Data from the budget documents of 2022-23 indicates that the actual expenditure incurred by all the three departments viz., Department of Science (DST), Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Department of Scientific & Industrial Research (DSIR) under the Ministry of Science & Technology fell in the pandemic year of 2020-21, compared to 2019-20.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has reemphasized the importance of Scientific development and research. The development of COVID-19 vaccines and other measures to contain the pandemic was made possible with investments in scientific research & development by organizations and respective governments around the world. India is among the few countries which are at the forefront of developing & manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines.
Apart from the development of vaccines, technologies relating to clean & alternative energy, space, telecommunication, etc. are among those which shape the future and require significant investments in research & development.
In this story, we look at the budget allocation in recent years towards science research & development. We specifically analyse the allocation made for the– Department of Science (DST), Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Department of Scientific & Industrial Research (DSIR).
Fall in the actual expenditure of DST in 2020-21
The Budget allocation for the Ministry of Science & Technology for 2022-23 fell by around 3.9% compared to 2021-22. In 2022-23, Rs. 14.21 thousand crores were allocated compared to Rs. 14.97 thousand crores in 2021-22.
The Ministry of Science & Technology has three departments – the Department of Science & Technology (DST), the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and the Department of Scientific & Industrial Research (DSIR).
The budget allocation for DST fell from Rs. 6.07 thousand crores in 2021-22 to Rs.6 thousand crores in 2022-23. This is a continuation of a recent declining trend of budget allocation as the allocation for 2021-22 was in turn less than for 2020-21.
The data from earlier years indicates that the revised estimates and actual expenditure for DST were slightly lower than the initial budget estimates. But during the pandemic hit 2020-21, the revised estimates were much lower at Rs. 5 thousand cores compared to the budget allocation of Rs. 6.3 thousand crores. The actual expenditure of DST for 2020-21 was still lower at Rs.4.89 thousand crores i.e., around 77.6% of the budget allocation for the year. In the earlier years, the actual expenditure has been close to an average of 95 % of the budget estimates of the respective year. In fact, the Actual expenditure during 2020-21 is lower than during each of the previous two years of 2019-20 and 2018-19.
In 2020-21, the budget allocation for Central Sector Schemes/projects was Rs. 3.2 thousand crores. But the actual expenditure was only Rs. 2.18 thousand crores. The budget allocation in 2022-23 towards Central Sector Scheme/projects is Rs. 2.89 thousand crores, compared to Rs. 2.91 thousand crores in 2021-22.
The revised estimates for 2021-22 were reduced to Rs. 2.14 thousand crores towards Central sector schemes/projects. Going by the trends of the last two years, the actual spending could be lower than the revised estimates.
Further drill-down of the allocation reveals that the budget cut was under the heads of ‘Science & Technology Instructional & Human Capacity building’ and ‘Innovation, Technology Development & Deployment’. The impact of the pandemic on these cannot be ruled out.
Fall in actual expenditure towards ‘Biotechnology Research & Development’ in 2020-21
As per the budget documents for 2022-23, the actual expenditure of the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) in 2020-21 was Rs. 2.26 thousand crores, compared to Rs. 2.36 thousand crores in 2019-20. This is lower than even the revised estimates for 2020-21, which was reduced to Rs. 2.3 thousand crores compared to budget estimates of Rs. 2.79 thousand crores, indicating a fall in spending during the pandemic.
For 2021-22, the budget estimates were increased to Rs. 3.5 thousand crores compared to Rs. 2.79 thousand crores for 2020-21. However, the revised estimates reduced this amount to Rs. 2.96 thousand crores. As in the case of DST, the fall in the expenditure can be attributed to ‘Central sector schemes & projects’.
For 2021-22, the budget estimates were increased towards both ‘Biotechnology Research & Development’ and ‘Industrial & Entrepreneurship Development’. In view of the pandemic, this was a welcome initiative. The budget estimates of ‘Biotechnology Research & Development’ in 2021-22 were Rs. 1.66 thousand crores compared to Rs. 1.58 thousand in 2020-21. The revised estimates for 2021-22 reduced this amount to Rs. 1.49 thousand crores.
The actual expenditure towards R&D in 2020-21 fell to Rs. 1.28 thousand compared Rs. 1.3 thousand crores in 2019-20.
A prominent increase in allocation was observed in the case of ‘Industrial & Entrepreneurship Development’, where-in the budget estimates were increased from Rs. 322 crores in 2020-21 to Rs. 960 crores in 2021-22. This is, however, reduced to Rs. 365 crores in 2022-23. The actual expenditure towards this head increased from Rs. 230.6 crores in 2019-20 to Rs. 340.9 crores in 2020-21.
Around 14% decline in the actual expenditure of DSIR
The third department in the Ministry of Science & Technology is the Department of Science & Industrial Research (DISR). The budget estimates for this department have increased year-on-year except for 2021-22. With the impact of the pandemic, the budget estimates for 2021-22 and revised estimates for 2020-21 were lower than previous years.
Particularly, the revised estimates for 2020-21 were reduced to Rs. 4.25 thousand crores compared to the initial budget estimate of Rs. 5.39 thousand crores. The pandemic also had an impact on the actual expenditure. As per the information provided in the Budget for 2022-23, the actual expenditure in this department in 2020-21 was Rs. 4.2 thousand crores. This is much lower than the actual expenditure for 2019-20 which was Rs. 4.87 thousand crores. In fact, the actual expenditure of DSIR in 2020-21 is the lowest since 2017-18.
However, the revised estimates for 2021-22 were increased to Rs. 5.3 thousand crores compared to the budget estimates of Rs. 5.22 thousand crores. On the other hand, the budget estimates for 2022-23 are Rs. 5.64 thousand crores.
A major portion of the Department’s expenditure is booked under ‘Other Central Sector expenditure’, which is the expenditure for the running of various national laboratories under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). The actuals under this head reduced from Rs. 4.83 thousand crores in 2019-20 to Rs. 4.16 thousand crores in 2020-21.
Among the expenditure related to central sector schemes for this department are ‘Industrial Research & Development’ and ‘Assistance to PSEs for other Scientific Research Schemes’. The actual expenditure towards ‘Industrial Research & Development’ increased from Rs. 6.84 crores in 2019-20 to Rs. 12.55 crores in 2020-21. However, this is lower than the budget estimates for 2020-21, which was Rs. 30.6 crores. Meanwhile, the actual expenditure towards assistance to PSEs fell from Rs. 19.2 crores in 2019-20 to Rs. 9.38 crores in 2020-21.
Actual Expenditure of the Ministry fell in 2020-21 with an increase in budget estimates for later years
The trend observed across all the three departments of the Ministry of Science & Technology is the fall in actual expenditure incurred during the pandemic hit 2020-21. This could be because of other priorities during the pandemic relating to financial support and rehabilitation.
While the budget estimates increased for 2021-22, the revised estimates in the case of DST & DBT were lower than the budget estimates for 2021-22.
In a response provided in Rajya Sabha in August 2021, the government updated that it has allocated Rs. 1.3 thousand crores to DBT’s Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) towards COVID-19 Research and Production Development.
The Department of Science & Technology (DST) has earmarked around Rs. 200 crores for COVID-19 related research & implementation.