Society for Policy Studies in association with India Habitat Centre held a lecture in the Changing Asia Series on “Harnessing S&T: The Political-Economies of Technology and the Sciences in India’s Policy-making”.
By V.Siddhartha, Principal Scientific Advisor to the Govt. of India (Advanced Technologies, 2009-2010) & former Secretary of the Science Advisory Council to the Prime Minister
Chair: C. Uday Bhaskar, Director, Society for Policy Studies
Date: July 18, 2016
Time: 7 PM
Venue: Gulmohar Hall, India Habitat Centre
As part of the Changing Asia Series, the Society for Policy Studies (SPS) in association with the India Habitat Centre (IHC) organized a public lecture on ” Harnessing S&T: The Political-Economies of Technology and the Sciences in India’s Policymaking”, on July 18, 2016.
Led by Dr. V. Siddhartha, the emphasis of this lecture was to highlight the nuances of both, science in Indian policy (both foreign and domestic) and policies on science in India per se, with specific focus on those aspects that have been missing from the conversations on Science and Technology (S &T) in India.
One of the principal curators of India’s scientific landscape in the last two decades, the speaker opened the lecture by highlighting the intricate association that exists between S & T and the social and economic advancement of India.
Speaking of the’ trimurti’ or the significant trio in the Indian scientific priorities, and which include atomic Energy, Space and Defence Research, he suggested that while important, there are however, more immediate and publicly relevant scientific interventions that require greater mention in the discourse on S& T in India. He observed that not only do these relatively smaller aspects related to S& T get lost in discussions that often gravitate around bigger, heavier accomplishments, but that there are pressing issues related to these micro-scientific concerns that are in need of urgent remedy.
Talking about India’s scientific ‘show-how’, the speaker highlighted how the country, by virtue of its demographic dividend, has become a huge market for products of scientific innovation- right from basic consumer products such as mobile phones to the proliferation of educational institutions that teach science.
Describing India as the only ‘post-colonial country having the largest and densest array of scientific and and technological institutions’, he highlighted that the private sector has in the recent years added significantly, if not credibly, to India’ science-based institutional capacity. However, where the private sector has been able to cash-in on the surging popular demand for S & T, it is the Indian state that has not been able to push for reform and refinement in this rather crucial domain. Reiterating the connection between S & T and the social-economic advancement of the country, he spoke about the ‘webs of contention’; those that connected the ‘instruments of State policy whose speed and direction are often ignorant of the identifiable connections between technological activity, economic performance and social consequence’.
He observed that scientific productivity cannot be optimally utilised if there is no equity in accessing and utilizing it. Adding to which, Dr. Siddhartha surmised that for as long as human conditions are masked as statistic, scientific interventions would not be able to deliver solutions for some of the urgent social and economic concerns, and which it in all measures, can help India at. Placing this claim in the field of agriculture, on which, as he rightly claimed, the greatest chunk of India subsists, he detailed the reasons why bio-sciences should be given more interest and investment.
Taking a stock of the state of S & T in Asia, Dr. Siddhartha mentioned that those who are the leaders in this field, such as South Korea, Japan and OECD have managed to innovate essentially because their states supported and catalyzed these endeavours greatly. Given the significance of S & T as a domain in itself and as a medium for the advancement of social and economic goals, he mentioned that what is needed in India, and particularly from the government is executive re-direction of existing schemes, imaginative programming and administrative acumen.