Kolkata: In a first, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Thursday chaired a session on science for shaping the future of India at the Science Congress here.
“We must invest in popularising science. Government- sponsored research must be supplemented by private lab,” the Prime Minister said unveiling science, technology and innovation policy.
“The science, technology and innovation policy aspires to make India one of the top five global scientific powers by 2020” he added.
Speaking at the Indian Science Congress centenary session here, he said "complex issues" including those of "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".
"Scientific approach and understanding of these issues are, therefore, as vital as our core scientific capabilities," the prime minister said.
His remarks come in the wake of controversy over the issue of Bt food products, especially genetically modified brinjal, against which there was a campaign.
The Kudankulam nuclear power project in Tamil Nadu has also witnessed protests over safety concerns.
The Prime Minister said Indians "as a society, must enhance the spread of what Jawaharlal Nehru used to describe as the scientific temper. Our younger generations must adopt a science-based value-system in order to benefit from what science can offer and to make up for lost time".
President Pranab Mukherjee, who was also present at the Science Congress, emphasised on evolving an educational system which imbibes a scientific culture and increased focus on innovation to compete in a globalised economy.
He also called upon the scientific fraternity to work in a "time bound manner" to help India win a Noble Prize in science, as he noted that its over 83 years long since C V Raman won the Noble Prize for Physics.
"We need an educational system which lays importance on development of a scientific culture within the society.
"Mere economic growth without the attendant knowledge capacity to manage the dimensions of change would neither suffice nor be appropriate," he said while inaugurating the 100th session of Indian Science Congress here today.
In this context, he cited ancient universities like Nalanda or Taxila which focussed on value based holistic education.
He said that productive engagement of the youth in agriculture, manufacturing and value-based services holds the key for a balanced growth of the country.
"I would like to call upon the scientific community to work for the promotion of a scientific culture for shaping our future in which prosperity and peace, excellence and equity and oriental values and occidental methods of science converge and co-exisit," he said.
Underscoring on the need for innovation, he said it was vital for the country if "we have to compete in a globalised economy".
The recently announced science, technology and innovation policy, he said, has laid the road map for the development of an ecosystem for innovation and for encouraging, recognising and rewarding the innovators in society.
Thanks to technological innovation, he said telephony and Internet has brought about a transformational change in the society.
While the mobile phone users in the country are the second highest in the country, he said India ranks only third after US and China in terms of Internet users.
"Another transformational application of technology is Aadhaar project which focuses one electronic transfer of benefits directly to the beneficiaries of various social sector schemes.In the Budget 2012-13, a target of covering 50 districts has been set, which I am sure, will be met", the President said.
Referring to the works of great scientific minds like JC Bose who motivated generation of people to move towards scientific endeavour, the President felt that public and political understanding of science is crucial.
"For that I would like to urge upon you all to apply modern tools for communicating science in a manner that can be understood by the common man.This understanding would contribute to the creation of a science culture in the Indian society," he said.
He was of the view that by 2035, India would emerge as a major economic powerhouse.
"We should also emerge as a major knowledge power with high human and societal values. Let me mention in this regard that it has been 83 long years since C V Raman won the Noble Prize for Physics. Another Noble prize in the sciences is long overdue for India. I call upon the scientific fraternity gathered here to rise upto this challenge and work towards this goal in a time bound manner," he said.
Congratulating Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for being elected as the general president of the Indian Science Congress in its centenary year, the President said that "I can from personal experience vouch safe the abiding faith of Manmohan Singh on education, science and technology.
"The good performance of science and technology in recent years, I believe, owes greatly to the generous government support for science and technology catalyst by the Prime Minister," he said.
The five-day conclave will see six Nobel laureates, 60 foreign scientists and 15,000 delegates participating.