In the run-up to general elections 2014, one leading newspaper carried an op-ed article where the writer wondered how each and every party was harping promises of overall progress, prosperity and development, but none of them said even a single word on how it is going to achieve it. To clarify his point, he elaborated that no party has spoken about science and technology. How can any country progress if not by science and technology, he asked.
Shastri said Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan; Vajpayee said Jai Vigyan. Now Modi says Jai Anusandhan. But I am neither impressed nor motivated — because I know, just like soldiers and farmers, scientists too are a subject to ostentatious pride and hypocrisy in the concern shown for them. One retired army officer once remarked “Bhagwan aur jawan ko aadmi museebat mein hi yaad karta hai” (Only in moments of crises do people remember God and the soldier). It is the same with farmers or may be worse. Status of scientists is the worst, they are in a way social outcasts — nobody talks about them, nobody wants to talk about them, nobody comes to know the achievement and effort they make, the mental pressure and general social apathy they endure. Instead, it is convenient to write eulogies to Kalam or share posts on Chandrayan. And it ends there. How many movies have you seen dedicated to science or focused on science? None. It is not about money, it is about preference. You can spend crores on horror movies, science fiction, or mythological movies, or can make one after another, year after year one romantic drama after another. But definitely not science. Please don’t say that audience won’t understand, because you haven’t ever tried. How can you expect audience to appreciate science if you yourself don’t educate them? Recently a movie “The Man Who Knew Infinity” based on Indian mathematician S. Ramanujan was made, but not in India.
Here for once I do not blame the media — neither print nor electronic. At least in this regard, the media are doing commendable job. Almost every newspaper that I am aware of publishes a one-page section on science on technology mostly once a week. The approach or focus could be different — some stress on latest innovations and discoveries, others focus on basic science concepts, yet others on science in our surroundings — but every one of them does contribute to scientific discussion in some way. In fact, this is perhaps the only page which does not play with your blood pressure! As for television, its contribution cannot be underestimated. In olden days, we had programs like Turning Point hosted by Girish Karnad and Prof Yash Pal, and a 5-minute science capsule Aisa kyo hota hai anchored by Prof. Jayant Narlikar. These days there are channels dedicated to science and technology. The only thing lacking is interested readers and viewers. Newspapers and TV channels can only go so far as to produce good content in interesting way, but if the audience does not carry any scientific temperament at all, then the media cannot be blamed. And in our society, the general masses are completely and thoroughly obsessed with politics, movies and cricket.
No wonder people get trapped in fake science, babadom, superstition and everything bogus but under the cloak of science. Our general population doesn’t even know what is science and what is not. If you don’t believe me, just type the word for science in different languages on YouTube, and the search results would tell you the way different societies look at science.
Yes Sir, the difference between developed, developing and underdeveloped countries lies in the way they look at science.
If you are concerned for your country, think science. If you want to do general welfare, do science. In whichever possible way, and however little. There is no other way. Or you can remain torpid, lie in your coach and continue remaining hypocrite all your life, chanting Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan, Jai Vigyan, Jai Anusandhan, and finally add to it Hey Bhagwan, and let the country and the society fall to pieces or decay into rotten state.
Write science, read science, talk science, and if you are incapable of doing anything at all, then share what others have done. One day you will die, and it is always good to have good thoughts of having lived a meaningful life, having done something for social betterment. Without any such contribution, all your work throughout your life will go waste. Vivekananda said, “The gift of knowledge is a far higher gift than that of food and clothes; it is even higher than giving life to a man, because the real life of man consists of knowledge. Ignorance is death, knowledge is life”. I would further add that if you have successfully encouraged few individuals into thinking rationally and critically, even that would go a long way.
You can also choose to ignore these urgent calls. But then never again complain about the sorry state the country is in.