Source: The Hitavada      Date: 05 Jan 2019 10:14:04

THE new slogan given by Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi -- Jai Anusandhan (Hail Research) -- at the 106th session of the Indian Science Congress at Jalandhar has a special significance in national context. The Prime Minister has insisted that scientific research is the key to future growth and balanced development. Even though he has not stated anything very new, the emphasis at this point in time makes all the difference. For, as India stands on the cross-roads of past and future, it requires to bolster its reliance on science, which can be achieved only through more intensive and extensive inquiry into various scientific issues. Hence the slogan Jai Anusandhan, whose implementation will give overall development a great and vigorous push.

Of course, all Prime Ministers of India have given meaningful messages in their customary inaugural addresses at the Indian Science Congress for the past so many years. Each of them has come up with innovative ideas to push the progress of Indian sciences. Some of those ideas were as basic as promoting systematic studies of the sciences at school and college levels. Yet, on the implementation level, the nation has not responded appropriately to such messages, which we feel compelled but sorry to note at this juncture.

The trouble has been at both the ends of the continuum -- the Government that leads the implementation, and the scientific community that acts on the ideation. There were serious concerns about paucity of funds at the Government levels. But there also were serious issues about the manner in which the scientific community proceeded with its stated mandate. On most issues, the candle did not burn at all, let alone at both ends. Most serious among all issues, however, was an absence of an appropriate research culture. This might have stemmed from a wrong approach of education in sciences from grass-root levels. This might have stemmed also from an absence of seriousness of the country’s national leadership about the sciences, no matter the political tall talk. In sum total, therefore, research was carried out in India only in spurts and pockets.

This was despite the fact that India’s scientific community did produce world leaders in the past hundred-plus years. These iconic scientists worked the hardest with only piecemeal support from the Government and created their highly efficient, even though somewhat personalised domains and eco-systems to push India’s space and atomic sciences programmes. Barring a few of such examples, scientific research in India depended highly on foreign help in terms of know-how and even funds in quite some cases. International cooperation in sciences has always been a hallmark of human togetherness while exploring newer frontiers. Yet, most unfortunately, India depended very heavily on foreign assistance in its research projects; one, because the country lacked financial resources, and two, because it did not have scientific knowledge base.

Added to this discomfiture was the sluggish approach to teaching of mathematics and sciences at school and college levels. It was because of this lacuna that India did not have an appropriately embellished talent pool in the sciences. As a result, the nation suffered for long decades, even though Indian scientists kept making their mark internationally under foreign banners.

Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi’s new slogan Jai Anusandhan should now lead to a fresh and comprehensive campaign on scientific research in all fields. Some elements may still harp on paucity of resources. But that will be the biggest nonsense ever as an excuse to hide behind. If there is a will, there is a way, and Prime Minister’s new slogan should pave that way going past the cantankerous bean counters that have often impeded many critical projects in the past seventy-plus years. When the Prime Minister is leading the way through a thoughtful new slogan, others must follow suit and join in the national drive to promote research in the pure and applied sciences wholeheartedly.