Saturday, March 04, 2006

Just how much does India spend on Science and Technology?

I was looking for some information regarding the allocations for science and technology in this year's budget. I was hoping for someone to have written about it, and thanks to reader Pradeepkumar, I got it in this news report by T.V. Padma at This is how her report opens:

India has increased its annual science and technology budget by 16 per cent to 200 billion rupees (US$4.5 billion), and will upgrade research programmes at three major universities.

In his article in Science a year ago, R. A. Mashelkar (CEO of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) gives a figure of US $ 6 billion (about 27,000 crore rupees) as India's R&D budget. Now, Padma quotes a figure of about US $4.5 billion as India's 'science budget'; she further says it went up 16 percent. This is all confusing, to say the least!

Now, 200 billion (20,000 crore) rupees (or 270 billion -- 27,000 crore -- rupees, if you go with Mashelkar) is a lot of money. Where is it being spent?

So, let me step back a bit, and look at the available information, with which we can get a sense of where the money is going. Most of the following information is from the ministry-wise data that you can download from this page in the budget website of the Finance Ministry.

Atomic Energy, Space, Defence

First, we have the three Big Guns: Atomic Energy and Space and Defence R&D (DRDO). The three have been allotted 5505, 3610 and 3000 crores, respectively (up from last year's figures of 3752, 2675 and 2798 crores, respectively).

While the DRDO's figure is for R&D, the other two probably include a lot of things other than R&D. A cursory analysis of this page shows that Atomic Energy spends about 2000 crores to support various R&D labs and academic institutions such as TIFR. For the Department of Space, separating R&D allocations from non-R&D ones is a pain, so let's take it as about 3610 crores.

Agriculture, Science, Technology

The next biggest player in the R&D arena is agricultural research and education. It received 2160 crores this year (up from 1900 crores last year).

Up next is the Ministry of Science and Technology, which has three components: Departments of Scientific and Industrial Research (1750 crores, up from 1501 crores), Science and Technology (1746 crores, up from 1446 crores), and finally, Biotechnology (534 crores, up from 402 crores).

HigherEd, Professional Education

In addition, there are allocations for higher education through the Ministry of Human Resource Development (this page). Under this category, the allocation for university and higher education (read: UGC, the Universities Grants Commission) is 2774 crores, up from 2278 crores, and that for technical education (IITs, IIMs, IISc, etc) is 1718 crores, up from 1414 crores.

Then there is medical education and research, through the Ministry of Health. Under this head, we have 1436 crores, up from 1308 crores.


Finally, there is a whole bunch of other ministries (Petroleum, Coal, Steel, Information Technology, Railways, Ocean Development, ...), each with its own R&D budget; my understanding is that their contribution to the total S&T kitty is not all that significant (less than 20 percent?).

Okay, let's put it all together.

2000 : Atomic Energy
3000 : DRDO
3610 : Space
2160 : Agriculture
1750 : CSIR
1746 : DST
0534 : Biotech
2774 : UGC, etc.
1718 : Tech. Ed.
1436 : Medicine

This comes to 20,728 crores. The R&D expenditure of other ministries, as I said, is not large. In addition, we must also add R&D budgets of companies (in both public and private sectors). Again my understanding is that their budgets are less than 15 % of the total R&D spending in the country.


Oh, well, that was an interesting exercise. Let me just park all these figures here, so that I can get back to them when I need them. Blogs can be used as brain backups, can't they?


CaveatsThe figures for UGC and Space are aggregate figures; For Space, it includes a whole lot of non-R&D stuff, and for UGC, it includes non-S&T expenses. And, of course, the last two figures include expenses on education as well, not just on R&D.

In particular, separating the R&D component from that for education (in the budgets for UGC, technical, medical and agricultural education and research) is important. A big chunk of it is probably just for education at the undergraduate level. Moreover, education, as a separate budget-head, gets inputs from several other sources as well. In particular, the state governments [and students -- their parents, actually! -- in private institutions] carry a fair share of the spending for higher education. Unless we find a way to separate the two out, we won't be able to arrive at accurate estimates for R&D, nor for higher ed!


Thanks to reader Pradeepkumar for the link to the article by T.V. Padma.