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Developing Science and Technology in India

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Parul Sabherwal:

Today’s Indian youth produces scores of engineers and medics but not many scientists. Their career choices clearly show them shying away from basic sciences or any scientific research. It might not be that unreasonable for such choices being made because scientific research in our country does not give immediate returns, monetarily or in terms of recognition. But the government recognizes this and is trying to change this trend to involve more people in main stream research, following are some of the initiatives by the Department of Science &; Technology:

1. Ramanujan Fellowships:

This fellowship is basically for brilliant researchers and engineers from India as well as abroad who want to take up research work in our country. The main aim behind making this fellowship international is to bring back the researchers who have settled abroad. This fellowship is very much scientist centric and will benefit, though only a few, but a quality of scientists. These fellows can work in any of the government institutions or universities and would be eligible for receiving a regular grant through the extramural schemes of the department of science and technology. The amount of fellowship will be Rs. 75000 per month and along with this during the five years of this process the fellows would also receive a contingency of Rs. 5 lakh per annum for conferences etc.

2.Fast Track Scheme for Young Scientists (FAST):

This program was initiated in the year 2000 and mainly aims at providing quick support to the young scientists to pursue their new and bright ideas in the line of already existing ideas in the field of science and engineering. This also aims at encouraging the S&T institutions, agencies etc. to start with some youth oriented programs and involve these young scientists as far as possible. Under this scheme, the maximum duration of the project is 3 years with total cost limited to Rs.17.00 lakh (excluding Overheads). The Young Scientist not drawing any fellowship/salary are eligible for a fellowship of Rs. 20,000 per month apart from grants under travel, contingency, consumables and minor equipments. The institute that hosts the project on approval gets a grant of 20% of project cost as overheads. So in way it is beneficial for both the young scientist as well as the institutions.

3. DST’s Scholarship scheme for Women Scientists and Technologists:

Women who constitute a large part of the workforce are to a very large extent affected in this professional field. The main area of concern that needs to be look after is the break due to motherhood or other family responsibilities that the women have to take up. The option of revival of a successful career for these women was till now very difficult but after the launch of this program things have become a little better. This program provides support to women scientists between the age of 30 to 50 years who desire to return to mainstream science and work as branch level researchers. Through this endeavor of the Department, an effort would be made to give women a strong hold into the profession, help them re-enter into the mainstream and provide a launch pad for further achievements into the field of science and technology, both from the point of view of pure science and its application to societal development.

Under this scheme, women scientists are being encouraged to pursue research in frontier areas of science and engineering, on problems of societal relevance and to take up S&T-based internship followed by self-employment.

4. Sophisticated Analytical Instrument Facilities (SAIF):

The Department of Science and Technology is providing sophisticated analytical instruments to the researchers and scientists so that the unavailability of proper instruments does not come up as a hurdle in the path of R&D. it is very important for the Indian scientists to keep up in pace with the development happening globally and this is an important facility in this regard. These instruments are as of today present at many of the IITs, IISC, Nagpur university, Punjab University etc. about 8000 scientists are today using this facility and they are regularly trained and updated about how to use the instruments and also about how to repair and maintain the high end facility so that no problem comes up in their way of using the equipment.

5.Better Opportunities to Young Scientists in Chosen Areas of Science and Technology (BOYSCAST):

This scheme provides the young scientists with an opportunity to interact and work with the international level researchers and international institutes. The duration of this fellowship is around 3 to 12 months. Annually, around 40 young scientists below the age of 30 years are awarded this fellowship in various areas like: plant microbe interaction, plant genetic resources, super molecular chemistry, manufacturing engineering etc. the selected scientists are encouraged to attend conferences and other events in the host country. By providing this world class facility the government expects these scientists to generate and spread their expertise at the S&T laboratories and institutions across the country.

The writer is the Assistance Editor of Youth Ki Awaaz.

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  1. Subbiah Arunachalam

    Thanks for the information on the many schemes of DST for young scientists. In a future posting you may write about open access to science and scholarship. If Indian researchers, both young and not so young, adopt open access to their research results, they will gain greater visibility and science will advance much more rapidly. For whatever reason, most Indian research institutions and Indian science administrators have not yet adopted open access. None of the Indian funding agencies have mandated open access. All the seven research councils in the UK, the Wellcome Trust, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the national Institutes of Health have all mandated open access to research publications resulting from their funding. The world will be celebrating the International Open Access Week in October. All young scientists in India should join the celebration and pledge to make their research publications freely available on the Internet.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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