Department of Science and Technology (DST), under Science for Equity Empowerment and Development (SEED) Division, initiates an Science and Technology (S&T) intervention with primary aim to address challenges pertaining to local area, people and resources of Arid, Semi-Arid Regions and Cold Desert Regions (ASACODER), thereby enhancing the quality-of-life of people living in these difficult areas.
Various S&T based interventions that could be extended to these geographical areas, include adaptive Research & Development (R&D), field-testing of available technology packages and transfer of technology to provide enhanced livelihood opportunities, drudgery reduction leading to better quality-of-life for the communities living in the Arid, Semi-Arid and Cold Desert Regions.
Special Programmes-North-East region
Department of Biotechnology (DBT) set up the North Eastern Region-Biotechnology Programme Management Cell (NER-BPMC) through Biotech Consortium India Limited (BCIL) in 2009-10, for coordination and monitoring of biotechnology programmes in the North Eastern States of India as part of its commitment towards the promotion of biotechnology activities in the North Eastern Region.
The NER-BPMC works in close cooperation with various government agencies/ministries/ departments at the central and state levels, along with universities and research institutions for development and implementation of various programmes.
NER-BPMC has initiated a number of activities towards biotech based development of the NER in the following areas:
NER-Scented Rice: The scheme has implemented during 2016-17 to ameliorate the agronomic characteristics of this aromatic rice. 28 projects involving 28 institutions including NER are part of this mega consortia mode project in NER. AR varieties are of high value both in terms of their unique and delicious edible medicinal properties. For example, Black Rice of Imphal valley is known to possess antioxidant and anti-diabetic properties.
NER-Banana: A consortium-based banana research program has been initiated to cater to the biotechnological needs of banana production in NER. The research aspects of the consortium are Banana Biodiversity; Pathogen detection and control; Tissue culture; Value addition; Post-harvest loss minimization and Down-streaming and processing. Forty Eight projects are involving more than 80 scientists from NER and other parts of the country running this mega consortium project in NER.
Jackfruit and commercialization & processing: A multi-centric programme on value addition in jackfruit and commercialization of its processed products aims at identification of superior genotypes of jackfruit and their molecular characterization on the one hand, and validation and commercialization of technologies for value added products from Jackfruit, on the other.
Value Chain Development in Citrus programme: The Value Chain Development in Citrus programme aims at using modern technologies for mass production of citrus plants and value-added citrus products. This collaborative DBT programme is being implemented by ICAR-RC, Nagaland; ICAR-RCfor NEH Region, Shillong, Meghalaya; NRC for Citrus (ICAR), Nagpur, and lIT, Kharagpur, West Bengal.
Eco-friendly agriculture practices: A multi-centric network programme has been implemented for promoting eco-friendly agriculture practices in 14 districts across all 8 NE states, with emphasis upon the application of bio-inputs (biopesticides, biofertilizers) for organic farming of key high value crops (HVCs) of NER, mass multiplication of required bio-inputs and evaluation of their efficacy.
Multicentric programme on assessment of impact of Jhum cultivation: DBT has also supported a multicentric programme on assessment of impact of Jhum cultivation on soil microbiota and on restoration of diverse agro-ecosystem in NER.
R&D Twinning Programme
The programme has made a huge impact by catalysing vibrant collaborations between institutions from NER and those from the rest of India, evolving NER-specific projects and their implementation across all eight states of the region. More than 480 Twinning projects have been implemented, addressing issues in Healthcare (Medical biotechnology), Agriculture (Agri-biotechnology), Livestock & Fisheries (Animal and Aquaculture Biotechnology), and in the areas of Environment, Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (MAP) with specific relevance to developmental needs of the region; nearly 250 research papers have been published in peer-reviewed journals and more than 1000 young scientists of NER have been trained in advanced biotechnology.
Centre of Excellence (CoE)
1. Chemical Ecology of North Eastern Region has been initiated involving scientists from reputed national institutions (National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), Indian Institute of Science (IISc), University of Agricultural Sciences) and NER institutions.
2. A Centre of Excellence in Agriculture Biotechnology named DBT-AAU Centre for Agri Biotech
3. Fisheries & Aquaculture Biotechnology (FAB) has been supported to Assam Agricultural University, Jorhat and College of Fisheries, CAU, Tripura respectively.
4. Animal House facility is being established at RMRC, Dibrugarh (Assam), which will be accessible to entire biomedical research community of NER for carrying out critical animal experiments in disease biology, molecular medicine, vaccinology and pharmacology.
5. Advance Animal Disease Diagnostic & Management Consortium (ADMaC)” has been initiated by involving NIVEDI, Bangalore; NRC on Equines, Hissar; NIHSAD, Bhopal and institutions from NER.
6. Advanced Animal Disease Diagnosis and Management Consortium (ADMaC)
7. Sophisticated biotech infrastructural facilities at National Research Centre on Mithun at Jharnapani, Medziphema (Nagaland) and National Research Centre on Yak at Dirang (Arunachal Pradesh)
8. DBT has established a network of 126 Biotech Hubs across NER, providing necessary infrastructure in universities/ colleges/ institutions and the required training in sophisticated technologies so as to support and promote biotechnology education and research.
9. “X-Ray Crystallography Facility” at IIT Guwahati under one of the twinning projects, “Studies on structure of enzymes and their interaction with nanostructure materials for bioelectronics devices and other applications”.
Overseas Associateship Scheme for NER Scientists: An Overseas Associateship Scheme for NER Scientists aims to promote capacity building in cutting edge areas of biotechnology and life sciences. The Award promotes and supports scientists of merit in their pursuit of skill enhancement in scientific research/training in Overseas laboratories for short term as well as long term. So far, 205 scientists have been awarded the Associateship.
Biotechnology Labs in Senior Secondary schools (BLiSS): DBT has initiated a scheme for establishing “Biotechnology Labs in Senior Secondary schools (BLiSS)” across all 8 states of NER. In the first round, 88 Senior Secondary Schools from NER have been selected by DBT for support under the BLiSS scheme, with financial support of upto Rs. 18.00 lakhs in 3 years.
“Visiting Research Professorship (VRP)”: The Scheme is utilize the expertise of outstanding biotechnology professionals for bringing advancement in the Biotechnology and Life Science related activities in various institutions of research and higher learning in the NER States of India. Scientists/faculty from reputed institutions in India shown their interest in sharing their domain expertise with NER institutions through this scheme. In the first phase, 32 scientists/faculties have been selected for “VRP in NER” scheme.
North Eastern Bioinformatics Network (NEBINet): Twenty nine bioinformatics centers have been established in all the 8 states of the NER and are networked as the North Eastern Bioinformatics Network (NEBINet). These Bioinformatics centres are provided with latest IT equipment to support the research activities of the host institutions in NER. Two new bioinformatics centres were established during the last year, at College of Fisheries, Central Agricultural University, Lembucherra, Tripura and National Research Centre on Mithun (ICAR), Nagaland.