Vardhan asks scientists at IACS to accept new challenges
Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister for Science and Technology, said that Narendra Modi Government is firmly committed to improving the state of science research in India. According to a PIB release, addressing scientists and scholars at the Indian Association for the Cultivation of the Sciences (IACS) in Kolkata recently, Vardhan said, “Being a man of medicine and having toured most of the famous science institutions of the world over the past three decades, I am aware of the paucity of facilities and incentives for carrying out research in cutting-edge science.”
Vardhan said that basic science research in the country will be a thrust area of this government. The founding vision of the country was the attainment of self-sufficiency and the capacity to chart its own course of development. Somehow we lost our way. Now, through ‘Make in India’, Modi wishes to rejuvenate that search.
He called for a paradigm shift, which gives more power and autonomy to young scientists. There are many good and sincere scientists in India whose interests are not motivated by awards and recognition. He said that scientific progress of the country is the result of the efforts of these people, though limited resources have strained their efforts.
Remarking on IACS’s history, he pointed out that limited resources had not prevented Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose, Dr CV Raman, Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray, Dr SN Bose and others from carrying out pioneering research in this very city under colonial rule.
“The Prime Minister and I consider it unacceptable that prior to independence we could produce great scientists in India, but after that only from the US. Therefore this government wants the centre of excellences in India to perform better,” he said.
Speaking on renewable energy, he noted with satisfaction that a lot of good work has been initiated in the Energy Research Unit of IACS.
“The prime minister has set a target for generation of 100 gigawatt of solar power by 2022. As the Minister for Science and Technology, it is my responsibility to galvanise the entire scientific community to accept the challenge and prevent a ‘free’ source of power from becoming costly for the common man,” he said.
He said that it was thanks to his friendship with a Kolkata-based scientist on renewable energy, Dr SP Gonchaudhury, that New Delhi’s prestigious All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) would soon be generating solar power for its own needs.
“I have also taken up a project to install solar-power fuelled lights, fans and intelligent flushes in all the public toilets in my constituency – Chandni Chowk. Thanks to the advice given by Gonchaudhury, this is working out cheaper than the thermal power option. I am sure that in the near future solar power will be free for the consumer,” said Vardhan.
Speaking on genomics, Vardhan said that the importance of basic sciences, which is the thrust area of IACS, cannot be overestimated in the 21st century. “Being a doctor I know the need for higher and higher achievements in anatomy, physiology, bacteriology, pathology and biochemistry as these are fundamental to the study of medicine.”
He pointed out that cloud-based Genome Analysis Service, DNA editing and other developments has placed a tremendous pressure on society. Recently, some scientists in China carried out DNA editing on a human foetus. This is considered very dangerous and unethical.
Vardhan recalled the words of Father Eugene Lafont, the Belgian Jesuit, who along with Dr Mahendralal Sircar, founded IACS: “Let us not be afraid of saying ‘I don’t know’ because from that confession flows a desire to accept a challenge to know the unknown.”
Genomics and all the new controversies surrounding this new science are still unknown to most people in India. Vardhan said, “We are trying to grapple with it and last year some experts had come out with a strategy paper. Now I call upon young scientists to take up the challenge to pursue research on it.”