Over the last few weeks, we have had quite a lot on how India’s ancient were quite progressive in science and technology and it was only an irresponsible government coupled with left wing ideologues who suppressed such information.
I’m sure that there were quite a few things we knew about India’s contribution to science and technology. I’m very familiar with the names of Sushruta and Aryabhatta from childhood. And of course later names such as JC Bose, CV Raman, S. Chandrashekhar, Hargobind Khorana etc. are quite familiar.
However, as of now, we all know that our country is struggling with a myriad number of issues which can be solved. The Mangalyan exploration proves that we have quite innovative and brilliant scientists who will excel if given the right environment.
Last year saw a lot of challenges. In this post, I challenge my countrymen to come up with 5 issues which need to be addressed by Indian scientists as a priority. Here is my list of 5 challenges to each one of us, especially those of us who are students of science - - -
1. Tuberculosis continues to be a major killer in our country and other developing countries. We still rely on sputum microscopy which is quite an ancient test by medical standards for routine diagnosis. To make matters worse there has not been much change in the drugs which are used to treat the disease. We need faster and cheap diagnostic techniques and newer drugs which can be taken for shorter duration and has low drug resistance.
2. We depend quite a lot on fossil fuels. We’re yet to increase our reliance on non-conventional and environmental friendly sources of energy. In fact, we seem to have joined the race of development at the expense of the livelihood and existence our many traditional people groups who live in areas of fossil fuel deposits. We need research on solar energy and other possibilities of energy sources.
3. The human race generates lots of waste. And waste pollutes. Could we have research on minimizing and recycling waste?
4. Non-communicable diseases are a major scourge. Traditional systems of medicine promise quite a lot forprevention and treatment. However, there is very poor research done on their efficacy.
5. Our eco-diversity is under threat. Even some of the foodstuff which was common is not seen of recent. Traditional foods are slowly on the way out. Whatever research was done on them have shown them in good light. More research needs to be done. Can we look at our ancient texts about spices, vegetables and cereals used in ancient times? We not only need to conserve them but also popularise them. It can only be done through proper research.
Few reasons I can think about as reasons for non-acknowledgement of our contribution to science and technology.
a. We don’t document anything. Whatever is documented is done in a language which is not understood by much of the population. Therefore, the first step can be to translate all Sanskrit documents into a commonly used language.
b. We bicker among ourselves. We are famous for pulling each other down. I hope you heard about the story of the Indian crabs.
c. Whatever we discover, we do not share with the wider population. The discovery remains with a few elite and the technology is not shared for common benefit. Documentation in an elite language ensures the knowledge being limited to a certain group of the population.
If we are so sure of our scientific capabilities, I challenge the government and our scientists to take these issues seriously. If we do, I’m sure that the next century is going to be that of India.