Monday, December 6, 2021

Scientific Potential For Socio-Economic Development

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Science traditionally has remained within the four walls of laboratories, but the focus in India is now turning to make it socially relevant to help the nation catapult towards a developmental trajectory. At the recently concluded 107th edition of Indian Science Congress, what is described as the “Mahakumbh” of scientific congregation, India’s national leaders called for bridging the gap between the lab and the land, lab and the work-floor or the lab and healthcare facilities to make it more people-oriented.

The theme of this year’s edition of Indian Science Congress was, ‘Science & Technology: Rural Development’.  “Technology is a bridge between government and common man. Technology is the balancing factor for speedy development and right development. Technology has no bias, nor it takes sides, but is neutral. It brings unprecedented results, when there is coordination between human sensitivity and modern technology,” said Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his opening address of the Congress in Bengaluru.

The world is facing an existential crisis in the form of climate change and global warming. A massive bushfire in Australia or the earlier fire in Amazon forests could be traced to human negligence, deliberate or otherwise. But scientists have warned the scale and devastations are clear indication of the way climate change can intensify natural disasters, leading to unimaginable misery to flora and fauna.

“We are witnessing nature’s fury in myriad forms like roaring storms, raging fires, cataclysmic floods, emaciating droughts and rumbling earthquakes.  We must all get together and find an answer to the climate change,” warned Indian Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu in his valedictory address at the Congress.

India cannot remain in silo about such disasters happening on the other side of the globe. Since the world is inter-connected in more than many ways, the impact of climate change cannot be wished away; it is at our doorsteps.

“The bottom line of all our efforts is improved quality of life not merely greater prosperity,” felt Vice-President Naidu.

This is where the scientific community needs to put their heads together to find a solution to protecting our environment, while keeping developmental goals of a vast country as ours. India has several national issues, which needs urgent scientific attention, be it agriculture or healthcare. The farm crisis, or burgeoning burden of diseases, both communicable and non-communicable needs to be tackled to improve the quality of lives of the Indian population.

Technology has improved delivery of social schemes, farming methods and healthcare. But it has to be sustained to reach to the last person in the social chain and geographical reach. This is a daunting effort, given the vastness of our country and the size of our population. This is a challenge to our planners, administrators and scientists too.

While we tend to measure the scientific achievements in terms of number of research papers published or amount of money spent, its real test is “if it helps to find solutions that are appropriate to our present day challenges without jeopardizing our collective future,” was succinctly put by Mr. Naidu.

Nobel Laureate Stefan W Hell from Germany was of the view that “big discoveries cannot be planned. At the same vein, he said “one cannot have illusions in science.” Hell’s call for ‘blue-sky research’ or research in domains where real-world applications are not immediately apparent, might not go well with the aspirations and demands of average Indians or the roadmap laid by Indian leadership.

India has the human resources, a history of scientific temperament and several iconic scientists who have made their mark in the international spectrum to emulate, like Sir C.V. Raman, Meghnad Saha, Srinivasa Ramanujan, Homi J. Bhaba, Jagdish Chandra Bose and many more. It also has a national ecosystem that promotes young minds into scientific pathways and as Prime Minister Modi said, we need to ‘Innovate, Patent, Produce and Prosper’ to make the country scientifically rooted to ground to solve many of our fundamental problems that still evades any solution.

Script: N. Bhadran Nair, Executive Editor, Indian Science Journal

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