Address by Governor at the Joint Inaugural function of the 87th Annual Session of NASI and Symposium at Savitribai Phule Pune University, Pune
Address by Shri CH. Vidyasagar Rao, Governor of Maharashtra at the Joint Inaugural function of the 87th Annual Session of NASI and Symposium on “Basic Research – its role in national development”at the Auditorium of IUCAA, Savitribai Phule Pune University Campus, Ganeshkhind Road, Pune at 9.35 am on Friday 8th December 2017
Dr Anil Kakodkar, President of National Academy of Sciences India (NASI), Dr Kiran Kumar, Chairman, ISRO, Dr Manju Sharma, Convenor of the Symposium, Dr N R Karmalkar, Vice Chancellor, Savitribai Phule Pune University, Prof Dilip Dhavale, Chairman, NASI – Pune Chapter, Dr Veena Tandon, Organizing Secretary, NASI, distinguished delegates, science leaders, researchers, teachers, students, ladies and gentlemen,
I am pleased to associate myself with the inauguration of the 87th session of the National Academy of Sciences India and the Symposium on “Basic Research – its role in national development”.
The best brains in science from across the country, and some even from abroad, have assembled in this auditorium and I extend a warm welcome to each one of you.
I am particularly happy that the Academy is holding its annual session in Pune, the city known for its great tradition of scholarship.
Pune had been home to many eminent thought-leaders, scientists and mathematicians like Anandi Gopal Joshi, Shreeram Abhyankar, D. R. Bhandarkar, V.V. Narlikar, P. V. Sukhatme, D. D. Kosambi, S. P. Agharkar and Banoo Coyaji to name a few. They have made pioneering contributions to their respective fields and to the society at large. The city has maintained the rich tradition and continues to contribute to the scientific growth and development in a significant way.
I congratulate the Academy and more particularly its dynamic President Dr Anil Kakodkar for their efforts in hosting this session. I also congratulate the Chairman, Members and the Organizing Secretary of the Symposium on Basic Sciences.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The National Academy of Sciences India has been India’s oldest and the largest science organization which has played a crucial role in popularizing and promoting science in the country.
This is an occasion to remember with gratefulness eminent scientist Prof. Meghanad Saha who mooted the idea of setting up the Academy with a view to bringing the researchers and scientists of different disciplines and regions on a common platform to discuss and find scientific solutions to the problems of the country.
Indians have made unique contributions to the realm of science in the ancient past.
Some of our achievements in science have been spectacular.
Mathematician Aryabhata was the first person to create a symbol for zero and it was through his efforts that mathematical operations like addition and subtraction started using the digit, zero.
One of the notable scientists of the ancient India was Acharya Kanada who is said to have devised the atomic theory, centuries before John Dalton was born. He speculated the existence of anu or a small particle, much like an atom.
Sushruta Samhita is considered to be one of the most comprehensive textbooks on ancient surgery.
Charaka authored the Charaka Samhita, on the ancient science of Ayurveda. Charaka’s ancient manual on preventive medicine remained a standard work on the subject for two millennia and was translated into many foreign languages.
Mathematician and Astronomer Bhaskaracharya, who in the 12th Century meditated in the Sahyadri hills near Jalgaon, was the first to accurately calculate the time taken by the Earth to orbit the Sun, as 365.2588 days.
Unfortunately, long spells of foreign domination for centuries pushed Indian science in the background. It is quite reassuring that the Academy, led by such distinguished science leaders as Prof. M. G. K. Menon, Prof M S Swaminathan and now Dr Anil Kakodkar, has been working for the propagation and promotion of science once again. I have no doubt in my mind that we shall reclaim our rightful place as a science leader among the comity of nations in the coming years. You must construct a bridge between our ancient past and the modern present.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The theme of the Symposium, namely “Basic Research – its role in national development” is extremely relevant in today’s context when we are keen to leverage science for national development.
India can address its challenges like poverty, hunger, ignorance, disease, sanitation, malnutrition, water – and energy security only through the power of science, technology and innovation.
During the last few decades, India has made spectacular progress in the fields of Information Technology, Space Science, Nuclear Science, Pharmaceuticals, Medicine and so on. These are indeed satisfying developments.
However the picture of basic science education, let alone research – in the country is worrying and should concern us all.
In the past, the best and the brilliant students invariably opted for science. Today, students have a wider choice of non-Science subjects. Further, there are various career options in other streams. As a result, there has been a steady yet noticeable decline in the number of students opting for science at the Under Graduate and Post Graduate levels. I sincerely feel that we need urgent intervention to reverse the trend and make science the preferred choice of meritorious students.
Teachers in primary, secondary and higher secondary schools have to play a significant role in popularizing science. It is equally important that science teachers teach the subject in an interesting manner. This will require capacity building of teachers and organizing regular workshops for them. This will also require a close rapport between our institutions of science on one hand and schools and colleges on the other.
India is suffering from a huge shortage of qualified teachers, more so in the stream of science. It is not uncommon to see science subjects being taught by history or art teachers. Our schools are incubators of tomorrow’s science leaders. We cannot expect to produce scientists, innovators and researchers if we do not pay adequate attention to our schools.
In some cases, managements themselves are not keen to recruit qualified teachers for the simple reason that they will have to pay decent salaries to qualified teachers. There is a need to conduct academic audit of schools and colleges to ensure that schools have good number of qualified teachers, especially to teach subjects like science and mathematics.
As Chancellor of 20 universities having nearly 2.5 million students, I find a strange disconnect between our scientific institutions and our schools. I believe that our scientific institutions must not function in their solitary exclusion. There should be a regular interface between these institutions and our schools and colleges and the general public.
Many institutions of science were set up during the pre- Independence era. States have their own institutes of science. But many of these institutions are in a state of utter neglect and apathy. Our Institutes of Science and University departments of Science are functioning on barely 30 to 40 percent of sanctioned faculty strength. We need suggestions from you to tackle these crises and make our institutions and departments of science dynamic centres of learning, research and innovation once again.
Unlike in the past, today there is multiplicity of media available for propagation of science. There was only on television channel in the country for many years. Today we do not have the exact count of television channels available in the country. There are also radio channels and internet-based news portals. Social and digital media have made a revolution. And yet I find that science is missing from public discourse in the media.
Science is not succeeding in attracting the interest of the people or mainstream media. I read somewhere that even the readership of popular science magazines has declined.
It is necessary that we should have good science communicators. In fact I do feel that every science organization and universities should have a Cell exclusively for science communication and interpretation.
Such Cell should be constantly engaging society and students about its activities. Today, mobile and smartphone penetration in India has increased. In fact, we are among the top mobile data users in the world. Science communicators must take advantage of technology tools to reach out to every citizen with authentic information or articles on science.
Last year I had attended a programme of Marathi Vigyan Parishad on the invitation of Dr Kakodkar. I do feel that such organisations must be strengthened and empowered. We must have such organizations for all Indian languages. It will help scientific knowledge percolate and diffuse to the last person in his mother tongue.
Many countries have Science Festival in schools and colleges. I think every science institution and every University Science department must organize a Science Festival annually. These institutions must explain to the people what are they doing for the society with public funds.
In recent years, several measures, policy interventions and program initiatives for promotion of research and development have been launched by the Government of India. The government has launched the Startup India programme to encourage innovation and enterprise. The government is also creating technology incubators in academic institutions. Basic research should remain the cornerstone of strategy of transformation in all areas.
The Academy’s initiative to organize this important discussion on the problems and prospects of basic research in India is therefore much timely.
I hope, the Academy will deliberate on the technical, scientific, as well as institutional and policy related issues in the context of the new programmes being launched by the Government. I have great expectations from this gathering of science leaders and I do hope that concrete and implementable recommendations would emerge from the meeting.
I congratulate the Academy for its excellent work and wish the delegates fruitful deliberations.
Jai Hind !! Jai Maharashtra !!