With ‘Science for Shaping the Future of India’ as the theme, the Indian Science Congress, a prestigious event of the country that popularises science and technology was organised in Kolkata during 3 to 7 January 2013. The event was divided into three sections – inauguration of the Centenary Session at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krinangan/Salt Lake Stadium, inauguration of the Children Science Congress, and Inauguration of Women Science Congress both at S N Bose National Centre for Basic Sciences, Salt Lake. In the days that followed over 600 papers were presented and several panel discussions involving the invited nobel laureates and other eminent persons were held.
The historic 100th Indian Science Congress was inaugurated by the Shri Pranab Mukherjee, President of India in the presence of Dr Manmohan Singh, the Indian Prime Minister. Shri M K Narayanan, Governor of West Bengal; Ms Mamata Banerjee; Chief Minister of West Bengal; S Jaipal Reddy, Union Minister of Science and Technology and Earth Sciences; members from central and state governments; Nobel Laureates; Abel Prize awardees; and many other distinguished guests were present at the inauguration.
The President, as he inaugurated the event called upon scientists to work for the promotion of a scientific culture for the shaping of the future. He added that he hoped to see India win a Nobel Prize in science very soon. Given that science-led innovation is the key to development, Dr Manmohan Singh unveiled the country’s Science, Technology and Innovation Policy 2013 that aims to put India among the top five science powerhouses in the world by 2020. Dr Singh emphasised that three things in India needed to be awarded utmost importance – food, water and energy. “The transformation of agriculture must be the top priority of our public policies, including science and technology policies. We must .. established leaders in science and technology [but] with emerging innovation powerhouses in our region”, added Dr Singh.
Former President of India and one of the most popular icon among children, Dr A P J Abdul Kalam inaugurated the Children Science Congress on January 4, 2013. The latter half of day saw the inauguration of the Women’s Science Congress by Shri S. Jaipal Reddy.
As the prestigious event with a huge congregation of scientists from all over the nation came to a close, a deep disconnect came to the fore. The need for scientific research in the sector of food, water and energy was reiterated by many – political leaders, planners and eminent scientists – Dr M S Swaminathan and Dr K Kasturirangan, Member, Planning Commission, and more. However a quick analysis of the 600 odd papers presented, threw light on the fact that the largest congregation in recent scientific history of the nation (15,500 scientists reportedly registered in the 100th Science Congress) seemed to lack focus on the three key requirements of the present day. Of the papers presented less that one per cent were related to water, three per cent to food, and a relatively higher, five per cent to energy. Although, it is imperative that scientists are allowed freedom of thought to enable innovative research, yet the gap between the political leaders, planners and scientific community is palpable.
It is this aspect that should be of greater concern to the people of India, rather than the public outrage about the alleged poor management of the event. In an open air stadium, fighting against inclement weather, with a Z plus security in tow, it would be uphill for any community, let alone the down-to-earth scientific one, to undertake a hospitality exercise. It is perhaps time that we focus on the need of the nation and target oriented scientific implementation that can serve the nation.