Our Prime Minister addressed the 98th Indian Science Congress on 3 January 2011. While I was looking over its text, I stumbled upon a fact that he pointed out: “While C.V.Raman won the Nobel Prize eighty years ago for the Raman Effect, most of the instruments available in India today using this principle are imported. This is not an isolated example and many of our outstanding scientific discoveries have been converted into marketable products by technologies and firms based abroad.”
This is really appalling and shows how backward we are in the matter of science and technology. Prime Minister has also said that we need more Ramans and Ramanujans. Thanks to our Prime Minister. Someone has finally remembered C.V.Raman, the greatest Indian brain ever in the field of science. It is really important to remember them in the days when personalities like Dr. A.P.J. Abul Kalam and others are unnecessarily given the status of great scientists. They are given the status larger than life. Here I do not want to undermine their contribution. They are eminent personalities, but certainly not great scientists.
The point is why we have only C.V.Raman as a home grown Nobel Prize winner in science. Sir C.V. Raman won the Noble Prize in 1930. So in the eighty years we don’t have a single scientific discovery as great as C.V. Raman’s. We boast of I.I.Ts, but nothing great has happened also in the field of technology, which is clear from the fact that most remarkable Indian scientific discoveries are converted into products outside India. On one hand we do not have great scientific discoveries after the Raman Effect; we have not produced any great technology on the other. Our performance in the field of science and technology is extremely lacklustre. If I am not digressing, I must say that even in the field management, we have not discovered a single management theory which is so great that the world has to emulate it.
We generally tend to blame polity, bureaucracy and education system for our mediocre scientific progress. But this is barking up the wrong tree. We should blame ourselves for the fact that we have never given importance to pure science.
Shyam Manohar, noted Marathi writer’s latest novel has a character who is a software engineer, who happens to read an autobiography of his physics teacher. To his surprise, in the autobiography he does not find even a single mention of pleasure that his teacher finds in anything related to physics. This disturbs him. He wonders why his teacher does not have a single pleasurable experience related to physics to mention in his autobiography. He becomes introspective and starts looking back whether he ever had any moment of happiness during the years of his education. He remembers that when he was in 12th standard class, learning polarisation of light was the moment of happiness. He realises that as India always has given more importance to technology than to pure science, doing career in pure science has never occurred to people like him.
He finds that with the arrival of technology in India, achievements and financial growth became important. The fact that no one has realised the importance of pure science in India strikes him. ‘Nehru met Einstein, but Nehru championed technology in stead of pure science.’
However, our progress in the field of technology is also mediocre. The reason lies in our indifference to pure science. Shyam Manohar once said in an interview that we call physics a subject not a branch of knowledge. This clearly shows our indifference to fundamental questions. We have never looked at pure science as a source of knowledge, in turn as a source of technology. This exists everywhere, in all our Indian unversitites and institutions including our elite institues like Indian Institue Of Technology. Remember they are institues of technology not science. Even the goverment does not want institues of pure science. Great ideas are born in the attempts of solving fundamental and abstract questions. Unless and untill we bring about a change in our attitude to fundamental and abstract questions, we may have hunderds of I.I.Ts., nothing will make a difference. They will simply act as PLACEMENT AGENCIES, the way most parents today simply look at them. They hardly want their child to be the Raman of India today. They simply want him or her to be a technocrat who will be a highly paid 'servant' of some American and European and now Chinese multinational company.
C.V. Raman won the Noble Prize, with a simple instrument barely worth Rs. 300. Today very expensive instruments are needed for inventions. We do not have them, because we do not have technology. And we do not have technology, because we have never given importance to pure science.
It was a great beginning for Indian science, when C.V. Raman discovered the great Raman Effect. Sadly it is also becoming the end of Indian science.