Wednesday, November 4, 2015

"Old wine in new bottle"-New Minister but old system being flogged to perform beyond their capabilities!

Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, known by its acronym, CSIR by its very name suggests that this top heavy organization is mandated to develop industry oriented technologies which can be commercially exploited by the industry. As technology is the most crucial driving force for creating new industries, though other inputs like infrastructure, finance and human resources are also important, CSIR ever since its inception more than 6 decades ago, has built up an impressive collection of multi disciplinary scientific and technological laboratories like engineering, biotechnology, drugs, foods, botanics, building and construction, aeronauticals, water processing etc with an annual budget of about Rs 3000 crores. By a conservative estimate CSIR must have spent more than Rs 25000 crores from the government kitty during the last two decades. The million dollar question that haunts the average citizen of this country is whether the returns on such a huge investment have been significant? No doubt these laboratories have some of the best talents in the country but if out put is measured in concrete terms probably it is abysmally low. The new government which does not seem to have any love for scientific research, put a minister, a physician turned poltician, who does not seem to have his heart in scientific research in charge of CSIR. In the ritualistic meeting that is held periodically with the minister, high sounding resolutions are passed which every one knows will remain on paper with no body serious about implementing them. Here is a take on this moribund organization and the "advice" proffered by the minister with his profound "wisdom"! 

"Labs under the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) will develop technologies to provide solutions for national missions like Swachh Bharat, Swasth Bharat, Skill India, Smart Cities, Digital India, Namami Ganga, etc. A resolution to this effect was adopted at the end of two day conference of CSIR Directors held at CSIR-Indian Institute of Petroleum in Dehradun on June 13, 2015. It was also decided that CSIR labs will devise ways to develop industry driven technologies, including game changing technologies. Each laboratory would develop at least one technology in strategic sector for India. During the two-day 'Chintan Shivir' held on June 12-13, 2015, all CSIR labs have agreed to make efforts to be self financing in next two years. In his concluding remarks, Dr Harsh Vardhan, minister for science & technology and earth sciences, said, "CSIR should be a catalytic agent to evolve India into Samarth Bharat-Sashakt Bharat. A revenue model is to be developed in business-like manner with clear input-output cost analysis. Emphasis will be laid to achieve global standards and to build confidence in society about relevance of CSIR labs in terms of social benefit. Labs will endeavour to build up entrepreneurship in small, medium and big industries. CSIR should focus on developing technologies for improving quality of life of the common man." The Minister said that coming months would see each of the laboratory focusing its resources on developing specific lines of inventions which would contribute to the social and economic objectives of the Narendra Modi government for the poor and common man. Each of the laboratory heads made a presentation about his or her respective lab achievements in transferring products and processes developed by him or her to industry. They also disclosed the patents awarded, the skill development programmes carried out, socio-economic interventions made, villages adopted and upgraded and contributions to Swachh Bharat and other government programmes. The success in realising royalties and license fees receipts were also shared with projections made for the next year. "

Those who remember old days can recall about various technology missions taken up by CSIR during late eighties and early nineties and the disappointing results these missions brought out after spending billions of tax payer"s money! It is like attempting to produce a mountain which ended up in a mouse! The technology mission on pulses was a fiasco of Himalayan proportion and to day we are faced with a situation when pulses, the poor man's protein source, are being sold at prices approaching Rs 200 per kg. Similarly the Oil seed mission involving expenditure of millions of rupees to boost edible oil production in the country has ended up making India the largest importer of edible oils in the world! Can we trust this organization to contribute to any thing substantial to the new missions being promoted by the new government? Probably it is a pipe dream because the scientists working in the organization have neither the motivation nor the inspiring leader ship to achieve any thing substantial. 


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