Total expenditures on research and development amounted to 41.9 billion rupees in 1987–97; India had an estimated 149,000 scientists and engineers and 108,000 technicians engaged in research and development that year. Allocations are divided among government and industry, with government providing the major share. There has been a marked growth in the training of engineers and technicians. In 1987–97, science and engineering students accounted for 25% of college and university enrollments. Among the technological higher schools are the Indian Institute of Science at Bangalore and the Indian Institutes of Technology at Mumbai (formerly Bombay), Delhi, Kanpur, Kharagpur, and Madras. In 1947, there were 620 colleges and universities; by 1996, that number was nearly 7,700. One of the primary science and technology issues facing India is a "brain drain." Over 13,000 Indian students annually seek science and engineering degrees in the United States. Such an exodus may greatly reduce the quality of science and engineering education in India.
There are more than 2,500 national research and development institutions connected with science and technology in India. Principal government agencies engaged in scientific research and technical development are the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, the Ministry of Atomic Energy, and the Ministry of Electronics. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (founded in 1942) has 39 national laboratories under its umbrella. In March 1981, a cabinet committee, headed by the prime minister, was established to review science and technology programs and to decide future policy.
An importer of nuclear technology since the 1960s, India tested its own underground nuclear device for the first time in 1974 at Pokaran, in Rajasthan. In May 1996, India once again performed nuclear tests, dropping three bombs into 700-foot-deep shafts in the desert at Pokoran, with an impact of 80 kilotons. Pakistan responded later the same month with tests of its own. The first Indian-built nuclear power plant, with two 235-MW heavy-water reactors, began operating in July 1983, and an experimental fast-breeder reactor was under construction.
The country's largest scientific establishment is the Bhabha Atomic Research Center at Trombay, near Mumbai (formerly Bombay), which has four nuclear research reactors and trains 150 nuclear scientists each year. In the area of space technology, India's first communications satellite, Aryabhata, was launched into orbit by the former USSR on 19 April 1975, and two additional satellites were orbited by Soviet rockets in 1979 and 1981. The Indian Space Research Organization constructed and launched India's first satellite-launching vehicle, the SLV-3, from its Vikram Sarabhai Space Center at Sriharikota on 18 July 1980; the four-stage, solid-fuel rocket put a 35 kg (77 lb) Rohini satellite into near-earth orbit. Indian-built telecommunications satellites have been launched into orbit from Cape Canaveral, Florida, by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration, by the European Space Agency, and from French Guiana. India has established a satellite-tracking station at Kavalur, in Tamil Nadu. In 1984, the first Indo-Soviet manned mission was completed successfully; in 1985, two Indians were selected for an Indo-US joint shuttle flight. An important international sciences program is the United States-India Fund (USIF), through which scientists and engineers participate in Indo-US joint research projects at 15 institutions in each country. Projects include earthquake, atmospheric, marine, energy, environment, medical, and life sciences.
Major learned societies in the country are the Indian Academy of Sciences (founded in 1934 in Bangalore), the Indian National Science Academy (founded in 1935 in New Delhi), and the National Academy of Sciences (founded in 1930 in Allahabad).