“I am delighted to join all of you on the momentous occasion of the 80th CSIR Foundation Day celebrations.
I would like to convey my congratulations to the winners of the coveted Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize, the CSIR Young Scientists Award, the CSIR Innovation Award for School Children, and the other important prizes and awards that were announced or bestowed today.
May the well-deserved recognitions inspire all the recipients to scale greater heights in their chosen fields and make the country and their families proud!
On 27th January 2020, I had addressed the scientists and researchers of CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad. At that time, the newly discovered strain of Coronavirus was beginning to cause concern. I had urged the scientists and researchers to focus on epidemic outbreaks. Little did we know then that humanity would face one of its most challenging health hazards of the past 100 years.
Despite scientific and technological advancements, COVID-19 has indeed overwhelmed the world. The virus swept through the world with alarming virulence, infecting millions and claiming thousands of lives.
India too was severely impacted by the pandemic. Ever since the outbreak of the pandemic, our lives have changed drastically and we have gradually got accustomed to a new normal. However, it goes to the credit of our great nation that we have been able to not just cope with the pandemic but manage it effectively. I laud the scientific and medical fraternity for leading the nation's battle in our fight against the pandemic with grit and determination. We could collectively face this unprecedented health crisis thanks to their selfless sacrifice and exemplary resolve.
Living up to the need of the hour, the CSIR scientists and researchers also worked tirelessly to develop solutions—be it diagnostics, vaccines, medicines, makeshift hospitals and medical assistive devices. In the shortest time and under difficult circumstances, CSIR contributed to the nation's fight against COVID in a remarkable manner. I must commend CSIR for its scientific and technological interventions to fight the pandemic.
As we all are aware, India is implementing the largest vaccination drive in the world. The fact that we have administered more than 84 crore doses of vaccine is a remarkable achievement. This has been largely facilitated by India’s indigenous vaccine, Covaxin and other vaccines like Covishield manufactured in India. I must compliment the vaccine manufacturers for rising to the occasion and ramping up the production to meet the huge demand for vaccines in the country.
In the last few years, I have visited several CSIR laboratories in different parts of the country--from CSIR-IIIM, Jammu in the North to CSIR-CCMB, Hyderabad in the South and from CSIR-NIO, Goa in the West to CSIR-NEIST, Jorhat in the East. I have seen on a first-hand basis the scientific and technological contributions of CSIR laboratories in effectively addressing many of the country’s needs.
Dear sisters and brothers,
As we all know, India is celebrating the important milestone of 75 years of Independence as Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav. At CSIR, we are celebrating the 80th year of its founding today, a major landmark in this institution’s journey.
Having reached a significant milestone, CSIR should look to reinvent itself, further reinvigorate and turn futuristic in a more rapid manner. While pursuing the science of the highest order, CSIR laboratories and institutes should address the nation's challenges that require scientific and technological solutions. The pandemic is just one unforeseen crisis. In a country as vast and as diverse as ours, challenges are many and institutions like CSIR need to gear up to address any sudden and unexpected problem. Each laboratory of the CSIR must come out with a clear roadmap on the new research projects that seek to address various challenges and contribute to the larger good of humanity.
Historically, India has contributed to the world of science in a big way. In the last 75 years, we have made impressive strides. Be it space, atomic energy, ocean science, or defence research, Indian science has made significant contributions that we can be justly proud of. As the nation celebrates 75 years of independence, this is an appropriate right time to see how we can accelerate ongoing development.
Today, India ranks among the top 10 countries in the world in terms of the number of research papers that are published. Based on some parameters and sources, India is ranked 3rd in the world. It is indeed a proud achievement that the scientists and researchers of the nation are steadily enhancing India's position in global scientific research. However, we need to walk the extra mile to achieve more—one way is to enhance the quality of our research. Whenever we talk about the state of science in the country, the issue of investment as a percentage of GDP in R&D invariably comes up for discussion. It must be said in this context that the investment by industries in R&D in India is insignificant. There is a need for corporates and industries to form close linkages with leading scientific institutions, identify important R & D projects and invest in them. This will not only boost funding but also improve both quality and innovation.
Sisters and brothers,
As you are aware, research and education are closely interconnected. The National Education Policy 2020 and the new Science, Technology and Innovation Policy on the anvil will undoubtedly give a fillip to the science and education sectors. Scientists, researchers and the faculty should leverage the enabling ecosystem and work collaboratively to attain greater heights.
Today is World Contraception Day. Among other things, World Contraception Day focuses on reproductive healthcare services, including family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes.
When we talk about birth control and women's reproductive health, we remember the immense contribution of CSIR in formulating the world's first-ever non-steroidal, once-a-week oral contraceptive pill. The CSIR-Central Drug Research Institute's pill, popularly known as Saheli and Chhaya, has been in use for 30 years now and is part of the National Family Planning Programme and is distributed and delivered at doorsteps by ASHA healthcare personnel.
There are several such success stories of CSIR’s contribution to Indian society. We need more of these, and I encourage all scientists to take up local problems and come up with lasting scientific, innovative and cost-effective solutions that are easy to adopt.
I am happy to note that CSIR has programmes and initiatives to connect with school students. Honours such as the innovation awards bestowed today will go a long way in motivating and inspiring students. It is important to bridge the gap between scientists and students to help inspire them. Sometimes, a small inspiration can be a life-changer for a student. I congratulate all the school students who participated and contributed to the competition. I compliment the prize winners and wish them well. I am sure such initiatives will kindle a spirit of inquiry and unleash students' creative and scientific minds.
I am pleased to learn that CSIR, through its JIGYASA programme, Atal Tinkering Labs, and Virtual classrooms, has a robust mechanism to connect with the students. These initiatives under the National Education Policy-2020 will surely pave the way for the much-needed student-scientist connect, which will have far-reaching benefits to nation-building.
CSIR is into its 80 years at the beginning of a new decade. Some of the known challenges ahead of us that require long-term scientific and technological solutions are climate change, drug resistance, pollution, epidemic and pandemic outbreaks. While we make scientific and technological advancements in areas such as artificial intelligence, molecular-level understanding of diseases, and the like, the new knowledge must be gainfully used for the good of humanity.
I am sure that CSIR will leverage its long and rich legacy to chart new paths and attain global leadership in areas that matter to science and humanity
I congratulate all of you once again, and my best wishes for the future.