99th Indian Science Congress in Bhubaneswar Focus On Inclusive Development
Our scientists delivered Green Revolution and White Revolution; by launching Chandrayan we found water in space; we are now witnessing a reverse brain drain; our infrastructure is growing in all sectors; we are good at pharmaceutical science but due to lack of investments and policy direction, which is largely directed towards urban areas, we lack in both volume and quality in the field of science. The difference between public and private sector is widening. In India, today 2/3rd of investments in science and technology come from government and 1/3rd from the private sector, whereas more investments should come from the private sector. Amidst all these we need to concentrate and focus on food security, health security and defence security for the nation and with science and technology we will be able to progress. We should go for reforming the entire science sector and there is a need to make this sector more attractive destination for all. To ensure inclusive development, we have to have new innovations and involvement of women. Our growth lies not in investment banking but in science and technology. We need to pool young talents, and encourage more competition among them.
These were few observations and reflections, which were made at the 99th Indian Science Congress, held at KIIT University, Bhubaneswar, from January 3 to 7, 2012, in collaboration with NISER and Government of Odisha. The year 2012 being celebrated as the Year of Science, the 99th Science Congress was historical, as it ushered in the centenary year of Indian Science Congress. All roads led to KIIT University in the first week of the New Year as thousands of delegates from across the length and breadth of the country and also from abroad thronged Bhubaneswar to participate in this historic event. Bhubaneswar, the historic temple city, otherwise known as the hub of Information Technology in Eastern India, hosted the Congress after 35 years. This event coincided with the Diamond Jubilee of UNESCO-Kalinga Award for popularisation of science, the prestigious prize started with the generous support of Odisha’s great visionary leader the late Biju Patnaik.
Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh while inaugurating the Science Congress said, “Over the past few decades, India’s relative position in the world of science has been declining and we have been overtaken by countries like China. Things are changing but we cannot be satisfied with what has been achieved. We need to do much more to change the face of Indian science. While it is true that science and engineering continue to attract the best students, many of them later opt for other careers because of poor prospects in science.”
Dr Singh further said, “As far as resources are concerned, the fraction of GDP spent on R&D in India has been too low and stagnant. We must aim to increase the total R&D spend as a percentage of GDP to 2 per cent by the end of XII Plan period from the current level of about 0.9 per cent. This can only be achieved if industry, which contributes about one-third of the total R&D expenditure today, increases its contribution. I believe public sector undertakings especially in the energy sector should play a major role in this expansion.”
In her opening address, Prof Geetha Bali, President, Indian Science Congress Association, said that India had the third largest scientific and technical manpower in the world and represented one of the world’s largest systems for generation of creative science & technologies. “With six major science departments, 400 national R&D centres, more than 500 universities churning out graduates and doctorates and nearly 2000 in-house R&D units in Industry, India has one of the finest R &D infrastructures in the world. These institutions have written a number of success stories. India undoubtedly has the ability to develop new and need-based technologies,” said Prof Bali.
Prominent among the speakers were Union Science and Technology Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, Minister, Earth Sciences, Ashwani Kumar, Governor of Odisha, Muralidhar Chandrkant Bhandare, and Chief Minister of Odisha, Naveen Patnaik. On this occasion, Prime Minister gave away prizes and felicitated 15 scientists for their outstanding contribution in the field of science including two tribals from Koraput. The prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru Award was given to KIIT and KISS Founder and Convenor of ISC in Bhubaneswar Dr Achyuta Samanta. Dr Achyuta Samanta, Founder, KIIT & KISS, has been elected as a member of Executive Council (EC) for the Indian Science Congress Association (ISCA). In the recently concluded election for the EC, Dr Samanta secured highest number of votes to become the first Odiya to be included in the Executive Council of ISCA. In the highest body ISCA only 10 members are elected from all over the country to take important decisions on various activities relating to Science and Technology in the country. Dr Samanta while talking to Uday India said: “with God’s blessings the Indian Science Congress was a great success at KIIT. I am proud that all the delegates were happy for the state of the art arrangements.”
Former President of India Dr APJ Abdul Kalam and Indian Ambassador in the USA, Nirupama Rao, inaugurated Children Science Congress on January 3 and Women’s Science Congress on January 5, which were held simultaneously with Science Congress.
ISCA introduced first Women’s Science Congress to showcase the success of women scientists and how science and technology could be used for the empowerment of women. Issue of giving adequate support to women scientists was also discussed. Children Science Congress was participated by children and school students from all over the country. Dr Kalam said that students were world’s most important resources. Child scientists presented and exhibited their individual and group projects and were also awarded.
Rashtriya Vigyan Chalchitra Mela was also organised by Vigyan Prashar, a unit of Science and Technology Department, GoI, during the ISC session which saw the screening of more than 30 scientific films both fiction and non-fictional. At least ten filmmakers were awarded in five different categories.
KIIT Campus was specially designed and decorated to host the ISC. Besides the main venue, parallel sessions and thematic sessions on 11 different subjects of science were organised at different venues. An Odisha Mandap to showcase Odisha’s arts and crafts, and an exhibition centre were also part of ISC, where country’s military might was exhibited with advancement of our science and technology.
The Indian Science Congress at Bhubaneswar witnessed the participation of more than 15,000 registered delegates including 200-odd delegates from abroad and 10 Nobel Laureates. The special plenary sessions drew a large crowd as Noble Laureates and prominent scientists delivered their speeches on a wide range of topics from climate change to cancer stem cells.
By Sudarshan Chhotoray from Bhubaneswar