Kolkata: A fleet of 20 gleaming buses equipped with variously themed scientific exhibits from across India has been stationed here for three days starting Tuesday to mark the golden jubilee of the Mobile Science Exhibition (MSE) programme which had started in Kolkata in 1965.
This is the first time that 20 MSE buses out of the current strength of 23 are on display at one place, the Science City, for students and other members of the public. A new bus on 'Digital India' was launched recently to mark the golden jubilee.
"This is the largest and longest running non-formal science education programme in the country," said G.S. Rautela, director general of the National Council of Science Museums (NSCM), which runs the MSE programme.
NSCM functions as a society under the union ministry of culture.
The Mobile Science Exhibition was launched on November 17, 1965 at Ramakrishna Mission School-Narendrapur in Kolkata. Subsequently, the first MSE bus was flagged off from the Birla Industrial and Technological Museum (BITM) here. The aim of the programme was to promote learning of science and cultivation of scientific temper among the rural masses.
Saroj Ghose, former director general of NSCM and currently museum advisor to the President of India, said the challenge of the MSE programme had been to maintain and keep the buses running smoothly as they move through rural areas.
The buses, whose number has grown gradually over the years to 23 now, have so far logged 14,88,297 km and drawn over 6,45,19,387 visitors across rural India.
The 23 buses are attached to different science centres of NCSM spread across the country and are also engaged in demonstrations, digital projections, science films and other activities.
Each bus is specially themed, equipped with charts, models and exhibits. For example, the one from Odisha promotes mathematics while the Karnataka-origin bus disseminates data on rockets and satellites.
"It is not a mean feat that the buses with accompanying educators visit 20 lakh rural children each year," said Rautela, adding that 21 new science centres would come up in India.
On Friday, 15 of the 20 buses will travel to Ramakrishna Mission School-Narendrapur for the valedictory programme.
A film titled 'Fifty Golden Years of Mobile Science Exhibition: Reaching Out to Rural India', a memoir and a special cover were also released by Arundhati Ghosh, chief postmaster general, West Bengal Circle.