The Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST) is working on a proposal to increase the retirement age of scientists to 65.
Its larger purpose, sources suggest, is to stem the flight of its top, senior scientists to universities and the Indian Institutes of Technology, where the retirement age is 65, The Hindu has learnt.
At present, scientists in most wings of the government retire at 60, while those working at the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) retire at 62.
A note by the MoST issued on October 6 this year says that a “proposal for enhancement of retirement age of scientists in autonomous bodies of science departments/Ministries is under way.” This note, sent to 14 autonomous bodies funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), asks the heads of institutes to furnish: the total sanctioned strength of scientists in their AB (autonomous bodies), the number of scientists retiring in the next five years (November 2023–March 2028), and the “additional financial implication of the enhanced retirement age”. The Hindu has viewed this note.
Abhay Karandikar, who took charge as Secretary in the Ministry on October 3, said he was “unaware” and declined comment. The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and the DST come within the MoST.
Sources in the MoST told The Hindu that the proposal stemmed from the DBT where, over the years, concerns have been raised that several senior scientists approaching retirement were quitting institutes for careers in academia.
“The aim is to bring parity. Why should our (Ministry-affiliated) scientists be disadvantaged? However, it is still an early-stage proposal and under discussion,” a senior scientist, aware of matters, told The Hindu. The DBT has reportedly already sent details of eligible scientists for evaluation. Scientists who work in autonomous institutions of the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) are also likely to come under the ambit of the proposal.
2015 proposal shelved
This isn’t the first time that the government has mooted raising the retirement age of scientists. A draft Cabinet note in 2015, led by the MoST, had said the move would bring parity in service conditions of research scientists working in different arms of the government.
So far, the general trend in the Ministries has been to give scientists nearing retirement, ‘extensions’ that may increase their tenure by two or up to five years. The Modi government, one scientist said, has done away with such extensions and instead opted for short-term contracts to retain valuable, senior employees. However the 2015 proposal, despite being discussed publicly at the highest levels of government, appears to have been buried.