12th July, 2003
Prime Minister's Office


PM URGES SCIENTISTS TO MAKE INDIA ‘WATER SECURE’

SPEECH AT THE PRESENTATION OF SHANTI SWAROOP BHATNAGAR AWARDS


The Prime Minister, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee has emphasized the importance of improving the environment for research and development in India and expressed the confidence that scientists could do world-class research in our own laboratories in our own country. Speaking at the presentation of Shanti Swaroop Bhatnagar awards here today, the Prime Minister urged upon the scientists and researchers the need to make attempts to significantly increase their output of globally recognized research papers. The Prime Minister seized the occasion to make an appeal to the scientists to make India ‘water secure’ and urged the people to conserve every drop of water. Shri Vajpayee also expressed concern over the declining interest in science among students in comparison to the 1950s and 1960s. Besides attracting the best students to the science stream, the Prime Minister also emphasized the importance of creating sufficient employment opportunities involvement for these students in the country. In this connection, Shri Vajpayee called for the involvement of our diasporic community to create employment opportunities.

Union Minister for Human Resource Development, Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi, Minister of State for Human Resource Development, Shri Bachi Singh Rawat were among the distinguished guests present on the occasion.

Following is the full text of the speech of the Prime Minister on the occasion:

"This is the fifth Bhatnagar Awards function that I have the privilege to address. It is always heartening to be in the company of the most outstanding among our country’s scientists. But today, I have an additional reason to be pleased. For, I see in front of me hundreds of young science scholars, who are participating for the first time in the Bhatnagar Awards function.

I must congratulate the CSIR for the ‘innovation’ it has introduced in this event by holding the Bhatnagar Laureates Symposium. This will give the young minds present here an opportunity to interact with the brightest among Indian scientists.

I would like to congratulate the Bhatnagar awardees, who have excelled in their respective areas of research. I am happy to note that most of the Bhatnagar awardees of yesteryears have continued to remain and work in India. They have over the years, pioneered new schools of thought, spawned new paradigms for technology, established centers of excellence and won many laurels.

To the new Awardees, I would like to say, "You now have an onerous responsibility. You are the role model for young scientists. You have to set an example to them by your continued pursuit of excellence in science, high levels of ethics in your work, and the larger vision of nation-building that ought to guide the work of scientists as well as all the rest of us in our respective professions."

Today as I pay tribute to the achievers – both past and present – in Indian science and technology, I naturally think of those of our compatriots who have gone abroad and whose superior research capabilities are now acknowledged all over the world.

While speaking to DRDO scientists on this year’s Technology Day, I had said that we are proud of the fact that tens of thousands of Indian scientists and engineers around the world are making valuable contributions to the areas of their specialization and to economies of their countries of domicile. Many Heads of State, including those of industrialized nations, have spoken to me praising their contribution.

This gives us the hope and confidence that by creating the right environment for learning, teaching and working here in India, our talented scientists and engineers can produce path-breaking discoveries and inventions in our own country.

Here I am reminded of the words of an immigrant scientist in the United States who went on to win a Nobel Prize. "A scientist is like a painter. Michael Angelo became a great artist because he had been given a wall to paint. My wall was given to me by the United States."

So, the first thing all of us should together resolve– those of us in Government as well as those of you in Science & Technology institutions – is to provide a big enough canvas to our researchers right here in India. We should further improve the environment for research and development in India. I am told that much improvement has taken place in recent years, especially in areas such as information technology, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. But we need to accomplish much more.

The Bhatnagar prize is a national honour. But your ambition should be to benchmark your research with the best in the world and win prestigious international honours. I am happy to see that this year, as many as seven Indians have won the honours of getting elected to the US National Academies of Science & Engineering.

What gladdens me especially is the fact that, although five of them have won the honours for work done in USA, the remaining two – Dr. Obaid Siddiqi and Dr. Raghunath Mashelkar -- have done their entire work in India. I would like to congratulate them heartily.

What does their success mean? It means that you can indeed do world-class research in our own laboratories in India, provided you dare to dream, and provided your efforts match your dreams and your ambitions.

Apart from prestigious international honours, the other criterion to judge the quality of output of India’s S&T establishment is the number of research papers published in reputed international journals. Perhaps this is an area that has not received adequate attention.

There seems to be an apparent disconnect between our proven technological capability to harness existing knowledge and unsatisfactory contribution to new knowledge. After all, India has made notable progress in the past two decades in agriculture, space, nuclear energy and several manufacturing sectors. However, this progress is not matched by globally recognized original research in India.

It should be the endeavour of our scientists and researchers in CSIR laboratories, universities, IITs, ICMR, ICAR and other organizations to significantly increase their output of globally recognized research papers.

As history tells us, a nation can progress economically in the short term based on ‘existing knowledge’, but such progress is not sustainable in the long run – especially in today’s competitive conditions -- in the absence of creation of ‘new knowledge’. Thus, we have to be equally adept at both generating new knowledge and applying it to our various national needs.

On this occasion cannot help reiterate my concern over the declining interest in science among students. In 1950s and ‘60’s, the best students chose to go for science education. Today’s bright students seem to be shying away from science. As a result, in few years’ time, all our top research organizations would face a shortage of good science graduates. This issue needs to be addressed effectively, imaginatively and comprehensively. I am happy that Dr. Joshiji has initiated several good measures in this regard, both in respect of technology education and science education.

However, it is not enough to attract the best and brightest students to science education. It is equally important to create sufficient employment opportunities for them in our country.

I would like the S&T establishment, public and private sector industry, as well as the concerned Government agencies to collectively address this issue. Some international firms have started to set up their R&D centers in India, employing large numbers of PhDs. This trend can be broadened by actively encouraging location in India of R&D activities of big and small corporations abroad. Our aim should be to make India a global R&D hub.

We should also seek the involvement of our diasporic community in this endeavour. I am told that one of the issues that was discussed at the first Pravasi Bharatiya Sammelan early this year was how to synergise India’s scientific talent at home and abroad. I would like this effort to be further strengthened.

I have always looked forward to the Bhatnagar Awards function to share with you my ideas on some of the priorities in India’s socio-economic development and how the S&T establishment can help in meeting these challenges. Today the Nation expects your valuable inputs in many critical areas of development. For example, yesterday the Planning Commission presented to me two excellent reports on promotion of bio-fuels and bamboo.

These subjects may sound unglamorous to some, but both have an immense potential to generate productive employment, help millions of artisans and farmers to be liberated from poverty, achieve significant import substitution and earn considerable export revenue. To achieve these goals, we need critical R&D inputs from agriculture scientists, energy scientists, and technologists of various disciplines.

Let me mention another issue of overriding national importance – namely, water conservation. India is blessed by nature with bountiful water – it is amongst the ‘wettest’ countries in the world, yet ‘desert-like’ conditions are now prevalent in many parts of the country. We are fast plunging into a water-emergency era.

Although many parts of India have received timely rains this year, I have appealed to all our citizens and all institutional users of water to conserve every drop of available water. Among other things, this requires low-cost water-saving, water-recycling, and water treatment technologies. Our kisans need to know effective techniques of recharging the sources of ground water.

Thus you, my scientist friends, have a great responsibility to contribute to making India ‘water secure’. Let us remember that ‘Water sustains life; and it is now our duty to sustain all sources of water’.

I have given only a few illustrative examples. But they show how scientists and technologists can become crucial partners in the Nation’s development efforts. You are already playing this role in diverse fields, and I commend you for your valuable contribution. But a much bigger challenge awaits you. I have full confidence in your ability as well as in your readiness to meet this challenge.

Once again my congratulations to Bhatnagar prize winners.

Thank you".

 
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