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Monday, December 06, 2021

Scientific temper

Sangh Parivar should listen to the prime minister, lay off the unscientific claims and tantrums.

By: Express News Service |
January 6, 2015 12:18:04 am

When he took office, Prime Minister Narendra Modi seemed to put his shoulder behind the space programme, taking the trouble to be present at important launches, applauding milestones. Now, with his address to the Indian Science Congress, he may have begun to lay out a national vision for science and technology. His colleagues in the Sangh Parivar, who have been making some absurd claims about the antiquity of Indian science, should listen to him. Nurturing the scientific temper would result in accelerated development. Foisting science upon antiquity would only create a false sense of pride.

Significantly, the PM has elevated internet access to the level of a basic right, on par with the right to education. Other ideas include channelling corporate social responsibility funds to research, and recognition of the importance of innovation: “science is universal, but technology can be local”. The PM has also proposed a regulatory framework for biotechnology, nanotechnology, agricultural and clinical research. Without quite using the word, he has also talked of the need for multidisciplinary work, which promises high return on investment.

For now, though, this is only a collection of good ideas. There are contradictions that will demand resolution. For instance, the PM stresses the need for R&D, which can be rapidly encashed for development, and also speaks of the need for fundamental research, which is a long-term investment. How are their competing claims on budgets to be accommodated? Serious tensions could be created by the vision itself. If science and technology are to be harnessed to the objective of national development, room must also be made for the disinterested research and academic autonomy from which most great scientific breakthroughs stem.

And Modi’s proposal to recapture the romance of science and technology by making it the theme of the Republic Day parade could turn out to be dreadfully Soviet. Yet, having said that, the PM has used the occasion of the Indian Science Congress to push forward some worthy ideas that deserve attention. Now, if only he could get sections of the Sangh Parivar, which have delusions of ancient grandeur, to listen to him.

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