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Disbelief over Modi govt plan to stop funding engineering academy linked to Kalam, Kakodkar

Scientists & academicians associated with Indian National Academy of Engineering have asked Dept of Science and Technology to reconsider decision. Senior DST official says decision not final.

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New Delhi: The Centre has decided to stop funding the Indian National Academy of Engineering (INAE) — the only such academy in the country that deals with academic, research and development, and industry links for engineering — prompting concern from scientists and academicians associated with the body. 

Some of India’s biggest scientific names — including former president Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, nuclear scientist Dr Anil Kakodkar and former Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman K. Kasturirangan — have been associated with INAE, which was founded in 1987 and has its headquarters in Delhi.

In back-to-back communications sent to the academy on 6 May and 24 June, the Department of Science and Technology (DST), under the Ministry of Science and Technology, stated that the government would fund the academy only till March 2025. 

The 6 May letter read: “The Department of Expenditure has recommended that the government should disengage itself from activities of INAE through its corporatisation as a Section 8 (not-for-profit) company under Companies Act, 2013.” 

“The reason being that the government need not involve itself directly into the business of promoting and advancing the practice of engineering and technology and the related science and disciplines in the country when the same objectives could be very effectively achieved by converting INAE into a Section 8 (not-for-profit) company like NASSCOM,” it further said, referring to the National Association of Software and Service Companies.

In its latest letter, dated 24 June, the DST stated: “As already communicated to you, the government had considered and decided to accept the recommendations for disengagement of the government from the activities of INAE.” 

It added that the “disengagement of government would be completed by 31 March, 2025”. In other words, government support in the form of grants-in-aid to the INAE would be stopped. 

Manoranjan Mohanty, who heads the Autonomous Institutions Division at DST, however, said that the decision was not yet final. 

“The matter is still under review and we have not reached any final decision,” Mohanty told ThePrint, declining to elaborate on the issue. 

Scientists and academicians associated with the academy have expressed concern over the move, questioning the government’s decision to stop funding. 

Nuclear scientist Dr Anil Kakodkar posted on Twitter Wednesday: “Very unfortunate that govt. has decided to disengage from activities of Indian National Academy of Engineering (INAE), an independent platform of most eminent achievers in the area that has been making important contributions to the engineering and technology scene in the country.” 

Speaking to ThePrint, Dr Kakodkar, a former president of the INAE, said the academy is very important for the country, and it was unfortunate that the government thinks it does not need to fund it anymore. 

“An academy like this cannot be expected to raise its own money like a corporation. If they do that, they earn money for short-term projects but no one is going to fund them for long-term projects,” he added.

Current INAE president professor Indranil Manna said he has reached out to the government asking it to reconsider its decision to discontinue funding. He has also written to past presidents, including Dr. Kakodkar, to draw their attention towards the issue. 

“We have appealed to the DST to review their decision, and are awaiting a reply,” he told ThePrint.

Also Read: ‘Want to upgrade myself’: Why 80-year-old Kochi engineer took IIT entrance test

Less funding compared to other academies

The INAE receives a relatively small amount of funds from the DST. In the financial year of 2020-21, around Rs 4.06 crore was disbursed to the academy, of the total Rs 1,330 crore released by the department in the form of grants that year, according to DST data.

In comparison, the three science academies individually received more funds. The Indian National Science Academy received Rs 23.05 crore, the Indian Science Congress Association received Rs 6.64 crore and The National Academy of Sciences received Rs 8.25 crore. 

The INAE comprises engineers and technologists from various engineering disciplines. It was established “with the mission of providing vital inputs to the planning for the country’s development, particularly related to engineering and technology”. 

In a letter dated 7 April, 2020, sent to the NITI Aayog and the DST as well as then principal scientific advisor to the government K. VijayRaghavan, then INAE president Sanak Mishra had written that the INAE “functions as an apex body and promotes excellence in engineering and technology for their application to solving problems of national importance”. 

One of the INAE’s programmes is the Abdul Kalam Technology Innovation National Fellowship, awarded jointly with the DST’s Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB) to recognise, encourage and support translational research by individuals working in various capacities of the engineering profession, in public funded institutions in the country.

Around 10 fellowships are awarded by the collaboration every year. The INAE also recognises the contributions of engineers through various awards.

(Edited by Gitanjali Das)

Also Read: India’s mechanical engineering course set for IT makeover, to include 3D printing & drones


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