PTI Photo/Swapan Mahapatra
PM Calls for Rational Thinking on Nuclear Issues
With the country facing challenges in the roll-out of genetically-modified food and nuclear energy, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said these issues cannot be settled by faith, emotion or fear but by structured debate.
Pitching for a scientific approach to understand these issues, Singh called for greater investments in popularising science to help establish an inclusive society that seeks to solve major social problems through application of science.
"Complex issues, be they genetically modified food or nuclear energy or exploration of outer space, cannot be settled by faith, emotion and fear but by structured debate, analysis and enlightenment," he told the centenary edition of the Indian Science Congress at Salt Lake Stadium here.
His comments come against the backdrop of controversies surrounding the commercialisation of Bt brinjal and a raging debate on nuclear energy in the aftermath of the Fukushima accident which has led to delays in commissioning of the Kudankulam atomic power plant.
Questions have also been raised over India's ambitious programme to explore the moon and beyond.
"A scientific approach and understanding of these issues are therefore as vital as our core scientific capabilities," Singh said.
President Pranab Mukherjee inaugurated the 100th Indian Science Congress in the presence of Singh, West Bengal Governor M K Narayanan, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Science and Technology Minister S Jaipal Reddy among others.
Singh also released the Science, Technology and Innovation Policy, 2013, which sets ambitious goals of increasing expenditure of research and development to two per cent of the GDP and aspires to place the country among top five global scientific powers by 2020.
Noting that 65 per cent of the country's population lived in rural areas, he said science and technology must be used for boosting agricultural production as well as to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor.
"Nearly 65 per cent of our people live in rural areas. The increase in their living standards depends greatly on the growth of agricultural production and productivity," he said.
Singh said the 12th Plan assumed that a sustained growth of agriculture at the rate of four per cent per annum was essential for achievement of food security for our country.
"This growth is constrained by shortages of water and also of land," he said, calling for new breakthroughs in water-saving technologies of cultivation, enhancement of land productivity and development of climate-resilient varieties.
"This transformation of agriculture must be the top priority concern of our public policies, including science and technology policies," he said.
Singh called upon scientists to carve a niche for India in the fields of energy security, sanitation, provision of safe drinking water, labour intensive manufactures and universal healthcare at affordable prices and asked the industry to participate in the effort by setting up in-house research centres and through interaction with the academia.
"There was a time when science took a lonely road, driven by individual enterprise rather than collective effort. This is sub-optimal in the innovation and knowledge-intensive world that is empowering the growth process today. We need cross- fertilisation of disciplines and synergy among stakeholders."
Stressing that government-sponsored research must be supplemented by research in private labs, he said, "Academic and research systems must foster innovation and entrepreneurship and therefore link up with those interested in commercial development."
Noting that international collaboration was vital for modern science to progress, he said, "We must partner not only with established leaders in science and technology, but also with emerging innovation powerhouses, many of them in our region. We must also offer our expertise to our neighbours for collective prosperity and progress."
On the new policy, Singh said the goal is to produce and nurture talent in science, to stimulate research and develop young leaders in science and to create an environment for greater private sector cooperation in research and innovation.
"The 12th plan, which was approved by the National Development Council (NDC) a few days ago, outlines a number of initiatives which will make this possible," he said.
Besides agriculture, he said the areas of equal concerns were energy, security, sanitation and provision of clean drinking water.
Stressing that the "quality of India's scientific institutions will depend upon the quality of the students we can attract into science, the freedom we give them in pursuing scientific research and the human resource policies we follow in selecting leaders", Singh said only the best students must be selected.
He also called for using services of Indian scientists abroad "who may wish to return to India at least for some years". He also chaired a session on science for shaping the future of India here.
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