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Parliamentary panel asks DST to ensure optimal utilisation of funds allocated to it in 2022-23

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New Delhi, Mar 15 (PTI) Expressing worry over under-utilisation of funds, especially under central sector schemes, a parliamentary standing committee has asked the Department of Science and Technology (DST) to ensure optimal utilisation of the funds allocated to it in 2022-23.

A report of the committee tabled in Parliament on Tuesday said the DST has submitted that the shortfall in budgetary allocation may have an impact on some of its key programmes relating to the Climate Change Programme, the National Supercomputing Mission, development of research and development infrastructure, the National Atlas and Thematic Mapping Organisation (NATMO), the National Geospatial Policy, the National Mission on Interdisciplinary Cyber Physical System (NM-ICPS) etc.

The DST further submitted before the committee that in order to ensure that its initiatives are not impacted adversely due to a shortage of funds, it shall prioritise its activities and approach the Department of Expenditure for an additional budget at the RE stage.

“The committee expresses its worry on this under-utilisation of funds, especially under the central sector schemes, and strongly recommends the department to ensure optimal utilisation of the funds allocated to it in BE 2022-23,” it said in its report.

The committee, expressing concern over the shortfall in allocation and its impact on the DST’s programmes and initiatives, asked the department about the absolute bare minimum increase needed in 2022-23 to sustain the key programmes.

The DST submitted that in order to meet the obligatory and important fund requirements, a minimum additional allocation of Rs 500 crore over and above the BE 2022-23 (Rs 6,002.2 crore) is needed.

“The committee recognises the need of an additional allocation of at least Rs 500 crore to the Department of Science and Technology, in addition to the allocation made in BE 2022-23 and the committee underlines the importance of the initiatives of the department relating to augmenting research infrastructure, carrying out cutting-edge research in mega science projects, development of frontier and futuristic technologies and projects on climate change,” it said.

The committee, therefore, recommended that the DST should seek additional funds from the Ministry of Finance at the supplementary or the RE stage so that it is able to sustain its key programmes.

It further recommended that the DST should also explore for additional budgetary resources through internal budgetary reallocations.

The committee observed that the NM-ICPS is aimed at promoting development and translation of futuristic technologies, especially in the areas of artificial intelligence, quantum computing, machine learning, augmented reality etc. These technologies are crucial to keep the country at the forefront of state-of-the-art technology research.

The committee said it also recognises that there is an immense scope for training human resources and creating capabilities in these fields and make them future-ready.

“The committee thus is perturbed to note that the achievement of the physical targets under NM-ICPS may get adversely affected due to shortage of funds,” it said.

The DST submitted that in order to sustain all the 25 technology innovation hubs created under the NM-ICPS with the desired outcomes and efficiency, an enhancement of Rs 210 crore is essential.

“The committee therefore recommends an additional allocation of Rs 210 crore be given to the department at the RE stage so that the activities under NM-ICPS can be executed as per plan,” the report said.

It added that the committee is “constrained” to observe that the DST is lagging behind substantially in achieving most of the physical targets set up under the NM-ICPS. The physical target for the mission under the “Job Creation” initiative was set at 2,54,075, against which the department could only achieve 1,157, which is an abysmal 0.46 per cent.

The committee said while an amount of Rs 75 crore was allocated to the DST in RE 2021-22 under the Technology Development Board (TDB), it has been able to spend Rs 23.04 crore, which is only about 30 per cent.

“The committee, therefore, strongly recommends that TDB should scale up its efforts to fully utilise the allocated funds and further take necessary steps so that maximum utilisation can be achieved for the year 2022-23 as well,” it said.

It also recommended to the department to partner with venture capital firms and angel investment networks across the country so that it can reach out to a wider group of entrepreneurs and also benefit from the best practices of the open market.

“The committee is constrained to note that in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar and Rajasthan, the number of projects funded by the department is approximately 11 per cent of the total projects sanctioned. The committee is perturbed to observe that the efforts of the Department of Science and Technology are falling short in promoting scientific research and technology development in the north-eastern region as well,” it said.

The committee, therefore, strongly recommended that the DST should get back to the drawing board and carve out measures for a more equitable distribution of its resources to the under-served states and regions. PTI UZM RC

This report is auto-generated from PTI news service. ThePrint holds no responsibility for its content.

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