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What is Modi govt’s ‘quantum mission’ that has been allocated Rs 8,000 cr in Budget 2020

In her Budget 2020 speech, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman says India plans to invest Rs 8,000 crore over 5 years in National Mission on Quantum Technology.

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New Delhi: Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has announced a Rs 8,000-crore outlay in the Union Budget 2020 for the country’s quantum technology programme.

Realistic quantum computers are still a distant dream, but experts believe it’s a risk that the country must take to ensure self-reliance in latest computing technologies. 

In her budget speech, Sitharaman said India plans to invest Rs 8,000 crore over the next five years in the National Mission on Quantum Technology or the Quantum-Enabled Science & Technology (QuEST) programme.

Unlike existing systems, quantum computing takes advantage of subatomic particles to exist in more than one state at any time. Because of how these tiniest of particles behave, operations in quantum computers can be done much more quickly. 

These systems, however, are very fragile. A number of phenomena in quantum physics can be explained theoretically but not measured by experiments.   

If one tries to measure quantum particles, such as photons, the system is disturbed and no longer exhibits the same properties. While the field of quantum mechanics was born about 100 years ago, during the times of Einstein, Heisenberg and Schrödinger, full-fledged quantum computers do not exist yet. 

Also read: Focus on rural India, women, SC/STs — Budget 2020 fits into Modi govt’s welfare plank

A ‘high-risk investment’

Secretary, Department of Science & Technology (DST), Ashutosh Sharma, had earlier acknowledged that the government’s quantum mission is a “high-risk” investment that may or may not yield desired results. 

He had, however, asserted that this is a risk that the country needs to take so that it does not end up having to rely on Western nations for the latest computing technologies in the future. 

He also said India’s future with respect to science and technology can only be secured by investing in fields that may not have guaranteed results. 

“QuEST is aimed at considerably ramping up research and development activities in this emerging field that promises to grow important both strategically and economically,” Principal Scientific Adviser to the government K. VijayRaghavan told ThePrint in an earlier interview

“…It will ensure that the nation reaches, within a span of 10 years, the goal of achieving the technical capacity to build quantum computers and communications systems comparable with the best in the world, and hence earn a leadership role,” he had said.

The Department of Science and Technology (DST) has been allocated Rs 6,301 crore in this budget as opposed to Rs 5,580 crore in 2019-20.

Also read: Modi govt allocates Rs 4,400 cr for cleaner air — big jump from Rs 460 cr in last budget



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