India’s finance minister, Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman, presented the country’s budget Monday for the fiscal year that begins April 1 and ends March 31, 2022.
In her speech to Parliament, she proposed more than doubling India’s health-care and wellbeing spending to 2.2 trillion rupees ($30.1 billion). That includes a new federal scheme with an outlay of 641 billion rupees over six years to develop the country’s capacity for primary, secondary and tertiary care as well as to strengthen national institutions and create new ones to detect and cure new diseases, Sitharaman said.
The budget will allocate 350 billion rupees for COVID-19 vaccines and the government is committed to providing further funds if required, according to the finance minister.
India last month rolled out a mass immunization program that aims to inoculate 300 million people in its first stage, most of them frontline workers and those above 50 or in high-risk groups. The country has the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world, with more than 10.7 million reported infections. The healthcare funding is done for the following:
- A new federal scheme with an outlay of 641 billion rupees over six years to develop the country’s capacity for primary, secondary and tertiary care.
- Support for 17,788 rural and 11,024 urban health and wellness centers as well as strengthening the National Center for Disease Control.
- A program to provide clean water in urban areas as well as liquid waste management over five years and allocated 2.87 trillion rupees.
- Voluntary vehicle scrapping policy to phase out old vehicles that contribute to India’s poor air quality.
She also earmarked ₹50,000 crore over five years for the creation of a National Research Foundation (NRF) — an umbrella body that is expected to fund research across a range of disciplines, from science and technology to humanities. Ms. Sitharaman had first announced such a foundation in her 2019 Budget speech after it was proposed in a draft of India’s New Education Policy (NEP). “It [NRF] will ensure that the overall research ecosystem in the country is strengthened with a focus on identified national priority thrust areas.”
The budget allocations for key science departments are:
The Ministry of Earth Sciences was budgeted ₹2,074 crore for 2020-21, but is expected to spend only ₹1,304 crore. This year it has been allotted ₹1,901 crore.
The Department of Science and Technology was budgeted ₹6,313 crore last year, but will likely spend ₹5,012 crore. It has been allotted ₹6,071 crore this year.
The Department of Scientific and Industrial Research was given ₹5,385 crore but its expenses are likely to be ₹4,251 crore. It has been given ₹5,241 crore.
The Department of Biotechnology has seen a hike in allotment and been given ₹3,502 crore. Last year, it spent ₹2,300 crore and was budgeted ₹2,786 crore.
The Budget also announced a National Language Translation Mission (NTLM) which will enable the wealth of governance-and-policy related knowledge on the Internet being made available in major Indian languages. And Deep Ocean Mission with a budget outlay of more than INR 4,000 crores, over five years has been announced. This Mission will cover deep ocean survey exploration and projects for the conservation of deep sea bio-diversity. Also, many of the cities in India have various research institutions, universities, and colleges supported by the Government of India. In 9 such cities, formal umbrella structures have been proposed in order to ensure that these institutions can have better synergy, while also retaining their internal autonomy. A Glue Grant will be set aside for this purpose. The Natural Language Translation Mission and Deep Ocean Mission are the national missions and the City Research and Innovation Clusters Project have been initiated from the Prime Minister’s Science Technology Innovation Advisory Council.