Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi Speeches
Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi
Minister of Human Resource Development and Science & Technology
Address Delivered at the Presentation Ceremony of the 1997 Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prizes
May 25, 1998
NPL Auditorium, New Delhi
India’s Future Its Scientists & Technologists
Respected and beloved Prime Minister Shri Vajpayeeji, Dr. Mashelkar, FRS, Director General of CSIR, Dr. Raychaudhury and doyens of Indian Science, distinguished scientists who are sitting here, winners of the award and fellow scientists.
At the outset I would like to thank the Honourable Prime Minister for agreeing to grace the function, His gracious gesture re-establishes the earlier tradition wherein the Prime Minister publicly affirmed the government’s support and commitment to science and technology by honouring our worthy scientists and technologists, Our Government not only reaffirms the faith that the founding fathers of the nation have reposed in Science and Technology but we would like to accord a position of prestige and honour to our scientists and technologists. The developments of the past few weeks have once again brought India at the centre stage of global polity.
Eleventh of May 1998 was a very special day for Indian technology. We had three great events on that day. The first event of the day (12.50 p.m.) was of the successful test flight for final certification of Hansa – 3, the first all composite indigenous aircraft, built by CSIR. The second was (followed a few minutes later) by the successful test firing of the Trishul missile. The third and the most momentous was the three successful nuclear tests. I would thus like to request the Honourable Prime Minister that Eleventh May be declared as the Technology Day, just as Twenty-eighth February is celebrated as Science Day in recognition of discovery of Raman Effect.
A further recognition of India’s standing in the scientific world came on Sixteenth May with the election of four Indian Scientists as Fellows of the prestigious and oldest of the science societies, the Royal Society, London. I am told that in the 330 year history of the Royal Society there have been only 35 Indians elected as Fellows. I believe that election of four Indian Scientists this year is a tribute to and a fitting recognition of Indian science. Two of the Indian scientists Dr. H.K.D.H. Bhadeshia (Cambridge Univ.) and Dr. Srinivas Vardhan (New York Univ.) are presently working abroad, the other two Dr. Ashoke Sen who is at Mehta Research Institute at Allahabad and Dr. R.A. Mashelkar, DG CSIR, are working in India, Our heartfelt Congratulations to all four of them for doing India proud.
The vision to build the new India of our dreams cannot merely be a derivative of the past. It has to be, of course, based on the reality of the present, but it has to have a boldness, ambition and hope, which is commensurate with the aspiration of this great nation. In recognition of the heightened aspirations that the people have from science & technology I had instructed CSIR to assemble together the Directors of all the laboratories so that we could brainstorm about how CSIR could serve the nation still better. I thus took a two-day meeting of CSIR Directors (on 11th & 12th May 1998) at Bangalore wherein we considered 10 strategy papers dealing with:
- S&T for the common man
- Competitiveness of Indian Industry
- Value addition to endogenous resources
- Attaining global leadership in science
We are now giving finishing touches to these strategy papers which I would then like to submit to the Prime Minister for his consideration and decision. I have set therein very specific and stringent time and task targets for CSIR, and I am confident that CSIR will be able to meet these.
Talking of our achievements, I would like to applaud the young scientists and technologists, assembled here today for their magnificent work that has secured for them the prestigious Bhatnagar Prize. The award brings with it recognition, honour and prestige – as the Bhatnagar awards have come to enjoy the highest reputation nationally and internationally. At the same time, I feel that, the award also reposes a heavy responsibility on the awardees: you are now a role model for your budding colleagues and have to set for them by example to pursue excellence in S&T, high level of ethics and also charting out newer paths that are truly endogenous.
I believe that for too long now Indian Science and Technology has sought to pursue the trodden path set for us by others. In the past Indian philosophers and scientists had given the world original and new paths in diverse scientific areas such as medicine and metallurgy. The use of Mercury and other metal Bhasmas as therapeutics is still considered to be a new area in medicine. My appeal to you, the Bhatnagar awardees, is to break out from the trodden and established path and pioneer new thinking and areas. It is only then that the world will once again look up to India as a provider of new S&T The quality of the Indian basic research in the new millennium will need to undergo a sea-change. We should aim for world leadership in science again. The new Indian science should be one that leads and not follows. It will need to be based on daring and creativity. Promoting curiosity based research with new sense of adventure would be the Indian endeavour in the next millennium.
Indian S&T can play a crucial role in catalysing and accelerating the economic and social development. This becomes clear when we recognise that the comparative advantage in the globally integrated knowledge-based world economy today is shifting to those with brain power to absorb, assimilate and adopt the spectacular developments in science and technology and harness them for national growth. Whereas investments into physical infrastructure on energy, transport and communications are crucial, it is the intellectual infrastructure derived through powerful S&T that will give India a comparative advantage. Judicious investments will have to be made in building this infrastructure by investing more than hitherto in higher education and S&T.
Partnership with nature and also with our past; our traditional knowledge base and community knowledge needs to be harnessed and uniquely enhanced by using cutting-edge science. Our vast biodiversity needs to be conserved and our long coastal zones and unexploited oceans, provide us vast opportunities, be they for drugs or alternative sources of energy (gas hydrates) or minerals. We again need to recreate the spirit of adventure by exploring nature and our abundant knowledge resources using the tools of new science.
One of the hallmarks of the Indian civilization from the very ancient times was to develop harmony with life and nature and to establish the infinite potential of human development. As a long term vision, India should lead the world in establishing and demonstrating the harmony between science and spirituality, in the development and application of science with ethics as the backbone. Scientific temper and true joy of science will be unfolded when the harmony between the science and the mankind’s highest quest is achieved.
Speech by Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi
Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi
for Science & Technology
on May 11, 2000
Technology Day 2000
In the life of a nation, a few moments capture the definitive essence of the process of nation building recalling our famous tryst with destiny. May 11, 1998 was one such moment. Years of investment and effort in developing scientific and technological capabilities, in nurturing innovation, in empowering our scientists and technologists and in creating ‘Science & Technology institutions of excellence culminated in the demonstration of our national ability to deliver some of the most sophisticated and complex technological systems known to humankind’ As a tribute to this defining moment, our Prime Minister, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, whose vision and decisiveness unshackled our technological potential and prowess, christened it the National Technology Day. I have been deeply honoured that in the Millennium year, when we begin our quest for an Indian Technology leadership initiative, he has specially conferred on me the privilege of giving away the National Technology Day award.
Today as we stand committed to extending our full throated support to technological innovation and excellence it is most fitting that the award has gone to an organization, a team and a product that exemplifies a firm conviction in our inherent abilities, in our traditions and in the fact that the spirit of ceaseless innovation can and should become a core value. The Tata name has always evoked a spirit of national pride, of ethicality and principled conduct, of quiet professionalism, of pioneering leadership and of taking on innovative challenges against the heaviest of odds. Until recently skeptics had argued that creating an automobile, that too a small car could not be done without import of technology and capital investment, that an indigenously developed car would always be inferior in quality, would not be able to withstand competition and that Telco had bitten more than it could chew. I share the pride of the Tatas in having proved the skeptics wrong in every respect. This must have been an exhilarating experience and I am happy to be able to savour a part of that exhilaration. Once again, my congratulations.
I also take this opportunity to commend the remarkable achievements of the Technology Development Board of the Department of Science & Technology. Quietly and without much fanfare the Board, within just three years of its creation, has enabled over sixty projects to take up commercialization of technology, largely developed indigenously, with over 20 innovative products already in the market and doing extremely well. The Technology Development Board is the first mechanism within the Government for bridging the gap between the laboratory and the factory, for encouraging industry to inculcate a culture driven by R&D and technological innovation, for taking technological risks, for facilitating linkages and interactions between R&D institutions and industry, for developing a technological knowledge base and for ensuring that there is no compromise on quality, environmental safety and competitiveness. The TDB is a venture capitalist with a difference. Its primary concern is to see that a striving for technological innovation drives the process of industrial development across all sectors of industry and across a multiplicity of enterprise types – from self made entrepreneurs to established industrial concerns, to professionals undertaking start-up venture;. It is not confined to supporting high-risk, high-profit ventures alone, and as long as an idea, a process or a product, is backed by technological excellence and innovativeness, the TDB is mandated to support it. The success that TDB has achieved in the very short span of time since it came into existence is enviable and the executive leadership of both the Department of Science and Technology and the Technology Development Board deserves fulsome praise and approbation.
Much still remains to be done. The long chain of linkages backwards and forwards between academia, basic theoretical research, applied research, public R&D institutions, corporate R&D, financial institutions, entrepreneurship development, business incubation, industry and the markets, needs new tools and instruments of integration and networking. We need a bold new architecture of governance. We need new managerial technologies. We need new partnerships. We need to set our goals much higher. We need to become global leaders in niche areas of technology.
It is with this vision of a technologically resurgent India that a small beginning has been made for converting the Technology Vision for India 2020 into missions and action, and for launching a New Millennium Indian Technology Leadership Initiative. One of our most exciting organizations, the Technology Information Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC) has been entrusted the task of shaping the vision into missions, which are action oriented, focus on regional needs and aspirations, establish new partnerships between scientists, technologists, industrial organizations and communities and aim for a strong societal impact. Missions for increasing agricultural productivity especially in traditionally poor regions, for improvements in milk quality, for health services infrastructure, and for indigenous capability development in engineering industry have already been formulated. These are in addition to the 21 Jai Vigyan Missions being undertaken by the Departments of Science & Technology. Bio-technology, Atomic Energy, Space, Environment & Forests, Electronics, Agricultural Research, Scientific & Industrial Research, Health and Ocean Development covering a multitude of fields including food security, plant genetics, bio-diversity, genomic research, medicine, disaster management, ocean-thermal energy and technologies for the visually impaired. Together these missions constitute a newer, more vibrant agenda and a means of knitting diverse people and disciplines into a new kind of commonwealth of people knowledge and action.
I will be remiss if I do not highlight the specific initiatives in the field of biotechnology and bio-tech industry. It is said that as much as the present belongs to information technology, the future belongs to bio-techno1ogy – bio-technology for health, bio-technology for the human being. Bio-tech remedies vaccines and treatment systems, bio-seeds, biofertilizers, bio-pesticides, bio-genetic engineering – all hold a promise for solving some of our hitherto most intractable problems~ This promise can be fulfilled only if we substantially increase our investments in R&D, public and private, and in linking these investments with accelerated commercialization. To encourage inventors as also entrepreneurs to join the bio-industrial revolution. I have approved the institution of five awards in bio-tech product and process development and for commercialization of bio-tech products. These awards will be presented next year on the Technology Day.
In the process of building bridges between academic institutions, R&D institutions and the industrial enterprise a significant mediating role has to be played by structured entrepreneurship development interventions. Mechanisms such as entrepreneurship parks, business incubators, vocational guidance programmes, patent facilitation, venture capital support have proved extremely successful universally. The initiatives taken by the Department of Science and Technology to establish Science and Technology Entrepreneurs Parks through the National Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Development Board, the setting up of Business Incubators and Vocational Guidance Centres are indeed laudable and have yielded high dividends. However, we need to step up public investment very substantially in this field and also join hands with the private sector, the financial institutions and venture capitalists to leverage the investments manifold. I hope-the Technology Development Board and the Department of Science and Technology will come up with new ideas for achieving this. In order to provide an incentive to the existing Science & Technology Entrepreneurship Parks and to foster a spirit of healthy competition among them, I am pleased to announce the institution of an Annual Award for the best performing STEP which will carry a cash prize of Rs.1 lac and a citation.
I have dwelt sufficiently on the promise offered by technology for building a resurgent India, how we expect to fulfill this promise and the small beginnings we have made in this direction. However, the ‘Technology Day’ is also an occasion to reflect on the pitfalls of a purely technocratic vision of development and of an uncritical faith in Science & Technology as an Omnipotent God and as a universally valid prescription for whatever ails our society.’ The myth of social, cultural and ethical neutrality of technology is a myth perpetuated by a purely consumerist form of social organisation. We know well that technology has often led to the oppression and the manipulation of the individual, to the widespread destruction of the natural environment and the depletion of the world’s finite supply of natural resources. At the same time, technological skills have so far failed to provide effective solutions to many of the worlds major problems, in particular those of mass poverty, starvation and international conflict. Fuel shortages and power cuts have made man aware of the precariousness of his technological existence. Weapons of mass destruction have provided a sinister backcloth against which international power struggles are acted out. The individual in contemporary society feels himself increasingly trapped by powerful forces outside his control. He is reduced to little more than an economic cipher, continuously and uncomprehendingly manipulated within a vast inhuman complex. Technology, originally developed as a means of raising man above a life of poverty, drudgery and ill-health, now shows its other face as a major threat to his sanity and survival. Not surprisingly many have begun to feel that our technological society has opened the real Pandora’s box, and is finding itself rapidly overcome by the content’ – (David Dickson – Alternative Technology and the Politics of Technical Change).
The two factors which have had the greatest impact on circumscribing the unchecked advance of the technological juggernaut are the emergence of environmental and gender concerns to the forefront of public policy and action. The poisoning of river systems by industrial effluents, the lung diseases induced by atmospheric pollution, the desertification of vast tracts of land, the disappearance of tropical rain-forests and mangroves, the sclerosis of our cities caused by the private motor car have brought home the perils and the tyranny of modern technology with great force. Community and peoples led resistance to the onslaught of technology has led to a global movement demanding ecological sustainability to be the cornerstone of all economic action whether on the part of Governments or the private firm. Such has been the power of the green movements that today even the most die-hard supporters of high energy consumption have to accept green constraints as imposing limits to technology growth. The real challenge among our technologists, however, is not merely to accept environmental and ecological considerations as constraining forces but to alter the way in which we think and design technology.
Developments in the field of solar energy, of hydrogen fuel-cells, bio-fertilizers herbal cures, bio-diversity conservation, water-harvesting, are all pointers to the directions in which technology must advance. The concept of sustainability has now acquired ready currency. However, it is not possible to speak of sustainable development unless we first address the issue of sustainable consumption. As long as the ideal of unlimited consumption as a measure of progress remains, technology will continue to exercise its tyranny in its attempts to meet the ever-expanding demands of human greed and rapacity. To change patterns of consumption we need to (a) develop respect for Nature and the limits imposed by it as sacred (b) recognize that ethical values are absolute and that we need the ability to discriminate between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ technology and (c) bring about a shift in control and power over technological processes from technocracies to the community, the family and the responsible individual. The developments in Information Technology, especially the miniaturization of technology and the ability to be fully networked enables us to acquire greater control over production processes, but the same technology can also be used by giant corporates and centralized bureaucracies to create an Orwellian nightmare.
The glaring gaps in our technology development processes have been painfully brought home to us by the severity of the drought and the water-famine prevailing in many parts of the country today. It is not only that we have been unable to harness technology for preventing the misery that periodic drought conditions create, or mitigating the distress situation, but that our technological growth has been at the cost of the traditional methods and technologies that communities had evolved over centuries for protecting themselves from similar situations. We had some of the most astonishingly ingenious systems of water harvesting, storage, conservation, management and distribution especially in water scarce regions, which have either disappeared or fallen into disuse. These systems and technologies exemplified community empowerment and community capability. The model of individualistic pursuit of technology growth motivated primarily by human selfishness and greed has hit at the very roots of our social and communal fabric. We need to ponder on how we can restore the centrality of issues of community control of ethical regulation, of innovative management of moving from a strategy-structure systems model to the purpose-process-people model, of protecting traditional knowledge systems, of enlarging the sphere and range of each person’s competence, control and initiative limited only by other individuals claim to an equal range of power and freedom. A vision bounded by spirituality and ethics.
In the context of community empowerment it is interesting to reflect on t how the most significant technological development of our times in computation communication – I am referring to the internet – is bringing about a fundamental change in our imagery, our language and vocabulary and the means by which individuals, communities and societies relate to one another. First the image of the universe as a giant machine, consisting of many parts, is being replaced by the image of the universe as a vast neural and completely interconnected network.
Second, the language of common parlance increasingly speaks of a knowledge society, knowledge capital, knowledge industry, knowledge governance, rather than of Information Technology – in other words ‘Information’ and ‘Technology’ are in themselves useless unless they get converted to knowledge. The ascendancy of the mind over the machine. Third connectivity, conviviality, creativity and conservation have become the most sought after values. The creation of material wealth by ceaseless and rapacious exploitation of energy and resources is being increasingly replaced by the creation of knowledge wealth. A small group of creative individuals can today create in a weeks time the wealth that it took large industrial conglomerates of the past, decades to accumulate. Technology has shaken our notions of economics. Is this a mere bubble which will burst any moment now? I do not think so because these developments have restored the centrality of the human being, of his close interconnectedness with Nature and the Universe to the mainstream of societal processes. This was a desperately needed corrective to the goal of technological growth as an end in itself and it is indeed paradoxical that like Nature, technology itself has engineered and fashioned its own corrective.
The restoration of the paramountcy of the human mind and the recognition of its role as the prime mover, the engine of growth is a development of overwhelming significance for the Indian civilization. As a civilization we can differentiate ourselves from many others by the extra-ordinary sophistication, complexity and richness of our traditions of the pursuit of knowledge. At a time thousands of years ago, when many societies were still struggling to negotiate the basics of material existence, we already had a body of thought and knowledge which was breathtaking in its range – cosmology, astronomy, mathematics, linguistics and grammar, logic, ethics, aesthetics, architecture – there was not a branch of human thought which had not been irradiated the rays of human brilliance. We never had a distinction between religious and scientific thought because tour way of life was governed not by primitive awe and superstition and dogma and doctrine but by a civilizational awareness of that deep and meaningful resonance between the human mind and the underlying organisation of the natural world. I cannot recall any other society, which has throughout its history accorded such primacy to the quest for knowledge, untrammeled and unbounded by theocracy. The Western notion of a conflict between religion and science, a conflict which so many modem scientific thinkers from Whitehead, to Fred Hoyle to Stephen Hawking, have tried to reconcile, never existed in the Indian mind, because our culture, our way of life, our religion was always a scientific quest, a journey into the unknown.
The reason why 1 am harking back to our primary civilizational characteristic is because 1 believe that every society inherits a certain ‘genetic software’ and that in our case we have inherited our traditions of pursuit of knowledge, including the pursuit of knowledge qua knowledge as our genetic software. This gives us an unparalleled edge to emerge as a formidable power in a globalized, networked environment. Some years ago the British socialist historian, E.P. Thompson, was struck by this civilizational characteristic and remarked thus – (I quote) “India is not an important but perhaps most important country for the future of the world. Here is a country that merits no ones condescension. All the convergent influences of the world run through this society: Hindu, Moslem, Christian, secular, Stalinist, liberal, Maoist, democratic socialist, Gandhian. There is not a thought being thought of in the West or East which is not active in some Indian mind” – (unquote). When we view this heritage in the context of a knowledge economy; when we realise that this heritage is not the preserve of a few and that in every Indian, however poor by standards of conventional economics, we have a repository of traditional Knowledge of astonishing richness, we know the task before our technologists. It should become our bounden duty to harness the technological means available to us to convert every knowledge holder into a dynamic producer of knowledge – not merely a passive recipient of information created by others but a creator, a generator, an entrepreneur of content. This places a demand on our scientists and technologists to make technology available, accessible, affordable and controllable. The question before you has to be whether you will be in a position to respond boldly and imaginatively to this demand placed on you. Let us strive for a technology with a human face.
I would like to end on an optimistic note with some recent examples of application of science and technology with a human face with a view to empowering the hitherto technologically disenfranchised. Shri Himanshu Parekh, a Cambridge trained urban infrastructure engineer, has developed a concept of ‘Slum-Networking’ whereby he has used the strategic location of slums along a city’s natural drainage courses – which offer the most efficient path for laying high-quality, world-class urban infrastructure- i.e., piped water supply, sewerage, drainage and roads – to create an infrastructure grid for the entire city with the investment and participation of the slum community. This achieves a two-fold objective whereby firstly the slum community becomes the provider of high quality infrastructure to the entire city and therefore comes to be recognised as a rich resource than as a liability and secondly the access to clean drinking water, individual toilets, and a clean green landscaped environment brings about a dramatic transformation in their own lives – social, economic and cultural. Those who have seen the magical transformation of the slum communities in parts of Indore, Baroda, Ahmedabad and Bombay, where Shri Parekh led the initiatives have become aware of the powerful impact engineering innovation can have in the lives of the poor. I am really happy to know that the Department of Science & Technology has on the basis of Parekh’s work initiated a mission to be implemented through TIFAC for the application of technology for urban renewal. This is highly commendable.
A similar effort of using technology to impact on the lives of the distressed and the poor is that of’ some students and faculty of N.I.D., Ahmedabad, who are designing an e-commerce portal for Indian craftsmen and artisans which will link individual craftsmen directly to designers and markets. As I have spoken about it in one of my earlier speeches, it will be possible through this portal for a garment buyer, say in New York, to approach a Zardozi craftsman in Najibabad, directly; select a pattern, a weave and a fabric and place his order with him. This will mean not only a multiple increase in the craftsman’s income but also his direct interaction with the market will unleash his creative skills to meet the demands of his market.
The third example is the collective initiative led by the Department of Science & Technology for the integrated application of science and technology for the development of the Central Himalayan region, covering the whole range of concerns from natural disaster management mitigation and control, to conservation, propagation and utilization of natural resources especially biodiversity, infrastructure creation and socioeconomic betterment. The objective is to make S&T region and context specific.
I have chosen these examples, among many, because they demonstrate that technology can be socially useful, enhance creativity, empower the have-nots, without compromising on independent standards of technological excellence. All examples show the use of high technology, of international standards made to service the requirements of the economically poor but knowledge rich.
To sum up, it is my abiding belief that for technology to grow, it must be green, it must be ethical, it must have a human face, it must be gender sensitive, it must be region and context-specific and it must empower the communi1 as a whole and not merely a section of it. I believe that it is only these abiding principles which will enable us to make our true tryst with destiny.
Speeches-Technology Day 2003
Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi
Hon’ble Minister for Human Resource
Development, Science & Technology and Ocean Development
In the life of a nation there are occasions which capture the essence and spirit of the times in a way that their significance can be continuously reinterpreted. The national Technology Day is one such event. Five years ago it began as a celebration of our technological prowess and sophistication in the realm of national security. With the passage of time and a rapidly changing global context it is much more than that. It is a celebration of possibly the longest known civilizational quest for scientific inquiry and technological creativity as a way of life – a continuing societal search for harmony and balance between human beings and nature, between human beings and human beings.
At a time when large sections of humanity are profoundly disturbed about the destructive potential of technology, its inability to address fundamental issues of poverty, hunger, disease and ecological degradation, its role in weakening social and ethical value-systems – the world looks to India to provide a corrective, a way out. As the notion of sustainability gains ascendance, few other societies can claim with the same pride and confidence that for millennia the paradigm of sustainable production and consumption combined with knowledge resources of incredible sophistication, has been deeply embedded in our ‘genetic software’ as Paul Davies calls it. The divorce of technology from social accountability: the equation of growth of private profit, (fuelled by technology), with public good; the acceptance of exploitation of man and nature as an evil necessary for attainment of economic growth – these are all alien imports, civilizationally abhorrent to us. By plumbing the depths of our civilizational knowledge resources, combined with our unmatched scientific and technological brainware we now have the opportunity and the privilege of taking a leadership role in charting a new agenda and framework for science & technology wedded to the ideals of sustainability. Today we celebrate this privilege of taking on a challenge to set new trends. India leads, it does not follow.
It is no co-incidence that the Technology Day award this year for successful commercialization of indigenous technology has gone to a company which has shown how technological and commercial ends can be fused with a strong social purpose. In the development of an affordable, cost -effective life saving drug – Interferon Alpha 2b – through their own in-house recombinant DNA technology – M/s. Shanta Biotechnic have once again proved many things. Firstly that technology development is best driven by a powerful social commitment. Secondly that social objectives need not involve any compromises on standards of technological excellence and that, in fact, there is a natural correspondence between the two. The poor deserve the best. Thirdly that private commercial and business ends need not conflict with public good. Making world class life saving drugs affordable to the poor is good business. Lastly that technological creativity, innovation and excellence is not the preserve of large multi-nationals alone and that in the info – bio – nano era of knowledge based technologies, Indian entrepreneurship will set global trends. This is the second time in less than five years that Shanta Biotechnic has won the same award and it shows that instead of resting on their laurels – which are many – they have incorporated the rapid pace of socially relevant technology development as a core value. May I once again congratulate you and hope that you will now strive to score a hat-trick in winning the Technology Day Award.
In the nurturing of technology based industry leaders the role played by the Technology Development Board deserves a full throated cheer. Shanta Biotechnic is one of the 114 projects supported by the Board. In the short span of its existence it has already leveraged an investment in technology based enterprise of over RS.1600 crores with as many as fifty innovative products already in the market. The Technology Development Board is the first mechanism within the Government for bridging the gap between the laboratory and the factory, for encouraging industry to inculcate a culture driven by R&D and technological innovation, for taking technological risks, for facilitating linkages and interactions between R&D institutions and industry, for developing a technological knowledge base and for ensuring that there is no compromise on quality, environmental safety, competitiveness and social good. The TDB is a venture capitalist with a difference. Its primary concern has been to see that a striving for technological innovation drives the process of industrial development across all sectors of industry and across a multiplicity of enterprise types – from self made entrepreneurs to established industrial concerns, to professionals undertaking start-up ventures. It has not been confined to supporting high-risk, high-profit ventures alone, and as long as an idea, a process or a product, is backed by technological excellence and innovativeness, the TDB is mandated to support it. The success that TDB has achieved in the very short span of time since it came into existence is enviable and the executive leadership of both the Department of Science & Technology and the Technology Development Board deserves fulsome praise and approbation.
I am happy to announce on Technology Day that the Technology Development Board has taken a few far reaching steps to further facilitate support for technology based entrepreneurship. The interest rate on TDB loans has been brought down to five per cent making it one of the most attractive windows for technology funding. It has also been decided not to levy any royalty from the beneficiaries in respect of all new loan agreements. Further it has been decided to evenly distribute the interest accumulated during the project implementation phase, over a period of three years, after completion of the project. This was in response to suggestions made by industry. To encourage entrepreneurs to file patents abroad, which is expensive and often deters small entrepreneurs from protecting Intellectual Property Rights, it has been decided to include the cost of filing patents as an element of project cost in projects funded by the Technology Development Board.
In our efforts to fuse technology development with societal ends, biotechnology can and will play a major role. While the Government continues to support research and development in modern biology and biotechnology covering various facets of this inter-disciplinary frontier of science, it is new industry which has to come forward pro-actively to make full use of the efforts of our scientists. It is encouraging to know that the number of companies investing in biotechnology has gone up from about 200 in 1999-2000 to 450 by 2002-2003. There has been an overwhelming impact on the pharma and health care sector. As an example of Government industry collaboration, I am particularly happy about the commercial launch of Liposomal Amphotericin-B, known as “Wonder Drug”, for treatment of Systemic Mycosis and Kala-Azar. Systemic Mycosis is a life threatening fungal infection. Research programmes started by DBT have today given rise to a product, which will go to benefit millions of people in the country.
Two years ago on Technology Day I had suggested to Secretary, DST Professor V.S. Ramamurthy that in view of the enormous socioeconomic implications, especially for the tribal poor to launch a Bamboo Product Mission for scientific and technological intervention along the value chain. I am extremely happy to report that the Mission taken up by TIFAC is now fully operational and in the few months since obtaining administrative and financial approvals, it has introduced technologies for a range of wood substitutes such as boards and laminates, structurals, especially for earthquake resistant buildings, activated carbon, canned edible bamboo shoots for the export market and bamboo waste for energy production. This is yet another example of harnessing technology to benefit the poor and I would like to congratulate the team of Professor V.S. Ramamurthy, Shri Y.S. Rajan and Shri Vinaysheel Oberoi who have been masterminding and piloting this important initiative.
I would now like to dwell at some length on the single most important initiative taken by our Government since the last Technology Day and that is the Science & Technology Policy, 2003 which was dedicated to the nation by the Prime Minister, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee at the 90th Indian Science Congress in Bangalore on 3rd January this year. I believe that this is a development of historic significance and at the risk of repetition I propose to highlight the factors which influenced the making of the policy and the profound impact that the policy can possibly have in shaping our future.
We know that the increased role of the Government in promoting, funding and incentivising scientific and technological development is a relatively recent phenomenon. The relationship between Government and Science, in the west, was largely transformed by the Second World War and the influence of Vannevar Bush in the US and of Haldane in UK. The conscious thrust given by the Government to science research was premised on the following principles – that basic science is performed without thought of practical ends – its defining characteristic being to expand the frontiers of fundamental understanding; and that basic research is the pacemaker of technological improvement.
Our own Science Policy Resolution of 1958 was to a considerable extent inspired by the Vannevar Bush model. The notions of science implicit in these models were still firmly anchored in Newtonian and Cartesian paradigms. Inherent to these paradigms was the dichotomy between science and society, between scientific knowledge and other kinds of knowledge, especially the social sciences, between matter and consciousness. Whereas science did achieve spectacular success by being treated as an autonomous domain, it also rationalized many harmful and socially destructive developments in the interests of furthering domain knowledge. It valorized splintering specialization and by distancing itself from social and ethical concerns it was unable to make any meaningful impact on problems of mass poverty, hunger, malnutrition, health conditions of the underprivileged and widespread environmental degradation and destruction. In fact science and technology often perpetuated and exacerbated some of these problems.
On of the most dangerous consequences of the dichotomous science that we have practiced since the industrial revolution has been the disturbance of the delicate relationship between human / beings and nature. Global warming, water scarcity, deforestation, arable land degradation, desertification, unprecedented concentration of Green House Gases are just some of the consequences of the uncritical acceptance of the myth of the social, political and ethical neutrality of science and technology.
In contemporary times, the problem has been further compounded by the narrow techno-economic vision within which globalization is perceived. Globalization was thought to be a panacea for all the ills be plaguing the economies of the developing countries. However, this has not been the case with a large number of poorer nations. Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Laureate in Economics in 2001 and former Chief Economist of the World Bank, in his celebrated work “Globalization And Its Discontents” says, “I have written this book because while I was at the World Bank I saw first hand the devastating effect that globalization can have on developing countries and especially the poor within those countries. I believe that globalization can be a force for good and it has the potential to enrich every one in the world, particularly the poor. But I also believe if this is to be the case, the way globalization has been managed, including the international trade agreements that have played such a large role in removing those barriers and the policies that have been imposed on developing countries in the process of globalization, need to be radically rethought.”
It was our concern with the values of sustainability and the need for science and technology to be directly linked to societal needs that we needed to re-visit our S&T policy. While our commitment to science and technology had not changed, we recognized that global change has necessitated a closer- more direct link between science and technology and societal needs. Our new policy, therefore, is anchored in our abiding belief that for science and technology to grow, it must be green, it must be ethical, it must have a human face, it must be gender sensitive, it must be region and context-specific reflect our enormous diversity and plurality, and it must empower the community as a whole and not merely a section of it.
Contrary to the linearity of the earlier paradigms, we now see S&T policy in more holistic terms. Our belief is that science must touch every facet of national life. The thrust of the policy is to use science and technology as the key problem-solving instrument in all endeavours, including in agriculture, industry, business, trade, services as well as in governance. Providing creative and innovative solutions in health services, population management, mitigating the damage to vast sections of our people from natural hazards like earthquakes and cyclones, technologies for conservation of land, water and energy resources and their integrated management for sustainable development and consumption leading to their ecologically balanced management are the cornerstones of our new policy.
A very significant aspect of the new policy which needs to be underscored is that instead of treating ‘science’ as distinct from ‘technology’ with each having separate sets of policies, we now treat both as being inter-related, inter-dependent and harmonized. The progression from science to technology is not linear Technological development often leads to new science and vice-versa. Science itself cannot grow independent of technology. The conventional dividing lines have blurred and therefore the new policy speaks of both in the same breath. Further science and technology themselves form a part of a holistic tapestry of interdependent influences-social, economic, cultural, ecological and political. In this the new policy conforms to the trend within science itself to search for a unifying theory of everything and establish the unbroken wholeness between man and the eco-system, the eco-system and our planet earth, the planet earth and the universe.
The thrust of the new policy towards integration of science and technology with societal concerns offers leadership opportunities in other ways as well. In a brilliant graphic exposition, Dr. Mashelkar had once demonstrated to me that if one were to draw a quadrant and arrange the countries of the world in different squares in terms of science and technology capacity on the one hand and levels of economic development on the other it would lead to some very interesting conclusions. The poorest are unable to use S &T for their betterment because they do not have S&T capacities. The rich who do not have S&T capacity cannot help even if they are interested. The rich who also have high S &T capacity have no intention of or interest in employing their capacity for the benefit of the poor. The only ones who have the interest, the need and the capacity are countries like India, China and Brazil. Who will develop a low cost ‘simputer’ for the poor, if not India? Who will develop natural drugs and remedies like Asmon for the poor, if not us? Who will use biotechnology for providing supplements to the undernourished mother if not us? Who will lead the world in cutting edge technologies for sustainable consumption, for climate change mitigation? Who other than us should show the way forward in solar energy, in hydrogen energy, in nano-technologies?
In our approach to the development of cutting edge technologies there are some questions which we need to constantly ask. Do our technologies benefit the poor and the deprived? Do they contribute to the regeneration of our natural environment? Do they empower civil society? Do they minimize waste and energy consumption? Only if the answer is positive to all these, must we put all our resources to developing them and acquiring a leadership position. In Information Technology we should therefore focus on bridging the digital divide, in decentralizing governance and in enhancing the capacity of the poor to take control over their lives. In Bio-technology it should be to conserve our bio-diversity, to improve nutrition levels especially of women and children, to increase the productivity of small and marginal farmers and to develop drugs and remedies which are affordable and efficacious. In Nano-technologies it should be to increase the efficiency of converting energy to light, to reduce the costs and improve quality of medical diagnostics, to develop nano-tags and imaging systems which will enable early detection of disease and reduce the costs of health care. In other words the societal dimension has to be paramount and it is this which will provide our science and technology development initiatives uniqueness of character and confer on us a leadership status.
Allow me to reflect a little further on how we approach the issue of taking a leadership role in the development of cutting edge technologies. It is important in my view not to be entrapped in the consumerist techno-economic dream offered by the west. I have already spoken of the criticality of rooting Science and Technology development processes in a societal context. Among other things this requires remodeling our technology development and technology application processes so as to be similar to natural processes. A natural eco-system functions as a closed loop involving slow changes, which occur at a pace which allows time for adaptation to the natural environment. In contrast, technology has so far used a linear approach in which resources are extracted as though they are inexhaustible, processed to make synthetic products which have no natural counterparts, involve lengthy transportation both of raw materials and manufactured products and each step impacts on the environment and generates waste, further, technology design is insufficiently evaluated in terms of its impact on nature. We need technologies which completely eliminate the concept of waste, we need to design every process so that the products themselves, as well as leftover chemicals, materials and effluents can be reused in other processes. We need quantum leaps in energy efficiency and a shift from non-renewable to renewable sources, by applying the principle of de-carbonisation.
The task at hand now, is to convert the vision and the ideas embedded in the new policy into action and practice. The Hegelian and Marxist notion of ‘ praxis’ which conceptually does not accept theory and practice as distinct compartments but as a fused, organic whole, needs a contemporary renaissance. How do we achieve that? I would like to suggest a few steps which may help.
For long I have stressed the need for an active dialogue between scientists and social scientists and indeed in the formulation of the policy document many eminent social scientists were actively engaged. However, the dialogue has not only to continue but made a part and parcel of each of our scientific institutions. The dialogue has to be institutionalized. This can be done in many ways. Eminent social scientists and social activists need to be inducted at the highest levels of decision making in our science and technology institutions with appropriate changes made in the relevant rules by laws and regulations to allow for such an induction. Social scientists need to be involved in programme and project formulation and design, in the prioritization of science and technology initiatives and the evaluation of ideas. Concurrent social audit of our science and technology programs needs to be introduced so that societal objectives and concerns are never lost sight of. I am confident the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Cabinet headed by Dr. Chidambaram will deliberate on the issue and come up with specific recommendations.
In March 2002 an extraordinary event had taken place at Columbia University in New York called ‘Living with the Genie towards meaningful governance of science and technology’. The event was set amid artistic and philosophical interpretations of the technology society interface and led to a set of six conversations on the nature of past scientific and technological transformation of society, the world we are now making through science and technology, the effects of globalization on science and technology especially the societal impact of new IPR regimes and the governance of scientific and technological progress in the modern world. The participants were scientists and technologists, administrators, corporate executives, social scientists, philosophers and theologians, artists and social activists. Interestingly, one of the realizations during this extraordinary meeting was that India was seen as having been much closer to the values identified as critical for the governance of science and technology. It was also felt that developing countries like India were likely to be the most receptive to futuristic designs and plans because, devoid of vested interests, they were fearless to· experiment. I hope that as a follow up to our Science and Technology Policy we should urgently host a similar event to give concrete shape to our policy and plans. Professor V S. Ramamurthy will certainly take a lead in this direction.
A word on our mission-mode initiatives, most of the missions taken up so far are technology or discipline specific. If we wish to use technology as a problem solving instrument we need to plan missions which cut across technologies, institutions, departments and sectors. In fact missions need to be identified and prioritized in terms of societal concerns – health and nutrition, gender, conservation of natural resources, climate change, etc. Having identified the priorities we need to integrate all possible technologies which have a bearing on the issue. For example, a mission on nutrition for women could involve the use of smart card technologies for maintaining health and nutrition profiles of the target population and for all transactions, the use of GIS technologies for identifying the geographic concentrations of the malnourished and for planning the optimal deployment of welfare initiatives, the use of bio-technology for developing nutrition rich foods, the use of e-commerce for efficient delivery of nutrition products, etc. The point is that at all times we must keep the societal objectives of the mission paramount and bring to bear multiple technologies which can help in the realization of the objectives. This requires that the design and architecture of our missions must be carefully and imaginatively done and that mission governance must integrate technologies to have the maximum impact. I believe that it will be possible for the Department of science and Technology to initiate at least two to three such missions by the next Technology Day.
I would also like to take this opportunity to express a major concern I have about our technology development processes. Very often we accept as given, that new technologies of global significance will emerge from the affluent west and that we only need equitable means of technology transfer, absorption and adaptation. As a consequence truly original developments in technology have been few and far between. While keeping windows open for the winds of technological change to blow in from everywhere can we not at the same time develop truly original contributions? I urge you as individual scientists and technologists and as institutions to be bold and creative and venture into realms where angels fear to tread. I believe that by the next Technology Day we will have commenced work on a few original ideas and that all our combined efforts will be directed to make the slogan of ‘India leads’ a powerful driver of our efforts.
Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you for listening to me with patience.