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March - 2012 - issue > View Point
Mr.-Prime-Minster,-we-expect-you-to-walk-the-talk
Pradeep Shankar
Sunday, March 4, 2012
At the start of 2012, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh vowed to more than double India's R&D spending to $8 billion a year by 2017. Subsequently, he also launched initiatives to entice overseas scientists to return home, create elite universities, and establish a grants agency modeled after the U.S. National Science Foundation.

He also expressed concerns over countries like China overtaking India in the field of science. During his address at the Indian Science Congress and recently in an interview with America's top "Science" magazine, Singh said, "Over the past few decades, India's relative position in the world of science had been declining, and we have been overtaken by countries like China." With just a message, how does the Prime Minster expect the scientific community to deliver? As head of the nation, rather than expressing regrets about the country’s declining position, he ought to reinforce confidence in the scientific community. There is no declining that China is ahead of us is several areas but we expect our leader to boost the morale of the scientific community through positive affirmations - 'We can do it.'

Our Prime Minsiter needs to walk the talk. While it is good that he proposes rise in budget allocation for R&D, on the other hand, wrong signals are being sent to hurt the sentiments of the scientific community. Earlier this year, the government issued an order blacklisting former ISRO chief and the architect of the maiden unmanned Moon mission Chandrayan-I G Madhavan Nair along with fellow space scientists. This was with regards to them holding government posts in connection with the Antrix-Devas deal; a deal in which the private firm was allotted scarce S band spectrum by ISRO, allegedly violating rules. There have been serious questions in the manner in which the inquiry itself has been done. The recent resignation of eminent aerospace scientist Roddam Narasimha, who also was a member of review committee that probed into the spectrum deal, in protest against the Centre's decision, only strengthens Nair's case that the inquiry was flawed.

Such punitive action on the senior-most scientists not only demoralizes the scientific community but also adversely affects their ability to take up challenges. It will not goad well on our Prime Minster, who is seeking to strengthen scientific disciplines across the board, to keep quiet on a matter of serious concern to the community. He has a responsibility to restore the "honor" of scientists on whom unwarranted actions have been taken. Prime Minster's silence on the matter suggests that the issue pertaining to op-scientists is of no relevance at all. As a leader, he has to tread a path of no double standards. He needs to act quickly and put all controversies to rest. What we expect from the Prime Minister is bold, positive and encouraging statements, followed by actions, to unleash the energies of our young scientists and inspire a new generation of Indians to enter the world of science, cross new horizons and explore new possibilities.

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