Indian Science Congress Inaugural Address
04-02-2000 Dr R A Mashelkar
May I extend a warm welcome to you on this momentous occasion at the dawn of this new millennium? We are meeting in this great city of Pune, the intellectual, cultural & educational capital of this state. The arrival of the new millennium, which going by cold arithmetic is one year away has been advanced by all of us, so keen are we all to embrace the future. To us, emotionally, the new millennium has already arrived and the mood of the new millennium has already been set. Therefore, it is a great time to ponder over the theme of this Congress ‘Indian S&T into the Next Millennium’.
As some one has said, wise people may develop expectations for the future, but only foolish make the predictions. 'A technology of the 20th century symposium' held in 1900, based on the level of knowledge that existed at the time, might not have mentioned aeroplane, radio, antibiotics, nuclear energy, electronics, computers or space exploration! One can imagine the hazards of doing this again after 100 years. All that we can do is to see the foreseeable future, that is why we have used the word ‘into’ and not ‘in the next millennium’ in the theme.
We look at tomorrow from where we stand today. We notice that the only thing that is permanent is change. We notice that rapid paradigm shifts are taking place in the world as it moves from superpower bipolarity to multipolarity, as industrial capitalism shifts to green capitalism and digital capitalism, as information technology creates ‘netizens’ out of ‘citizens’, as aspirations of the poor get fuelled by the increasingly easier access to information, as nations move from ‘independence’ to ‘interdependence’, as national boundaries become notional, and as the concept of global citizenship evolves.
The spectacular march of science & technology is profoundly affecting our lives. Genetic engineering and the associated reproductive technologies on plants, animals and human have brought forth ethical issues calling for greater regulation by involving social scientists and environmentalists. The process of globalization, privatization and corporatisation of research has shifted the dynamics of knowledge production & dissemination dramatically, just as issues of intellectual property rights (IPRs) and proprietary information and knowledge have begun to open up new dialogues on public good versus private profit. New models of the innovation chain and new paradigms of the science-society contracts have begun to emerge.
What would the scientific world be like in the new millennium? I am sure the human mind will continue to explore. How was the universe born ? Is there life in the outer space ? Can aging be postponed ? What secrets do genes hold ? At a deeper level, globally networked teams of scientists will probe several questions. Will we ever understand how the apparently useless DNA in the human genome contributed to our evolution ? As our understanding of the DNA world improves, will we turn to the RNA world ? May be build an organism based on RNA in the laboratory ? Will we be able to understand the origin of life from inorganic chemicals ? Will we ever understand how decisions are made, imagination is set free or what consciousness consists of? Will we be able to identify the neural correlates of our thinking ? Will the attempts to ‘quantise’ the gravitational field succeed ? Will string theory really fulfill its promise of being the true description of the particles of the matter or will it be another blind ally ? Would we ever be able to provide those uniquely relevant experimental data to prove the so-called ‘theory of everything’ ? Scientists around the world will be grappling with these problems. Our hope is that Indian scientists will be able to contribute to answering some of these and other questions and hopefully, they will say either the first or the last word in the matter.
Spectacular developments will continue to take place in different domains of technology. Look at, for instance, just one such domain as an example, namely information technology. The performance of microprocessors has improved 25000 times over since their invention. Every 18 months, technology doubles the speed of microprocessors. The computer of 2020 is expected to be as powerful as all those computers in Silicon Valley today put together. The buzz words in the computer world are: smaller, faster, cheaper, pipelined, superscalar and parallel. Several laboratories around the world are busy exploring novel technologies that may one day herald the arrival of new generation of computers and microelectronic devices. Some are exploring the possibility of developing quantum computing techniques, which would capitalise on the non-classical behaviour of the devices. Others are taking non-silicon routes by developing data storage systems, which can potentially use photonically activated bio-molecules. Yet others are exploring nano-mechanical logic gaps. Who will be the winner ? We do not know. I leave it to the experts to debate these and other issues in this congress over the next five days.
Let us turn the focus on to Indian science & technology. We can say with confidence that Indian science & technology has contributed its mite to the building of post-independent India. The strong institutional S&T framework built over the past fifty years has provided a powerful base. The 'Trimurti' who spearhead our space, defence, atomic energy research are amongst us today and they will tell you with pride this afternoon how they have taken up the challenge of development of technology in regimes of denial and control by other nations and how they will build the secure India of the 21st century. Just a few feet away is C-DAC, where India's response to super computer denial by USA was delivered in the most fitting way by developing our own super computer, PARAM. Our achievements of green revolution have led us to self-sufficiency of food. Our white revolution has helped us to reach the status of the highest milk producer in the world.
The inspiring saga of our achievements in S&T in post-independent India will be reverberated in this great 'Jai Vigyan Sabha Mandap' for over the next five days by thousands of scientists, who have gathered here. But while we celebrate, debate and ponder over the future in the portals of this great university, let us also pause for a moment and remind ourselves of the several formidable challenges that remain in spite of all our achievements. They include: exploding population, widespread poverty, illiteracy, squalor, ruptures & cleavages based on region, religion, language and gender threatening the social fabric, urban congestion, wounded ecosystems and critical power and energy situation. Globalization in terms of both economy and geopolitics has posed other problems. Never before in the history of mankind, did a country with democratic dispensation had to feed so many poor and teach so many illiterates and also simultaneously compete with the most advanced nations for a place under the sun.
In spite of these daunting challenges, I feel confident that the 21st century will belong to India, provided we get back to some basics and set them right, and the time to do this is Now. No matter how hard one think, it is clear that only five fundamentals need to be set right. The five point agenda for the new millennium is almost like a new Panchasheel for the new millennium. It is simply:
- Child centred education;
- Woman centred family;
- Human centred development;
- Knowledge centred society;
- Innovation centred India.
The beauty about these five points is that they will be as relevant in the year 2000 as they will be in the year 3000. All five of them flow into each other. All of them have to be taken together. And all five of them are ones, on which we have faltered today. Let me elaborate this new Panchasheel for the new millennium now.
Child Centred Education
India has a new Y2K problem, namely that of building its young generation in the year 2000 and beyond. It is predicted that by 2015, over half of the Indian population will be less than twenty years old. That is a great news, because these Indians are either already born or about to be born. Youth represents the national strength, vitality and vigor. Yuvashakti is the real Shakti of the nation. If properly molded, the youth can become the champion of our culture, custodian of our national pride and a trustee of the freedom of the country. But, the process of such molding requires the right education at an early age. Are our education systems geared to meet this challenge today? I am afraid, not. Let me specifically focus on science education.
The way science is taught in our schools will determine as to whether or not we will have a society, which is capable of developing and absorbing technology creatively as well as giving a scientific foundation to our cultural, political and economic fabric. There are three crises that we face today. The first is that young minds are not turning to science, to an extent that some science departments are getting closed down. The second is that those who turn to science to not stay in science. The third is in science education itself. We find that our education has not been child centered, it is centered around text books, rigid unimaginative curricula, ill designed class room teaching and an outdated examination system. An Indian child is forced to learn by rote and its individuality and imaginativeness is lost.
We have to remold the school science education to the mode of ‘learning by discovery’ and ‘learning by doing’ in contrast to the prevailing ‘learning by rote’ method. The child has to become an active participant in the process of learning science. Rather than memorizing the products of science, the child needs to understand and appreciate the beautiful process of science. The curricula must relate closely to science and technology experiences of everyday life. Our students must not only love science but they must live science. To achieve this, we must create of a local content in the education, through exposure to local flora and fauna, local water and soil, local socio-economic issues, local heritage, etc. This simple initiative can give a whole range of new dimension to the teaching of botany, chemistry, history, etc.
The IT revolution will impinge on all aspects of our life, including education. New paradigm shifts will take place in both teaching and learning. Teaching hitherto meant speaking and learning meant listening. We were all confined in the four walls of a classroom, where the teacher taught and we as students listened. Internet has already made it possible to take education to the home of the learners, with self-learning programs with the creative use of multi-media. Education can be potentially brought to home, including to those, who have been un-reached so far. The impact of creating a content in local languages will be phenomenal in increasing the spread. Customized content creation will open up new challenges for the content industry.
We have always had batch processing in our examinations. All of us appeared for the examination at the same time and assessed our capacity annually as a ritual. No more so, thanks to IT. Innovative evaluation systems, which are continuous and individually centered, will emerge. A child that acquires intellectual maturity several years earlier will stand apart and we will have the challenge of putting it on a faster career progression path.
Will teaching and learning in cyberspace replace a classroom? No way. The traditional classroom teaching involves the most vital social and interactive context, that is, human interaction. The role of teachers will remain crucial. We need to pay attention to the teachers, who really are the ones, who mould the young minds. I remember going to a poor school in Mumbai. But that poor school had rich teachers. I remember Principal Bhave, who taught us physics. Today’s children have this ‘Book vs. Look’ problem, since they are so overburdened that they don’t have time to look around. Principal Bhave emphasized the ‘look’ part of it. I remember his taking us out in to the sun to demonstrate as to how to find the focal length of a convex lens. He took a piece of paper, moved the lens till the brightest spot emerged on the paper, and told us that the distance between the paper and the lens was the focal length. But then he held it on for some time and the paper burnt. For some reason, he turned to me and said "Mashelkar, if you can focus your energies like this and not diffuse them, you can burn anything in the world !" I was so impressed with the power of science that I decided to become a scientist. But that experiment gave me the philosophy of life too; 'focus and you will achieve'. There are two lessons. Cyberspace as a teacher can never equal my Bhave Sir. The other one is that in the present world of commercialized education, what is it that we are doing today, to create, sustain and encourage the Bhaves, who will build the new Indians of the new millennium? Among many facets of child centered education, this is one to which we need to pay utmost attention.
Woman Centered Society
Recently, the Hon’ble Vice-President of India said ‘The best symbol of female values that has been created by nature is in the form of ‘mother’. Mother is ‘creativity’ and ‘innovation’ personified in solving human problems in the family. She represents excellence, morality, equality not in material terms but as a living cultural symbol practicing these values. Out of all the management experiences in business, industry, public service and society, mother is the best manager nature has created. Mother’s instinct has sustained Mother India. It is more specific than the word culture itself. The growing alienation between man and society, which modern-day management practices have to contend with, may find its solution in the management practices which derives strength from the way mother manages her family in small and big ways i.e. Mother Culture!’
These pervasive thoughts remind us that we have lost somewhere on the way the essence of not only the ‘mother culture’, but also that of ‘Mother Nature’, ‘mother India’ and indeed the entire concept of woman centered family. The sharp gender inequalities with unequal pay for equal work, discrimination in labor market and so on are grim realities. Harsh statistics stares us in the face. 70% of the Indian women are illiterate. 90% of family planning operations are tubectomies. 60% of primary school dropouts are girls.
The UN had adopted 1994 as the year of the family with an emphasis that the family is the smallest democracy at the heart of the society. But on the other hand the Human Development Report 1993 had said, "No country treats its women as well as its men". Can the India of the next millennium afford to stand on only one of its legs? A woman has to be allowed the full expression of her potential and she has to be empowered to become a dynamic partner in the building of the new India of our dreams.
Several actions need to be taken, if this has to happen. For example, the state has brought forth several pieces of legislation to curb the oppression of women, Child Marriage Restraint Act, the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, the Widow Remarriage Act, etc. However, these acts have not become acts of faith, and they cannot, until the mindset of our strongly patriarchal society changes fundamentally. This is a larger issue, but in this Science Congress let me briefly focus on the issue of science and technology, i.e., how women will enrich science and technology and how science and technology will enrich women.
The emerging technological developments have the potential to impact the lives of the women enormously. The emergence of information technology will play a great role with education reaching the home now, with access of women to higher education becoming easier. The same flexibilities are available for working too. The emerging IT connectivity offers the women the freedom to work from home and at hours that suit them. Home and office have ceased to be contrary pulls. However, in order that women benefit fully from the IT revolution, we will have to make fundamental changes in the archaic employment rules with a far more liberal view of the work place, work function and working hours.
Advances in life sciences have placed in the hands of women opportunities that were unheard of earlier. However, technology is a double edged weapon and if not well used, its advance can hurt the cause of women. For instance, today’s technology enables the determination of the sex of a child during pregnancy. I was stunned to hear recently about some statistics on the number of pregnancy terminations, which in the case of female child far exceeded that of a male child – and this was not in a village but in a metropolitan city. What kind of new millennium India will we create if such prejudices persist?
We must promote vigorously pro-women technologies. These exist in their creative participation in agriculture linked activities, micro-propagation, plant tissue culture, disease surveillance, health care systems and so on. Developing and enhancing a woman’s entrepreneurial skills and giving her economic freedom will alone restore her to the rightful place in the family and the society.
Human Centered Development
More than half a century ago, Albert Einstein suggested ‘we shall require a new manner of thinking, if mankind is to survive’. This new thinking is particularly important if we have to resolve the tension between two irreconcilable trends, namely, demographic projections that the world population will reach 10 to 12 billion by the year 2050; and scientific estimates that the earth’s long-term sustainable carrying capacity at an adequate standard of living may not be much greater than 2 to 3 billion. A minor fraction of world’s people consume a disproportionate amount of natural resources. Such unsustainable consumption on the part of a few and unacceptable poverty on the part of many is going to create a crisis of unbelievable dimensions and we can resolve it only by taking recourse to ‘human centered development’.
We cannot have plans of economic development, where the human is a bystander. In the new human centered development, the balance of five Es, namely ecology, environment, economics, equity and ethics will have to be achieved. Mere economic development without regard to equity and ethics will take us nowhere; just as economic development disregarding ecology and environment will be fatal. May be we should look at the issue of equity again. We often talk about equity – which is based on subsidy. But this is not sustainable. The word ‘equity’ must be substituted buy ‘dignity’. This can come only through the process of self-employment, which alone can bring self-empowerment. The new engineers and technologists can contribute to making this happen.
It is time that in India we look at our approach of top-down planning, which has met with mixed success. Participation of local institutions through new technology will need emphasis. Promoting a job-lead economic growth strategy based on pro-nature, pro-poor, and pro-woman orientation to development of technology and its dissemination will need a new impetus. Mass production and production by masses will have to co-exist in India. The first will lead to global competitiveness & the second to jobs, where they are wanted. Indeed new models to create new micro-enterprises, which are able to add value and generate employment and income will be needed. If the processes of production, trade and consumption have to be localized, then developing innovative scale-insensitive economically viable technologies will pose new intellectual challenges, which our scientists and engineers will have to take up. Then alone can we create a new economy of scale, which will integrate local raw materials and innovative blend of human experience, skills and modern developments in technologies.
Knowledge Centered Society
Only those nations will survive in the new millennium, who build knowledge-centered societies; the others will vanish into oblivion. The Indian society was indeed a leading knowledge centered society in the distant past, but we lost our way in the intervening period. In the emerging knowledge millennium, it is important that every Indian becomes a knowledge worker, be it a farmer, a rural woman, a media man, an artisan and so on. Here a knowledge worker is simply one who knows why he is doing what he is doing.
A farmer can be a knowledge worker, provided he understands the soil that he is sowing his seeds in, the why of the micro nutrient and pesticide addition that he makes, he lives in an information village, where he has the benefits of short and medium range weather forecasting to plan his farming activity and so on. Innovative experiments for creating such knowledge workers are already on the anvil. For instance, the Swaminathan Research Foundation is creating new knowledge systems in the villages around Pondicherry with its goal of the empowerment of rural women, men and children with information relating to ecologically sound agriculture, economic access and utilization. The farmers are trained to build soil health cards. We need to multiply these to cover the entire Indian populace.
We need Indian customers to be knowledge workers. They will change the market dynamics dramatically. Knowledge will have to get encoded both explicitly and implicitly in the products. For instance, insistence on eco-labeling is nothing other than insistence on the customer being empowered with knowledge about the environmental and ecological impact of the products he is buying and using. Enlightened citizens, who are knowledge workers, will not stop projects that lead to economic development, but they will stop those, which lead to destruction.
Knowledge will not be a mere tool in development, knowledge itself will be development. True knowledge societies of tomorrow will make a creative use of modern information and communications technology. The cost of transmitting information and knowledge has plummeted by several hundred folds in the last twenty years and will continue to do so. This will mean that the poor will have an access to information as much as the rich have it. This is a good news for India. However, it is not information alone that matters, it is the insight that matters. It is only through a process of inquiry, that we can convert information into insight. Therefore, we need to create ‘inquiring societies’, and not just 'information societies'. If such inquiring societies emerge then the new knowledge revolution will lead to social, gender and economic equity.
We have made many promises to ourselves. These include ‘education for all’, ‘food for all’, ‘health for all’, etc. Can we, in the coming knowledge millennium, also say ‘knowledge for all'? On reflection, it seems to be difficult unless we turn to IT again. Not only that knowledge is doubling up in 10 years but it is growing in complexity too. Continuous knowledge renewal, therefore, become more important than ever before. The process of continuous learning, especially through the tools of modern information technology will, therefore, be absolutely essential. And a great ‘digital divide’ will take place between those who can do it, and those who cannot.
Knowledge revolution is leading to knowledge centered trade and industry. We can see dramatic changes in international trade today. It was formerly dominated by primary products such as iron ore, coffee, unprocessed cotton etc. It is now moving to knowledge intensive goods. The high technology goods alone doubled their share of world merchandise exports from 11% in 1976 to 22% in 1996. Meanwhile, the share of prime products dropped to less than 25% from about 45% initially. More than half of the GDP in major OECD countries is due to production and distribution of knowledge.
The interesting point is that in India itself, we are seeing the sunrise of knowledge industries and sunset of other industries. The list of 100 top billionaires of Indian industry based on net worth was published recently. Among the top five were four, who owned knowledge industries. The same industries were low down with ranks below forty just five years ago.
For a country like India, emergence of knowledge industries is a great news, since the emphasis in these industries will not be on physical or tangible assets, but on intangible knowledge assets in which India is rather rich. World’s major growth industries – such as information technology, microelectronics, pharma, biotechnology, designer-made materials, and telecommunications – are already brainpower industries. Knowledge is like a candle, it can light other candles and spread light. In the same way, these knowledge industries will light & stimulate other industries, in turn, to become knowledge based. The Indian view of knowledge industries must thus be very pervasive. It is not only information technology or biotechnology, but also IT or BT enabled leather industry, food industry and so on that can also become knowledge industry.
Harnessing the full potential of knowledge industry will require an aggressive and visionary policy framework, creative planning, daring and risk taking. Enterprises will also have to make a fundamental change in the management structures. The shift will have to be from the rigid strategy-structure-systems model to the purpose-process-people model. Heavy emphasis on a stronger Intellectual property protection will have to be given for the growth of these industries, since they are entirely built on knowledge capital, and cannot afford to lose it through weak laws or weak protection. The physical as well as intellectual infrastructure for IPR related matters especially patents, must undergo a sea change, if our heady dreams on knowledge industry have to come to fruition. Real risk taking through innovative venture capital financing will be essential. In this connection, the tremendous initiatives taken by our Hon'ble Prime Minister to set up task forces on knowledge industries with a thrust on speedy implementation are strong pointers to India’s determination to become a major force in knowledge industry.
Emergence of knowledge industries implies that scientists and economists must meet more often now. Economists have evaluated the aggregate impact of knowledge on economic growth indirectly by postulating that part of the growth that cannot be explained by accumulation of tangible and identifiable factors of production can be explained through knowledge. In other words, knowledge has been given a residual role. Indeed, this residual is sometimes called the ‘Solow residual’ after the great economist Solow. What is the reality today? When we bought one kilogram of steel, 90% of it was material and 10% of it was knowledge. If we buy a copy of Microsoft –98, then 95% of it is knowledge and 5% of it is material; paradoxically, the residual as perceived in conventional economics no more remains a residual in a knowledge industry. The new economics of the twenty first century, the ‘economics of knowledge’ will have to be written by scientists & economists jointly. The issues of ‘economics of traditional knowledge’ are particularly complex and emotive and we hope Indians will be at the forefront in writing these chapters.
In the new knowledge millennium, the center of focus of knowledge production will shift to India. Why is this so? First and foremost pertains to our cost advantage. It is remarkable that the entire S&T budget of India last year did not exceed 2.5 billion US dollars, whereas the budget of Siemens alone was 5 billion US dollars! The intellectual capital available per dollar in India is the highest in the world. Secondly, the high quality science base prevalent in India in certain select areas is a big attraction especially when one recognizes that industrial R&D is becoming increasingly science based. Besides this, the good news is that the Far Eastern Economic Review of September 2, 1999 reported that India ranked first as the source of knowledge workers, ahead of Phillipines, China, Australia, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Hongkong and Indonesia, in that order.
The world leaders in business recognize this. Jack Welch, CEO of General Electric, was speaking to his mangers about GE's strategic positioning vis-� -vis India and Mexico. He said, for GE, I in India means intellect & M in Mexico means manufacturing. GE's second largest R&D center in the world is coming up in Bangalore. Many others will follow suit. There is no doubt that India will become a major global knowledge production center. This shift may have a positive impact on retaining the Indian talent in India, but at the same time, a competition will be set in between the Indian institutions and industry on one hand and these foreign knowledge production enterprises on the Indian land on the other hand. Only time will tell us the net impact of this phenomenon, but I do hope that this will finally induce the Indian industry to put more demand on science, which it has not done so far.
While building the Indian knowledge society, we will have to worry about three different domains of knowledge. As scientists, we focus rather narrowly only on S&T based knowledge, which is established through the rigorous methodology of science. But there are two other domains of knowledge, which we have kept away from. One is the so-called ‘parallel’, indigenous’, ‘traditional’ or ‘civilizational’ knowledge system. These systems belong to societies in the developing world, that have nurtured and refined systems of knowledge of their own, relating to such diverse domains as geology, ecology, agriculture, and health etc., our Ayurvedic medicinal systems being one such domain. They were, as yet, neglected by modern science but not any more so. New bridges between the modern and the traditional are being built. CSIR’s pioneering partnership with Arya Vaidyashala of Kottakal is an example of the benefits of blending the modern science and the traditional knowledge. But this is only a small step, we have miles to go.
Indigenous knowledge systems must be sustained through active support to the societies that are keepers of this knowledge, be they villagers or tribes, their ways of life, their languages, their social organization and the environments in which they live. We need innovative ways of preventing the erosion of such knowledge, which usually vanishes with people. Equally importantly, we need an in-depth analysis of the parallelism of insights between the indigenous knowledge systems, on the one hand, and certain areas of modern science concerned with fundamental aspects, on the other. Our university education and research needs to shift the search light on this important issue, which it has neglected so far.
The third knowledge system in the one that our Hon’ble Prime Minister pointed out in the last Science Congress and the one that our Hon’ble Minister of Science and Technology has been emphasizing repeatedly, namely the knowledge systems of the spiritual world. Here again, the tools of modern science are giving us deep insights. For example, quantum physics is leading to inquiry into consciousness, computational advances are leading to inquiry into human intelligence, advances in neuro-sciences are leading to inquiry into the working of a human mind.
The new millennium Universal Knowledge System will have to be a beautiful confluence of these three knowledge systems. I feel confident that India will lead in interpreting, creating, synergising and enhancing these knowledge systems and that the foundation of the new millennium Indian knowledge society will be based on this Universal Knowledge System.
Innovation Centered India
Knowledge without innovation is of no value. It is through the process of innovation alone that knowledge is converted into wealth and social good, and this process takes place from firm to farm. When one looks at India today, one feels that centuries of subjugation has perhaps undermined our capacity for innovation and creativity. We cannot anymore allow the ‘I’ in India to stand for imitation and inhibition, it must stand for innovation. Innovators are those who do not know that it cannot be done. Innovators are those who see what everyone else sees, but think of what no one else thinks. Innovators refuse status quo, they convert inspirations into solutions and ideas into products. Building such innovators will require an all-pervasive attitudinal change towards life and work – a shift from a culture of drift to a culture of dynamism, from a culture of idle prattle to a culture of thought and work, from diffidence to confidence, from despair to hope. Revival of Indian creativity and the innovative spirit needs to be made into a national movement today, in the same spirit and on the same scale as marked our freedom struggle.
We recognise that the innovation process has both forward linkages and backward linkages. The forward linkages will involve technology innovation and production chain, with the consequent process of diffusion representing a further forward linkage. For India, equally important is the backward linkage which pertains to literacy, science education, public awareness, the mass media and the use of innovation in science itself to further these.
When it comes to technology innovation, there are three types of technology innovations that stand out. Firstly, there is a large system innovation (such as a man on the moon mission or the green revolution), incremental innovation (such as development of an improved fax machine) and finally radical breakthroughs (such as an accidental breakthrough leading to the antibiotic industry). These invariably take place in formal systems of innovation, namely universities, industrial R&D laboratories, etc. We have done well in large system innovation; our programs in strategic areas, green revolution, white revolution are indicative of our successes. Incremental innovations take place in industries which continuously innovates to create products, which displace their own products with the fear that otherwise their competitors will do it for them. In the absence of competition in the market place, our industry has not put demand on innovation, but no more can they afford to this. I do hope the new millennium innovation spirit will propel our industry to change course since that alone will determine their survival or success. As regards radical breakthroughs, which gave rise accidentally to antibiotic industry and modern chemical & plastics industry. India cannot, unfortunately, claim any major industry in this century that owes its origin to an accidental discovery in India. We need an innovative mind to spot accidents, when they happen. After all eyes do not see what the mind does not know. With the new innovation movement, we hope we will increasingly see such radical breakthroughs come from India.
Innovators do not exist just in formal laboratories, millions of them exist in villages, in homes and in streets. To encourage community innovation, it is necessary to scout, support, spawn and scale up the green grass root innovation. This will generate employment on one hand and it will use natural resources sustainably through linking of innovation, enterprise and investment. The recent initiative by the government on setting up the National Innovation Foundation is bound to play a crucial role in making this happen.
I have emphasized so far on S&T based innovations but the concept of innovation is a much wider one. It is particularly important to recognise the need of social innovation. Innovation in India’s social, legal and economic institutions, in the system of their governance is as crucial as innovation in the products and production processes of its economy. If paper becomes more important than people, if bureaucracy overrides innovative spirits, if risk taking innovators are shot, if decision making times are larger then new product life cycle times, then innovation cannot survive. We must also recognise that innovation cannot arise by itself; it is generated and sustained through the efforts of its people. We need to create an environment, in which innovation flourishes. Otherwise the innovators will either play safe and not innovate, or they will leave to become a part of other innovative societies, which encourage innovation, as India has seen to its dismay; since a lot of its young sons and daughters have left, not due to the lure of the physical income alone, but because of the psychic income that they gain in those innovative societies. We must vow to reverse this process as we enter the new millennium.
We are so concerned about this issue that we are holding a full day session entitled 'Genesis' in this Congress. The question that we are asking is 'Why do Indian genes express themselves in Silicon Valley? Why can they not express in India? How can we create Silicon Valleys in our own Indus Valley?' We hope to bring the conclusions of this session to the government, which is looking for inputs to build the innovative India.
We must bring back the spirit of that glorious innovative India of the bygone millennia back? Indeed we have an opportunity to start the resurgence of an innovative India today. Our beloved Prime Minister had referred to IT as India's Tomorrow. We fully agree. May I add, Sir, with your permission, 'TI' to that 'IT'. That TI represents 'total innovation', not only in science & technology, but also in our social, legal and economic structures. Let us then take 'IT' & 'TI' together, since one without the other will not work. May I finally add that the new millennium innovative India will be built only when we pledge to make the national symbol of ‘I’ in ‘India’ to stand for ‘Innovation’. And this morning is a good time to take that pledge.
Let me sum up by recalling the new Panchasheel of the new millennium, that we should launch in the year 2000. It is simply –
- Child centred education;
- Woman centred family;
- Human centred development;
- Knowledge centred society;
- Innovation centred India.
This Panchasheel links the child, the woman, the human, the society and the nation. It focuses on equity, or dignity if you like, with growth. It emphasizes bringing back the values and culture, for which this country was so famous. If we get these five fundamentals right, we can achieve everything. For example, the burning problem of population growth will be addressed meaningfully only when we build a woman centered family, with education to the female child being its essential fulcrum. Our environmental agenda is subsumed in the human centered development. Similarly, building globally competitive Indian industry will automatically follow when we get the fundamentals of knowledge and innovation centric approaches right. I hope these five fundamentals, which have an eternal value, will reverberate through our minds in the next millennium & even beyond.
All of us here certainly have the right to dream. What would be my dream for Indian science and India in the early part of the new millennium, say for the twenty first century? Obviously, it is of an India, where the basic needs of the teeming millions will be fulfilled and we will move on to the top ladder of the World Human Development Index. Drinking water for all, education for all, health for all, peace and prosperity for all, is something that we owed to our people a long time ago, and we must achieve this goal as soon as possible. But let us go beyond that.
What would be the possible headlines that Indian science & India will get in the next century? In my dream, I surfed the net and landed at the India.com portal.
I clicked on ‘Nobel Awards’, and I saw
‘Indians won three Nobel prizes this year. The first one in physics is for the grand unified theory of matter and their interactions. The second one is in physiology and medicine, for providing the first definitive neuro-biological basis of the human cognitive phenomena. The third Nobel Prize in economics was shared by an Indian scientist and an Indian economist working in India, a country, which has already assumed the position of a knowledge super power by capturing 30% share of the global output of the global knowledge industry. They won the Nobel prize for their work in Economics of Traditional Knowledge, which beautifully blended economics, science, philosophy and ethics.
I clicked on ‘Community Health’, and I saw
‘India became the first country in the world to completely eradicate Tuberculosis.
One more click on ‘Indian Pharma Industry’ showed
' The anti-ulcer drug, which was based on a molecule derived from the clues from India's traditional knowledge, maintained its leading global position and posted global sales exceeding five billion dollars'.
I clicked on ‘Water’, and I saw
‘Through a sustained effort of Indian scientists, engineers and technocrats, India has succeeded in creating a unique ‘Indian Water Network’, which connects all the Indian rivers and through innovative methods of water capture, recharge of acquifers etc., India became the first country in the world to reach perpetual ‘Water Security’.
A further click on ‘Disaster Management’ showed
‘The recent earthquake on eight Richter scale in Assam had zero loss of life, thanks to the advanced warning systems developed by Indian scientists and immaculate disaster management systems set up by the Indian government.’
One more click on ‘Energy’ showed
‘The Prime Minister of India, during the inaugural session of the 100th ‘Indian Knowledge Congress’, formerly known as ‘Indian Science Congress’ formally released the Indian technology to harness the massive gas hydrates in the Indian oceans, which will cater to the Indian energy needs for the next two hundred years’.
And the final click on ‘Research Opportunities’ showed
‘Indian brain drain has been completely reversed this year. In fact India is in an enviable position of having a queue of American and European scholars to join its unique global knowledge production centers in India’.
You might say these are crazy dreams. Can a country, which has so many deprived, so many people below the poverty line, so many illiterates, really do it? What gives me the confidence that it can happen? This confidence comes to me because of the images of a little boy, who in the late fifties studied under the streetlights and went barefoot to the school until he was twelve years old. A little boy, who struggled to have two meals a day; a little boy who was to leave studies in 1960 after his matriculation, inspite of securing a position in the top thirty in Maharashtra State SSC Board, because his poor widowed mother could not support his education. This boy was helped by this gracious Indian society and later on in his life, loved and encouraged by this great city of Pune. He is giving today this address as the President of Indian Science Congress at the dawn of the new millennium in the august presence of our Hon’ble Prime Minister. If this miracle can happen to an Indian, given an opportunity, it can happen to every Indian, and most certainly it can happen to my India in the coming millennium. Next century will be the century of mind and India will have the legitimate right to lead. Next century will belong to India, which will become a unique intellectual and economic power to reckon with, recapturing all its glory, which it had in the millennia gone by. And I believe this will happen as this dawn of the new millennium turns into a morning, and what a glorious morning would it be for my India.