News blog

Unknown appointed as new India science minister

Posted on behalf of K. S. Jayaraman.

India’s newly elected government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has appointed a first-time parliamentarian to be science minister.

Jitendra Singh, 57, a physician — as well as an author and newspaper columnist — was a professor of diabetes and endocrinology at the Government Medical College and Hospital Jammu until 2012, when he became a politician. He ran for the first time as a BJP candidate in the recent parliamentary elections in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, and won. On 26 May Prime Minister Narendra Modi inducted Singh into his government as a junior minister, unlike his predecessor, Jaipal Reddy, who held cabinet rank.

Singh has been given independent charge of the departments of science and technology and Earth sciences. The departments of space and atomic energy will continue to be directly under the prime minister as before, but Singh will oversee their activities.

Few in the science community had heard of Singh until he took the oath. “We were expecting a senior figure and veteran politician to head this very important ministry, with cabinet rank,” says Dipankar Chatterji, a biologist at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore and president of Bangalore-based Indian Academy of Sciences. “But we have to give the new man a chance,” he adds. “Being a newcomer does have an advantage as, given his excellent credentials as a physician, he may be a much-needed breath of fresh air.”

C.N.R. Rao, who was science adviser to the previous government, says that the rank of junior minister given to Singh shows that science is not regarded as important by Modi’s government.

Observers say that although it may take some time for the new minister to settle down, he cannot delay the important appointments to top science posts that have been vacant for months. The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), with 40 laboratories under its control, has been headless for five months, and since the secretary to the department of science and technology — India’s main agency for funding basic research and promoting science and technology activities — retired in April, his position has not been filled.


  1. Report this comment

    shail sharma said:

    Although experience is wealth, but I disagree that a newcomer has little to offer. Fresh inputs are mostly implimented by the new entrants. BJP has done a splendid job in bringing new faces.

    Shail Sharma

  2. Report this comment

    Anurag Chaurasia said:

    Human civilization has seen many important discoveries by those who never had any formal science degree/education, So may i request the editor to delete the “Unknown…” from the title of this story. Besides appointments another important decision we are expecting from this government is regarding GM crops, a suspicious positive permission in last hour [though it was banned by previous environment minister of the same govt] by previous government need to be thoroughly investigated while “rigorous scientific evaluation before permitting the GM crops” as stated in present govt. manifesto need to be immediately implemented.

    Anurag chaurasia, ICAR, India, +919452196686[M]

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    Dr Pankaj Gadhia said:

    I think we should give him breathing time to understand his job. As an Indian science minister the job is very tough specially for distribution of funds. Let us hope for the betterment of science in India
    Dr. Pankaj Gadhia

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    arvind behal said:

    Well the so called Unknown had announced a very good decision that Science meetings abroad will be lead by Scientists and not by ministers, to utilize the meetings at their best. The author forgot that in Indian Govt offices decisions are made by expert bureaucrats, ministers just announce. Even the last Govt did not have an expert Science Minister.

    Arvind Behal, Research Scholar

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      Sai Siddhardha said:

      I’m little skeptical with the usage of word “unknown” as it sounds with dubious meanings.
      Although its well thought for we (scientists, students and people of science) to aspire someone from proper science background to become science minister the same rationale applies for someone to be a miner to take up the coal ministry and a waged labour to take up the ministry of labour (Just an analogy but appears a bit comical).
      This argument is practically impossible, instead politicians can seek the advise of expert men who are in those relevant fields as advisors to re-shape their particular ministries.

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    Saumitra Mukherjee said:

    It is immaterial who is the minister,however it is important to see the way the person handles Scientists of India. Indian science needs fearless people who can identify the scientists from all branches of science for the development of India.No nepotism, and no inbreeding can definitely be the solution of Indian Science.

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