They may be intelligent and clever.They are also cunning and quite callous too! Yes, I know what protests I would invite if I say this! We have great scientists and technologists.Nobel Prizes are not alien to Indian science. All these are known and widely publicised and we often pat ourselves what we have achieved.My only plea as an introduction is that I should not be misunderstood.
Now having said this much, why I remain still as an unimpressed Indian citizen as far as our scientists are concerned?
There was this news recently (reported in the Indian press on March 29) of a major Quake off Sumatra triggering a panic of another tsunami,right? We couldn’t predict the first 26 December tsunami.This time? When the first one hit us, we wasted precious two hours before tragedy hit us.Our Met organisation was not on the alert as we all imagine.Why India didn”t in the first place become a member of the international network?Whose fault is it?What action,at least to mollify the aggrieved nation was taken? Now, two days after the latest earth quake of the 8.7 magnitude and when there was no fears about a tsunami we are dutifully told by our very obedient press the Home Minister and the Minister of Science showed their faces on electronic channels.Big news indeed!
But what provoked my anger was the news published on the same day itself, that a British team(at Britain’s University of Ulster) predicted repeat quake just two weeks ago.My anger is: why not any of the Indian scientific establishments couldn”t predict such an enormous(8.2 magnitude)quake? The Director of the Trivandrum-based Centre for Earth Sciences, M.Baba said” I am yet to get concrete information on the quake”! I am sure our scientists read the Nature journal.There is this letter(Vol 434,March 2005) criticising the Indian scientists community for why they failed in the first place.Also more to the consternation of the general public is the very criticism I am now directing at the Indian scientists.Written by Costas Synolakis, Dept of Civil Engineering,University of Southern California,the letter ridicules the mentality of our science establishment.In a meet hosted by the Indian National Academy of Sciences in New Delhi on 21-22 Jan they only paraded their capabiltiies, yet their “sophisticated seismic networks” could act in time,they now promised an Indian version of early warning system in two years.Here is the damnation.The genteleman reminds the Indians,yes to our bureaucratic scientists also,that it took US and Japan to put such a system took 20 years!The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration took 30 years!Indians,please,be sensible,says the letter! I am not only not impressed, I am plainly ashamed!Our scientists must atone for their sins,for having led down the people,the victims and others in the first place.The same issue contains another writeup on the same topic.I hope someone speaks out!
I ask as a plain Indian citizen:What actually are our capabiltiies in the geosciences?Why no great scientist of any stature,Prof.C.N.R.Rao who is in the PM’s advisory council is also not a spokesman for Indian public interests? The government’s allocations for the Indian science bodies grew by 11 per cent in the last four years,this year it is said to shoot by 40 percent! Yet,there are two high profile advisory bodies,SAC-PM and SAC-C!The PM had commissioned a report to tackle the bureaucracy in science funding!There is much secrecy,no transparency even in non-strategic areas like, say,power and biotechnology.Do you know that we haven’t even exploited 18 percent of our hydro power and yet,we are spending in a non-transparent manner crores on nuclear power.I read in the journal,the Nature,that our fast breeder tech is out of date.But inside India the subject is taboo.
This is the larger question that troubles me:our great scientists in different disciplines,after they reach their peak become some sort of perks-seekers,often government nominations to various committees or bodies like Rajya Sabha and they spend their rest of their lives “happily thereafter”! This fear,this lack of openness and this lack of credibility on the part of our scientists is what I am commenting upon.
I am appalled by the sights of some of these eminent scientists standing in rows with some caste groups lobbies,often blessed by swamijis of their own castes,this is quite disgusting.
Now,back to some hard business.I had read about the functioning of the PM’s science advisory council.Its recommendations to create some more institutions.After the quirky government announcement of Rs.100 crores to the Bangalore-based IISc, other scientific bodies or ambitious scientists among them developed some desire to carve out some more white elephants.Also I read about one (or more?) science bodies around the PM or the PMO.There are it seems more and more science bodies or circle of scientists ,circles within circles,everyone seems to be advancing his own ‘vested interests’.I like to make an intelligent guess,of course subject to its demolition!Aren’t our scientists in their bones first and last bureaucrats?Yes,the science bureaucracy seems to be killing the aspirations and the freedoms of the younger scientists.The grant making powers of the government science establishments often lead to controlling the very choice of persons or the subjects that are likely to be innovative and often against the prides and prejudices of the seniors?The senior scientists in India ,in my humble opinion for what it is worth,are not an example to juniors,the next generation aspirants.The senior scientists dominate all the government bodies,I see more and more retired scientists fill these bodies.Why even after becoming eminent in their lines,after getting all the awards and prizes and after building their own little,little empires why these very same faces are often at the door steps of the powers that be?
This is a typical Indian disease,this establishment mentality of our science.
You ask young men and women to pursue science,you know very well our salaries are very low,no talented young man or woman would like to miss the new opportunities in IT,management etc.Yet,you aspire for all the control a government machinery can give you,you the seniors,the retired ones ,enjoying so many perks and even fat pensions and also conering all the government funds for your own little empires and yet you don”t talk against the miseries of government neglect,the poor never get the benefits of your knowledge.
Even in such sensitive issues like GM foods,GM agri tech, biotech’s positive negative implications,as far as I know,no Indian scientist of any standing had come out to give his own wisdom for the benefit of the larger public.
When it comes to such issues like atomic power,making nuclear weapons or proliferation of nuclear weapons,demilitarisation,disarmament,promoting peace or such issues of concern for the entire mankind,I don’t see Indian scientists making their marks. The subjects are the trade secrets of the Minister for External Affairs or other Ministers or bureaucrats.Why our senior scientists don”t educate the public and create an informed public opinion?I don”t see any Indian scientist worthy of the honour like a Nobel Prize for Peace.Why?You know?
We are always pro-government,pro-establishment.We haven”t become independent persons.Scientists are no more independent citizens than any other average citizens!
I like to give credibility only to those whom I respect as a scientist who has a free mind and desmonstrate it so in the tribune of the people! Freedom to express opinions even against the incumbent government!This,unfortunately,I don’t yet see in India,in the Indian science and technology establishments! Sorry to say this! Yet, I thought I should at least raise this issue,in the form I hope the common man understands it!