Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday inaugurated the 105th Indian Science Congress at Manipur University. In his speech, the prime minister urged the community to inculcate a scientific temper among the youth, and stressed that the Indian government has come up with new initiatives to promote research and development.

The Indian Science Congress – the largest gathering of Indian scientists – was scheduled to be held at Osmania University in Hyderabad from January 3 to 7. For the first time in its history, it was rescheduled to March 16-March 20 and its venue was moved to the Manipur University after the Osmania University administration said it would not be able to host the event fearing agitations on campus.

The change of dates also affected the footfall. Indian Science Congress Association General President Achyuta Samanta told PTI that the meet usually has 12,000 delegates, scientists and academicians, but the number has dipped this year to 5,000. “Twelve nobel laureates had confirmed their participation. But due to change of dates, they will not attend the event,” Samanta said.

Research initiatives

The prime minister said India has a rich tradition and a long history of discovery as well as the use of science and technology. “It is time to reclaim our rightful place among the front-line nations in this field,” he said. “I call upon the scientific community to extend its research from the labs to the land.” Technology will allow services such as education, healthcare and banking to reach a wider audience, he said, adding that the country must be ready to implement such technology that is vital for the growth and prosperity of the nation.

“The time is ripe to redefine ‘R&D’ as ‘research’ for the ‘development’ of the nation,” he added. “Science is, after all, but a means to a far greater end; of making a difference in the lives of others, of furthering human progress and welfare.”

The prime minister added that an ‘Ethno-Medicinal Research Centre’ has been set up in Manipur to undertake research on the wild herbs available in the North East. Climate Change centres have also been set up in seven North Eastern states, he said.

Alternate energy

The prime minister said the government has set a target of 100 GW of installed solar power by 2022. Observing that the efficiency of solar modules that are currently available in the market is around 17%-18%, he asked if scientists can challenge themselves to come up with a more efficient module.

“We are committed to increasing the share of non-fossil fuel based capacity in the electricity mix above 40% by 2030,” Modi said. “India is a leader in the multi-country Solar Alliance and in Mission Innovation. These groupings are providing a thrust to R&D for clean energy.”

Science for youth

Modi urged scientists to interact with school children and spend 100 hours with 100 students every year, discussing science and helping them develop a scientific temper. “We have to throw open our institutions and laboratories to our children,” he said.

He added that India faces several socio-economic challenges, which affect a large section of the population. “We need science to make India clean, green and prosperous,” he said.