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Indicating that he was not entirely satisfied with the work being done by the scientific community, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has told a group of top officials from related departments that he was expecting much more from scientists in finding solutions to important problems like malnutrition.
In a nearly 90-minute interaction with Secretaries of scientific departments on Tuesday, the first such meeting in over a year, Modi said he was not competent enough to tell them (the scientists) how to figure out the solutions, but was disappointed that the scientific community had not fully lived up to its potential, sources told The Indian Express.
“He said the scientists have an immense duty towards the country, much more than perhaps they themselves realise… And while basic science research was all very good, and there was need to invest effort and money in basic research, scientists must also be able to come out with solutions to societal problems. He stressed a lot on translational research,” said a source.
A government statement said Modi emphasised that the priority was to “apply science” to solve the country’s problems. He pointed to grassroots innovations happening in various parts of the country and asked scientists to ensure that these are properly documented and scaled up to be used by a larger community.
Modi is learnt to have given the example of Israel, a country he visited recently, to make his point about science and innovation leading the country’s progress. He also cited the air pollution problem in Delhi, and said he was yet to see the scientific community unitedly focusing their energies on finding a solution, sources said.
He stressed a lot on outreach activities and told the officers to develop public interfaces of laboratories and research institutions to spread awareness about science and its possibilities. In this regard, he is learnt to have remarked that it was the responsibility of the scientific community to ensure that a 15-year-old girl, who would become a mother in a few years, knows how to take care of her nutrition.
Modi said scientists and the institutions they run must engage with the youth and inspire them to take up science as their career. He also told them to offer leadership positions to young scientists.
Besides the Secretaries, Principal Scientific Advisor to the Prime Minister R Chidambaram, NITI Aayog member V K Saraswat and CEO of NITI Aayog Amitabh Kant were also present at the meeting. The scientific officials made a presentation on the work being done in different fields, especially related to the government’s priority areas, but a source said the Prime Minister did not seem very impressed.
Modi told the officers to identify important deliverables in different areas, with clear timelines, and also asked them to take on a few targets for the 75th year of India’s independence in 2022.