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Maharashtra announces fund for fighting pseudoscience

During his budget speech on Monday, deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar earmarked Rs 300 crores for creating this fund aimed at “inculcating a scientific temper in the future generation of the state”.

Written by Parthasarathi Biswas | Pune |
March 9, 2021 1:05:47 am
Ajit pawar newsDeputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar chaired the Covid-19 review meeting attended by public representatives, top bureaucrats and medical experts on Friday amid rising Covid-19 cases in the district (File)

In a first-of-its-kind initiative, the Maharashtra government has announced a fund to fight, what it called, the spread of pseudoscience. During his budget speech on Monday, deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar earmarked Rs 300 crores for creating this fund aimed at “inculcating a scientific temper in the future generation of the state”.

“At a time when pseudoscience is being deliberately spread, it is our responsibility to inculcate a scientific temper in the future generation of progressive Maharashtra. Accordingly, a state-of-the-art Rajiv Gandhi Science and Technology Park will be set up in each revenue headquarters district. It is expected to cost Rs 50 crore each and a total of Rs 300 crore,” Pawar said in his budget speech.

The details of the science and technology parks are still to be announced. But the fact that the government committed some funds to spread scientific temper was welcomed by rationalist groups. Hamid Dabholkar, son of murdered rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, who now runs his father’s Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samitee (ANIS), said even educated people, who otherwise do not believe in superstitions, are sometimes found propagating pseudoscience.

Dabholkar said prior to the budget announcement, his organisation had held several meetings with senior officials in the departments of social justice, education, and tribal development to urge them to take steps to ensure that institutions under them work towards inculcating scientific temper amongst the public.

Milind Deshmukh, who also works for ANIS, said his organisation had worked with Pune-based Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Research and Training Institute (BARTI) to formalise ways in which this objective could be achieved.

“ANIS and BARTI would soon come up with a curriculum in this regard,” Deshmukh told The Indian Express.

Welcoming the announcement, Deshmukh said the science and technology parks must work towards making “science-based evaluations” of all the claims that are often made. “In short, these parks should become laboratories where people would be encouraged to take up scientific studies of the dubious claims that are spread under the name of science,” he said.

ANIS has recently published a book detailing the spread and extent of pseudoscience in Maharashtra. This, Hamid Dabholkar said, was be the first ever book published in the this field. He also appealed to the state government to similar steps to popularise the anti-superstition bill in the state.

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