REVAMPING SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY IN MANIPUR : An open letter to the Chief Minister, Manipur

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Hon’ble Chief Minister,

Please allow me to draw your kind attention to the conditions of the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and Manipur Science and Technology Council (MASTEC) which I would describe as not very admirable today. Both the organizations are in debilitating conditions languishing for your attention that may restore to them their organizational health and purpose of existence.

I beg to introduce myself as former Executive Director of MASTEC. Before I left in 2002, I built MASTEC from scratches to one of the most active State S&T Councils in India. I worked hard as the lead person to bring the Institute of Bioresources and Sustainable Development (IBSD), Imphal, a national research institute with lots of promises. The purpose of my letter to you is to apprise you of what could be brilliantly achieved by Manipur when we make S&T organization resourceful.

Under the S&T Policy of the Government of India, DST and MASTEC are mandated as the prime movers of S&T interventions in public life, industry and economy of the state right under your authority as the Chairman of MASTEC. The S&T intervention happens when we connect dots in hundreds of project and program leads available at various institutions nationwide. This will not be possible when both MASTEC and DST are relegated to dungeons where they rot right now.

After more than two decades of establishment, both DST and MASTEC have been operating from very poorly maintained rental houses in the shantytown of Old Lambulane surrounded by filths and foul smells without the semblance of a working office. The staffing and the projects/programs at both the organizations dwindled during this period and the nonsensical rivalry between the two persisted throughout that maimed both to their own perils.

As both organizations continued limping and dragging, many programs (NRDMS, MANIREDA, National Biogas Mission, Information Technology, Patent Facilitating Cell of TIFAC, Science Park etc.) went either sick or detached for a new lease of life. As both DST and MASTEC degenerated, the morale of the scientific staff went down abysmally low.

In this age of science and technology, we do not need to reemphasize the role of S&T organizations in bringing progress to the state. Looking at the present status of DST and MASTEC, it seems to me that the government and the people have lost this vision. We need to expect a lot more from the two organizations and appropriately empower them to deliver.

When there are numerous avenues for inter-agency working opened to these two organizations for S&T intervention in Manipur for vibrant work, there are again hundreds of programs at Central Government Departments and their autonomous institutions to support MASTEC and DST with funds and collaborations. The two organizations should be resourceful enough to take full advantage of this inter-institutional mechanism that exists.

The state government may not need pumping money into these two organizations to make them resourceful. The following measures may reinvigorate the S&T organization in the state.

  1. Appoint a well qualified scientist with proven skills in scientific research and project management as Secretary DST/Member Secretary MASTEC. This can be a tenure appointment for 5 years.Rationale:  Being a small department, S&T does not get due attention when an IAS Officer acts as its Secretary. The matter is worse when the IAS officer is in charge of another big department or when he is from non-science background.  A scientist only can lead a scientific organization with dedication and vision. This is the norm in all S&T departments of the Government of India and in some of the states. Having a scientist will facilitate making the mission clear, building team by removing DST-MASTEC rivalry and, enhancing inter-agency cooperation/collaborations to cause true S&T intervention for socio-economic development in the state.
  1. Review and scale up the Recruitment Rules for the Directors of DST and MASTEC so that the incumbents have adequately high education and experience to lead the organizations with full competency. They should be highly skilled in innovative project development, fund procurement and project management.Rationale: Opportunities of funded S&T projects are plenty but these are wasted when the organization cannot develop creative, innovative projects for posing to funders. State S&T should be able to mobilize funds through sponsored projects/programmes worth multiple times its plan allocations. This is possible only under the leadership of competent directors.
  1. Involve scientists and policy makers effectively by regularly holding meetings of S&T Council chaired by the Chief Minister.Rationale: S&T intervention requires building an understanding of the technology needs of the state and letting other development departments know what are available with S&T. This is possible when regular S&T Council takes place by involving S&T professionals at universities, technical institutes, R&D organisations and development departments. At the moment there is a stark disconnect between scientists / technologists and the state S&T organization.
  1. Put MASTEC and DST under one roof in a dignified office building of their own.Rationale: This is essential for generating pride of ownership and identity to the workers and for reducing red tape in decision making through avoidance of file routing through the Central Secretariat. The already constructed office building for MASTEC and MANIREDA at Takyelpat Institutional Area can be occupied by both DST and MASTEC together.

I fully appreciate that putting all departments in the right perspectives is not easy in a strife-torn state like Manipur. But, this does not warrant us to obfuscate the importance of S&T in socio-economic agenda. I fear that continued neglect of DST and MASTEC may lead to their paralysis and eventual death. You can save the scientific temperament of the modern Manipuri society by saving these two organizations.

I do sincerely hope that you will initiate prudent actions to make State S&T institution a place where creative and innovative ideas blossom.

Sincerely,

Dr. R. K. Shyamananda Singh

Former Executive Director, MASTEC

The author can be reached at rajkuss(at)gmail(dot)com

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