Indian Science Congresses became a prestigious event when Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru began to inaugurate it in the first month of every year. It attracted men and women at the frontiers of scientific research from all corners of the globe, and invigorated scholarship in science within the country and was an inspiration to young scientists.
All that seems like pre-history today. Leading science intellectuals like Prof. C.N.R. Rao, who has done so much to advance research within the country, has reportedly said he no longer attends the Science Congress for fear that he may be seen as endorsing what goes on there in the name of science. The comment was published after startling things were said at the recent science conclave in Jalandhar that was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. At the event, Mr Modi was ready with a slogan — “Jai jawan, jai kisan, jai anusandhaan” — as he is wont to — to underline the importance of research. But this aspect was hardly being heeded.
Apparently, the political culture of our rulers these days, which regards the fertile imagination plentifully available in Hindu mythology as concrete evidence of advanced scientific work in ancient India, is beginning to have an effect. Thus the vice-chancellor of Andhra University expounded on the Kauravas in the Mahabharat as being test-tube babies or products of stem cell research. He also claimed that Ravana had 24 types of aircraft, not just the Pushpak Vimaan.
Another worthy dismissed the work of Newton, Einstein and Stephen Hawking, and spoke of his own forthcoming theory of the “Modi wave”.
The real question is: how do such radicals make it to this once highly-prestigious meet?...