[Essay] Why India must Value Science ?

In the contemporary era, world without science is unimaginable. Even the progress of world can be accessed in terms of scientific improvement. We, Indians, had been the curious pursuant to scientific enquiry in the beginning but slowed down in its realization in later stages. The modern world demands us to fast track scientific orientation rigorously to sustain and develop with changing world

In the common parlance, science is systematic and logical analysis of an event in a manner so as the anticipate the future status of it. It, as concept is very old and can explain almost each and every aspect of our activity systematically. Earlier when it was more applied on non living things, even the social and psychological aspect can also be explained now systematically substantially. 

Contemporarily, science is understood in relation to high technologies (i.e. the application part of science) such as IT, software development, communication technologies, space, robotics, nano technologies etc, and the word ‘science and technology’ are used synonymously.

Science in India – Historical perspective

It has been said that Indians are more religious than scientific. India is the land where the religions grew and flourished. The spiritual temper of Indians prevented them to enquire about the things and events happened around. While the renaissance in West led to the development of empiricism at high pace in 12th century, Indians witnessed the renaissance – called Indian renaissance - in the 18th century even in the realm of religions. Indian scientific temper was to be found in the religions which were based on un-enquired truth. However, while there is some merit in the argument, it is not absolutely correct. Indians are the pioneer of science. Atharveda was the pure scientific work of Vedic age. Aryabhatta, Bhaskaracharya, charaka were the prominent scientist more before the world learnt science. It was all in the realm of religions that scientific temper went hand in hand with spiritual temper. And also, religion is not against the science. As Vivekananda has rightly put, “religion is the science of consciousness”.

However it should be acknowledged that the pursuit of spiritualism has shifted our focus from the science in the modern sense of the word. But, knowing that spiritualism is not any way is obstacle to finding science; all we need is to fast track our spirit for science.

Need for Science in India

21st century is witnessing exponential rate of development driven by scientific researches in almost every filed? Science and Technology have emerged as the major drivers of nation development globally. India aspiring for faster, sustainable and inclusive growth need to adopt science as an instrument for that.

India’s Scientific Policy Resolution (SPR) of 1958 resolved to “foster, promote and sustain” the cultivation of science and scientific research in all its aspects. Then, Technology was expected to flow from countries infrastructure. The Technology Policy Statement (TPS) of 1983 emphasized the need to attain technological competence and self-reliance. The Science and Technology Policy (STP) of 2003 brought science and technology (S&T) together and emphasized the need for investment in R&D. Clearly, Science as policy instrument have got considerable leverage and institutional support has been provided to a large extent. Science, technology and innovation policy 2013 seeks to convert scientific wealth in value. Innovative solution, which are indigenous and context specific, has to be driven by Science and Technology. But the real means can be achieved by its rigorous implementation, monitoring and evaluation.

Given the requirement for Research and Development (R&D), the expenditure on it in India is not sufficient. We invest less than 1% of the GDP in R&D. Despite the huge demand from the sector, government has not been able to mobilize enough finance because of various reasons. Even developing countries like China- whom we generally compare- and Brazil spends more than us. Perhaps because we want quick results out of the expenditure, and which is not achievable in the sectors like R&D. It requires long terms investment, and benefits may be as high as unimaginable. USA which has been spending at least 2.5% of their GDP in R&D continuously is the prime leader in the field of Research.

It is not only government which should be proactive in the R&D, private sector should be equal participant. Even, it is the private sector who should become driver for R&D. Private sector in India has enough capabilities and resource now comparing to the earlier days when state had to support them. State should create a facilitation and conducive environment for their growth.

In this direction, the linkage between the education institutions and industry is crucial. Though efforts are been made to strengthen this but linkage is more or less confined to the few big business houses and in few sectors only. The efforts are required to increase the nexus between the institution and all kind of industries from small and micro level one. It would not only increase the research and development but quality of education will also improve with adequate funding by the industries. Education quality in India has been criticized, and recently, in the top 100 university ranking, no Indian university could figure. Just four to five universities could figure in the list of 400 or 500. Efforts in the last few years are been made in creation of new institution such as IIMs, IITs and NITs, but the quality of education and funding issue is yet to be put in order.

 In one of the recent report, administrative delay has been said to be one of the matter that affects the approval of R&D project. Conservative and Risk avoiding nature of bureaucracy tends to stop the innovative initiatives in education, research and public private partnership projects. Bureaucrats are criticized for being generalist who does not pay much required attention to scientific projects that require specialist understanding. Bureaucratic attitude should change and must value science.

When in the area of space, information, communication and nuclear technologies we are growing satisfactorily, we are yet to realize the benefit of science and technology as the instrument for the welfare of people. 8 per cent of GERD is consumed by the strategic sectors (atomic energy, defense and space research) and about 29 per cent is met by the private sector. New structural methods and models are needed to address the pressing challenges of energy and environment, food and nutrition, water and sanitation, habitat, affordable health care and skill building and unemployment. Global solution tends to avoid the people as the means and purpose for the science and development. Science should become as an instrument for the society to adopt and develop. An informed and innovative society can seek the solution for our indigenous problem faster than only state offering the solutions. Adequate attention should be paid to reinvent traditional knowledge in line with modern practices. As said by Dr. C.N Rao, “If we want to be world leaders in science, it will have to be by supporting the little science of people in educational and research institutions.” Education and awareness program can play a central role in making society as key player in innovation and development.

Finally, onus is not on any state, society and private entity individually, it is the collective effort which can create a culture of innovation. People at large need to have will power and should approach the problems with solution orientation. They need to break the traps of superstition, natural enigma, and blind faith. Perhaps a new renaissance and transformation changes are required in modern India. Collectively we all, Indians, should seek a ‘culture of science’ with our intellect. As has rightly been put “Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge.” We need value science and let science became a part of our value system.

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