Science and Technology for Development
Science touches the lives of everyone. The philosophy of our ancestors was rooted in scientific temperament – be it Vedic Mathematics, theory of atom, medicines and surgeries, Indians were known to have mastered every branch of science. Modern science and technology have borrowed most of its knowledge from ancient Indian scriptures.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, after he took over in 2014, has changed the scientific landscape to reinvent it for solving our socio-economic problems through the intervention of science and technology, which are Indian in spirit and substance. He chose the theme “Reaching the Unreachable through Science and Technology,” and asked the scientists to bring science out of laboratories to make it tools of development – a paradigm shift from theoretical research to applied research to find solutions to several problems facing the country.
“The time is ripe to redefine ‘R&D’ as ‘Research’ for the ‘Development’ of the nation – that is ‘R&D’ in the real sense. Science is after all, but a means to a far greater end – of making a difference in the lives of others, of furthering human progress and welfare. The time is also ripe, to commit ourselves to facilitate ‘Ease of Living’ for 125 crore Indians, through the power as well as potential of science and technology”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Today India is pushing herself to join the big league of nations in pursuing ambitious mega science projects such as Second Moon Mission, participation in international astronomy collaborations like Thirty Meter Telescope, Laser Interferometer Gravitational–wave Observatory (LIGO), next generation radio telescope like the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), and so on. In cutting edge science, our scientists are inferior to none. Gravitational waves discovery in 2016 has been hailed worldwide as one of the most fundamental scientific discoveries in the recent times. It is a matter of great pride, 37 Indian scientists from 9 Indian institutions were part of the LIGO-Virgo discovery paper in Physical Review Letters. The present government approved hosting of the third LIGO detector on Indian soil to be funded by Department of Atomic Energy and Department of Science & Technology for which the work is in full swing.
During the last four years, the government has enhanced the allocations for science and technology to accelerate scientific research, innovation and technology development. Budget allocation for Department of Science and Technology for 4 financial years starting from 2014-15 to 2018-19 was Rs.19764 cr which is a whopping 90% increase over the preceding 5 years (2009-10 to 2013-14). Similarly, there was an increase of 65% for Department of Biotechnology; almost 43% increase for Council of Scientific and Industrial Research; and 26% increase for Ministry of Earth Sciences during this period.
The good news is S&T investments are yielding impressive results. India’s 6th position in the world in scientific publications ahead of France, Spain and Italy is one such indicator. India’s growth rate of scientific publications is around 14% as against the world average of 4%. We are third globally in nanotech research and fourth in weather forecasting. Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has achieved 9th rank in the world among the 1207 government institutions in the Scimago Institutions Ranking World Report 2017, a unique feat.
We had promised a number of initiatives towards advancing the pace of S&T in the country, when we came to power in 2014. Some major actions were to advance scientific education and technology; encouraging research and innovation in food production, industry, healthcare, nutritional health for our children, combating climate change and energy security, to name a few. On all these areas, substantial progress has been made and several new initiatives have been launched to fulfill these promises.
Indian scientific community has pitched in to give an impetus to Prime Minister’s mission of “Swasth Bharat”. The first Rotavirus Vaccine, launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015, will save millions of children from diarrhoea. A large number of drugs, diagnostic kits and healthcare products have been developed and transferred to industry for commercialisation in the last four years. Vaccines for Dengue and Malaria are in advanced stages of development, with the support from Department of Biotechnology.
CSIR developed, first of its kind, Clot Buster Protein – Clot Specific Streptokinase, India’s first patent biopharmaceutical, which is currently in Phase II clinical trials. The economic impact of it is to the tune of Rs. 580 crores for the patients and based on the value of the life-years of surviving patients, it is over Rs. 16,000 crores.
We have launched a new programme of Science & Technology of Yoga and Meditation (SATYAM) to rejuvenate deeper scientific research in yoga and meditation.
CSIR has developed a handheld milk adulteration tester for domestic use. Named Ksheer Scanner, it can detect adulterants like urea, salt, detergent, soap, soda, boric acid and hydrogen peroxide.
India is emerging as the diabetic capital of the world. It has the second largest burden of people with diabetics – 70 million and the number is expected to touch 120 million in the next two decades. CSIR’s National Botanical Research Institute and Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants have jointly developed an anti-diabetic herbal formulation of natural extracts derived from six plant species, based on ancient Ayurveda texts.
Saheli – world’s first and only oral non-steroidal contraceptive pill for women was developed and patented by Central Drug Research Institute under CSIR. This has now been included in the National Family Planning Programme.
Diagnosis of Genetic Diseases
Over seventy million Indians are estimated to be affected by genetic diseases. In majority of cases, an appropriate diagnosis is not arrived at due to lack of general awareness, lack of access and high cost of diagnostic services. CSIR’s Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology has developed 70 tests to help doctors diagnose a variety of rare genetic disorders.
Pune Biotech Cluster
“Model Organisms to Human Disease” was recently approved by Department of Biotechnology to National Centre for Cell Science (NCCS) and Indian Institute of Science Education & Research (IISER) Pune with an overall goal to seamlessly connect high quality basic biology work being done in various research organizations in and around Pune to more focused questions addressing human disease biology. New technology platforms will be developed that will allow detailed analyses of molecular events leading to pathogenesis and use of model organisms to develop solutions to address problems in human disease biology (viz. Cancer, Tuberculosis, Malaria, HIV etc) and thereby paving the way for lab-to-bed translational research.
Genome Sequencing of Holy Basil (Tulsi): CSIR has carried out whole genome sequencing of Ocimum sanctum, Tulsi, which paves the way to use modern tools for scientific validation of the traditional claims in diverse medicinal usage and also opens the opportunity for in vitro production of the therapeutic molecules.
Department of Biotechnology has assisted development of food and nutrition and technologies for iron fortified rice premix, which is now being evaluated for introduction in different midday meal programmes.
BIBCOL, a PSU under Department of Biotechnology has developed ready to eat therapeutic food under the brand name BIB POSHAN to address acute malnourishment in children.
DALI, a package containing screening tools for school teachers and assessment tools for psychologists in Indian Languages to identify dyslexia developed by National Brain Research Centre, Manesar.
Indian agriculture is primarily dependent on monsoon rains and lately changes in weather due to climate change have resulted in unpredictability of rain systems. Timely information on weather to farmers benefits them hugely to plan farming operations and as a result its economic dividend is immense. Currently, through 130 Agro Met Zones (a cluster of 4-6 districts), 24.0 million farmers are receiving crop specific agro-meteorological services in vernacular languages. By end 2018, this will be scaled up to 40.0 million farmers, through 300 Agro Met Field Units, including in 115 Aspirational Districts.
With the acquisition of fourth fastest supercomputer in the world, weather and climate research in India has also improved tremendously. India is the fourth country in the club of supercomputers of such capacity.
Besides, Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) also issues Potential Fishery Zone advisories on a daily basis to help fishermen locate areas of abundant catch in ocean and thus earn more income.
A new improved rice variety, resistant to bacterial blight, was developed with the support of Department of Biotechnology, which is now being cultivated in 90,000 hectares in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
India played a crucial role in the international partnership to decode the Wheat Genome. In this partnership fifteen countries joined hands to complete this huge task of decoding 17,000 million bases of wheat. Indian Scientists participated in decoding Chromosome 2A.
CSIR has developed Improved Samba Mahsuri variety of rice, with low glycaemic index, considered highly suitable for consumption by diabetic patients.
CSIR’s Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (CIMAP) has developed new varieties of aromatic, medicinal and floricultural plants – Rose, Citronella, Lemongrass, Vetriver, Turmeric, Calla Lilly and Gerbera. These have rich medicinal values and increased yield compared to existing varieties.
Development of improved aromatic plant varieties would augment increased income to farmers, create and support micro-entrepreneurs, giving an impetus to “Make in India”. Currently approximately 4.00 lakh hectares of land is under cultivation of improved varieties of aromatic plants at an estimated value of Rs. 4,586 crores generating an estimated 8.45 crore man days.
CIMAP has also developed short-duration and high-yielding varieties of menthol mint. The improved varieties will enhance productivity and help maintain Indian global leadership.
KrishiShakti – Indigenous Diesel Engine Tractor
KrishiShakti, a small range (11.2 HP) diesel engine tractor for small farmers towards enabling mechanized agriculture, was developed by Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute and is already in the market.
Made in India Saras aircraft
National Aerospace Limited under CSIR has designed and developed India’s first civilian aircraft – Saras, which was successfully test flown in January this year. The production version of the aircraft will be of 19 seat capacity, which will undergo civil/military certification. Indian Air Force has already committed to buy the military version. SARAS will be 20-25 % cheaper than any imported aircraft in the same category, with far more benefits.
National Aerospace Limited has also developed an innovative, cost-effective visibility measuring system – for first time in India. The system has already been deployed at 21 airports. It is useful for airport operations and gives information to pilots on visibility at the runway.
Deep Ocean Mission
Oceans cover 72 percent of the Earth and are a storehouse of living and non-living resources. Minerals such as gas hydrates, polymetallic nodules, polymetallic sulphides are abundant in Indian EEZ and Indian Ocean. Polymetallic nodules, which are rich in Cobalt, Nickel, Copper and Nickel, are available at about 5500 m water depth in the Central Indian Ocean Basin. An area of 75,000 sq.km has been allotted to India by the United Nations for exploration and harnessing of these minerals. Energy and fresh water are the other two non-living resources that can be harnessed from the Oceans.
The deep sea also holds the highest biodiversity on earth which has hardly been explored. The Indian Ocean sector of the Southern Ocean is also available for harvesting of the Krill fishes.
Ministry of Earth Sciences is in process of formulating a national multiagency programme on Deep Ocean Mission encompassing various aspects of oceans in an integrated framework with involvement of other national departments viz. CSIR, DBT, Department of Space etc.
Seven major areas have been identified to be part of this ‘Deep Ocean Mission’. They are
- Development of Technologies for Deep Sea Mining, Underwater Vehicles and Ocean Observations,
- Offshore and Onshore based Desalination,
- Energy from Ocean Waves,
- Technological and conservational innovations for sustainable utilization of marine bio-resources,
- Krill fishery from Southern Ocean,
- Development of Ocean Climate Change Advisory Services,
- Deep ocean survey and exploration
This mission will be a game changer for understanding and harnessing the oceans around us, making India a pioneer in several technological fronts leading to yet another development in the scientific frontier of modern India through blue economy.
National Mission on Cyber Physical Systems
The Prime Minister in his address to the 2017 Indian Science Congress in Tirupati had highlighted the rapid global rise of Cyber-Physical Systems. “This has the potential to pose unprecedented challenges and stresses to our demographic dividend. But we can turn it into a huge opportunity by research, training and skilling in robotics, artificial intelligence, digital manufacturing, big data analysis, deep learning, quantum communication and Internet-of-Things. We need to develop an Inter-Ministerial National Mission in the Cyber-Physical Systems to secure our future by creation of basic R&D infrastructure, manpower and skills,” he said. Department of Science and Technology was entrusted with the responsibility of launching a Mission on Cyber-Physical Systems to support establishment of centres of excellence.
A detailed Project Report (DPR) for the Mission for a five-year period at a cost of Rs.3660 cr has been prepared and approval of Expenditure Finance Committee has been obtained. We are in the process of seeking approval of Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs for the Mission shortly.
2G Ethanol Technology
The 2G-Ethanol Technology is an indigenous, unique and globally competitive technology developed by the DBT-ICT Centre for Energy Biosciences under the mandate of ‘Waste to Energy’.
Its demonstration plant is a unique example of successful translation of end-to-end technology from a university research centre to commercial scale. The Technology employs continuous processing and converts biomass feed to alcohol within 24 hours compared to other technologies from the developed economies that take anywhere from 3 to 5 days. This technology is now being transferred for scale up to Oil Marketing Companies – Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd. to commercial levels. The First Plant at Biotechnology Biorefinery, HPCL, will be set up with a Capacity of 400 Ton Biomass/day. This globally competitive technology is scalable to a wide range from 100-ton biomass/day to 500-ton/day and can find decentralized deployment in Indian agricultural land providing biofuel options for India.
This is just part of the narrative on how science and technology is being harnessed for larger societal benefits. We are embarking on the road to a better future; the future we wish for ourselves and for our children.