Home > Education, RTI question > Money down the drain

Money down the drain

As I mentioned earlier, Hindustan Times filed an RTI to learn about CSIR’s expenditure related to patents. In the last ten years, CSIR spent Rs. 228.64 Crores on filing patents, while gaining Rs. 36.8 Crores by selling/licensing them. Of course it is not fair to interpret these figures solely as some kind of failure on CSIR’s part, it does take a while for a new patent to be successful, and many patents do not get to sell very much at all. Further, many patent violations do not get caught unless an agency is employed, which the CSIR may not have done yet.

In any case, this brought to my mind a different expenditure, one that is not included in these figures. I am talking about the expense of the research itself, the infrastructure, the salaries, and most importantly, the equipment and supplies. Most of this expenditure comes through the budget of the institutes, and a fraction (usually not large) comes from the grants obtained by the scientists.

The budget thus allotted to experimental science (also to computational science, but that is a different kettle of fish) amounts to several crores every financial year at any institute — this budget has increased manifold over the last 10 years, with focus on nano-bio-material science.

Now, two stories from two different institutes. At one, every experimentalist gets an unlimited amount of money for `contingency’. This includes buying chemicals. Unlimited amounts, no questions asked. Just sign the bill. And people do spend mind-boggling amounts of money on buying chemicals. (It seems that along with chemicals one can buy utensils to store the said chemicals, and — according to unconfirmed reports, and highly suggestive statements from some of the experimentalists, places to keep those chemicals — read furniture.)

At another institute, several labs are replacing their perfectly working instruments, with new equipment of the same make and model, because they have to spend the budget allocated to them before 31st March (end of financial year).

I think these examples are not exceptions, such criminal wastage of public money is quite common in several institutes of our country. Someone ought to do an audit, of a different kind from the one usually done, on the usage of things bought from the research expense account of each institute. At the very least these institutes should haveĀ  committees, with one or more external experts, in front of which these prodigal scientists can produce and justify a budget for their own experiments. Then at least a modicum of oversight can exist.

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  1. December 1, 2009 at 3:58 pm
  2. June 6, 2010 at 8:54 am

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