slew of measures to boost the availability of high quality manpower in the sector.

The package includes proposals for an assistance of Rs. 50 to 60 lakhs each to undergraduate colleges offering courses in life sciences, a scholarship of Rs. 500 per month for meritorious students from economically weaker sections interested in pursuing a career in the sector and introduction of a fellowship of up to $2,000 per month for post-doctoral students wanting to do research in the high-tech areas of stem cell technology and nano-biotechnology.

Research centre planned

He also announced a proposal to set up a centre for research in health sciences at Faridabad, which would focus on building the capacity for running academic programmes at postgraduate level in translational research and clinical sciences and M.D. and Ph.D for physician scientists. It would also aim at developing new vaccines, futuristic diagnostics and biological drugs and establishing an incubator for development of products.

In addition, he announced a proposal to strengthen the level of intervention of biotechnology in sericulture by establishing a centre for research and development under the Ministry of Textiles' Bangalore-based Central Silk Board (CSB) at a cost of Rs. 50 crores. It will be set up as an independent organisation with full autonomy by CSB and the Department of Biotechnology's Hyderabad-based Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics.

Announcing the proposed measures at the foundation day celebrations of the Department of Biotechnology here on Monday, he said the Centre has also proposed to set up a single regulatory authority for clearing all biotechnology products. A committee of Secretaries has been constituted to work out the modalities for the creation of the Authority and rationalisation of the legislative and regulatory regime.

(Presently, several agencies were involved in clearing biotechnology products and they were under several ministries agriculture, health and family welfare, environment and forests, and science and technology. The biotechnology industry has been urging that a single authority be set up on the ground that the present arrangement was too cumbersome and time consuming.)

Scientists' pool

Besides, he said his Ministry was working on a plan for creating a floating pool of scientists belonging to different disciplines and at various levels of seniority. The aim was to introduce an element of flexibility in recruitment of scientists. Scientific institutions would then have the freedom to hire scientists from both within the country and abroad without having to get the clearance of the Government every now and then. The requirements of scientific institutions are changing constantly. They must have the flexibility to hire people according to their requirement, he said.

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