While the Indian government rolled out its national budget for 2018–19 in February, most of the research agencies got a modest sigh of relief. But, this was not the case with 4600 scientists working at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). The renowned national institution is scheduled to get $711.7 million which is just a 3.3% increase.
In 2015, the government tried to withdraw the financial support from the federal treasure, directing it to raise up to half its budget by commercializing its technologies. The council is now moving towards that target, with more than quarter of its budget from outside sources.
The cash-strapped labs took another hit last year when new rules on salaries, pensions, and perks for government employees forced the council to raid its research budget for the increased personnel costs. “Sometimes a little tightening of the belt is good for the system,” CSIR’s Director General Girish Sahni told a leading magazine Science. He further added that CSIR labs have become focused because of this.
But the budget news has left rank-and-file CSIR scientists discouraged. “The minuscule increase would ensure that a resource crunch remains a perennial headache,” says one CSIR scientist who requested anonymity. Most of the council’s budget is now funnelled to salaries and pension payments, and on keeping the lights on at the institutes. “We can’t give money for our research programs,” the scientist says.