Questionable thrust

THE draft new technology policy (NTP), which the government circulated in 1993 for feedback, lacks clarity, sets some inappropriate priorities and does not adequately address how goals can be achieved, says a recent survey.

Some 600 scientists and engineers responded to questionnaires sent out by the Delhi-based National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies (NISTADS) to 2,000 staffers in 266 R&D institutions. The results of the survey were published in January this year.

Although 87 per cent of the respondents agreed that the draft had identified technological priorities, only 60 per cent felt that it had covered how they would be achieved. The respondents generally felt that it had provided strong direction to R&D institutes and industries but weak direction to financial institutions, economic ministries, social welfare organisations, and educational and training institutes.

Sixty-five per cent felt that all aims of the NTP should not get equal priority. The most favoured aim was "to ensure accessibility of technological devices to all segments of society" and the least favoured, to "upgrade traditional skills and reduce drudgery, keeping in view the special needs of women and the weaker sections".

A large majority (87 per cent) felt that specific targets and stipulated time periods should have been laid down. And about half the respondents thought that the thrust areas were not relevant to the present socio-economic scenario.

The NTP's intention to double S&T humanpower by 2000 AD found few takers. Most respondents (74 per cent) did not feel that a shortage of personnel retards technological progress, and 56 per cent felt that there were no job prospects for increased humanpower.

In contrast to the proposal "to further enlarge the base of polytechnic, technical and vocational institutes", over 60 per cent favoured increasing the number of IIT graduates and PhDs in science and engineering so that they could deal with technologies in frontier areas.

Ashok Jain, director of NISTADS, who coordinated the survey, hopes that the survey's results will be considered while formulating the final NTP, which is due to be adopted this year.