Increase funds to ICMR for robust research: Par panel

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A parliamentary panel has sought increased fund allocation to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) as it fears that a funds crunch will adversely affect the research activities and development of new drugs, vaccines and diagnostics in the country.

The panel, in its 106th report on Demands for Grants 2018-19 for the department of health, extended its support to the department’s demand for additional funds to the tune of Rs 350 crore. The department had cited less allocation of funds to the ICMR against its projected allocation.
The committee emphasised that the ICMR being the only custodian of health research activities needed to be promoted and encouraged so that tangible outcomes are witnessed for various health care challenges.

“The committee would like to urge upon the Ministry of Finance to increase the budgetary allocation to the Department of Health Research so that the latter is able to ensure continuity in critical health research,” the report said.
ICMR is an apex organisation to formulate, conduct, coordinate and promote biomedical research. It is one of the oldest medical research bodies in the world funded by the Ministry of Health.

The council’s research priorities coincide with the national health programmes such as control and management of communicable diseases, fertility control, maternal and child health and control of nutritional disorders.
The parliamentary panel also recommended the health department to formulate a comprehensive action plan while projecting its funds requirement before the Ministry of Finance and observed that constraints of funds should not come in the way of the medical research.
The committee said that the Department of Health Research has not been effective in persuading the Ministry of Finance for seeking required funds and therefore, the additional funds are received at the fag end of the financial year.

It recommended that the health department be more proactive in holding pre-budget discussions and forwarding the proposals for supplementary grant in order to ensure that the funds are released well in advance.
The panel also flagged under-utilisation of funds with respect to certain schemes like development of tools to prevent outbreak of epidemics (33.20 per cent), Human Resource Development for Health Research (53.15 per cent), Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) (69.68 per cent) among other.

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