“Sisters and brothers,
I deem it a privilege today to inaugurate the year-long celebrations of birth centenaries of inspirational Indian scientists and honour their role in the building of modern India.
At the outset, let me wish all of you and the country's citizens a happy National Mathematics Day. Today is the birthday of the legendary mathematician, Srinivasa Ramanujan, who captured the imagination of the people world over.
Ramanujan, like Swami Vivekananda, lived a short life but one that is full of accomplishments that we, as Indians, shall always be proud of. In a short period, he produced nearly 4000 amazing original results; His notes had original theorems that took years for other mathematicians to prove!
I salute this great man, who came from a humble background but became an icon in the field of mathematics. Despite domestic hurdles and colonial suppression, he achieved excellence. Eventually, the colonial administration had to acknowledge his brilliance. His crowning glory came when he became one of the youngest Fellows of the Royal Society. His life continues to inspire generations of Indians.
I am happy to know that Vigyan Prasar has organised a massive outreach programme in 2020, titled ‘Ramanujan Yatra’. I am told this program received a good response across the country and inspired young people.
In the same way, as we celebrate Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, we pay homage to six scientists today who have contributed immensely to the world of science and to our nation-building. They are Har Gobind Khorana, G. N. Ramachandran, Yelavarthy Nayudamma, Balasubramaniam Ramamurthi, G. S. Laddha and Rajeshwari Chatterjee. This year is the birth centenary of these exceptional scientists.
Born in 1922, these six scientists grew up in the pre-independence era. The Indian scientific fraternity was not provided adequate freedom, respect, and space to conduct their scientific studies. The British did all that they could to dampen the spirit and intellect of our scientists and technocrats. Yet, they continued their struggle. Like any other freedom revolutionary, they did their bit through their work and indomitable spirit of serving science for the nation.
Sisters and brothers,
It is my fervent belief that it is our duty to remember the contribution of our great scientists, mathematicians and engineers to nation-building. As a nation, we have reaped the benefits of their hard work through many technological advancements, through great dams, through world class metros and through an IT and communications revolution that has made India a world leader now.
We must recount their inspirational stories to our youngsters and encourage them to take up careers in science. We need to create the right ecosystem for the youngsters to become future leaders in science and lead our nation into the 21st century.
My dear friends,
As a related aspect, we must also introspect and find out ways to excel in the field of STEM (Science, Engineering, Technology and Mathematics) research. We must increase public and private investments in R&D, nurture research scholars to do high-quality research, encourage them to publish papers in reputed peer-reviewed journals, resolve bottlenecks in patenting regime and nurture promising ideas that find wide applications. Through these initiatives, India must aim to become a world leader in scientific research and innovation and become ‘Vishwa Guru’ once again.
Sisters and brothers,
For India to be among the top nations in STEM, there is a need to put in place a well-planned strategy to identify and nurture talent from a young age, offer incentives, provide facilities to take up cutting edge and support researchers in finding solutions to societal problems.
In this regard, a key concern that needs to be addressed in the STEM ecosystem is the lack of diversity. While India has a significant share of female graduates in STEM (more than 42 percent), better than some of the developed nations, only 16.6% women researchers are directly engaged in R & D activities. Diversity in STEM is absolutely necessary and the need of the hour is to bridge the gender divide in employment.
From hardly a handful of women in science, we have come a long way today. We pay homage to pioneering women like Janaki Ammal, Rajeshwari Chatterjee, Anna Mani and Sunanda Bai for their path-breaking contribution and breaking the glass ceiling. But we must not stop here and create an enabling environment so that more girls can take up careers in mathematics and science.
Sisters and brothers,
Science is not just about inventions and technological advancements. It is also about the spirit of rational inquiry that can guide us in our lives. Our Constitution mentions this as one of our Fundamental Duties (Article 51A(h)) -- to develop scientific temper and spirit of inquiry.
I must commend Vigyan Prasar for doing an excellent job over the years in taking science to the homes of people, in a simple, crisp and interesting manner. There is a need for more exciting programs that explain basic scientific concepts to people in their mother tongue. This would also contribute towards inculcating a scientific temper among people. Steps must also be taken to popularize science through books, periodicals, television shows, documentary programmes, and radio broadcasts in regional languages.
With the emergence of new fields like Artificial Intelligence and stem cell research, there is a need to simplify scientific concepts at higher level too. Since technology affects people’s lives, science discourse must become more inclusive and democratic.
Along with Vigyan Prasar, the scientific community must take the advancements in their fields closer to the people in a mission mode. Just like there is corporate social responsibility or CSR, I suggest that individuals in the research community have a similar social responsibility called the scientific social responsibility or SSR.
In schools, while mathematics and science are deemed as part of the child’s basic education, it is unfortunate that many develop a fear of the subjects and they are often encouraged to do rote memorization. This can be tackled only by arousing an interest in the subject through experiential learning methods. Puzzles, demonstrations and other hands-on activities could be utilized to make children become friends with numbers. A pedantic manner of teaching should be replaced with a more interactive and inclusive method.
Sisters and brothers,
Once again, I am very happy to inaugurate this year long celebrations of birth centenaries of inspirational Indian scientists today.
My compliments to Vigyan Prasar and the Department of Science & Technology for organizing this celebratory programme!. I hope the momentum continues throughout the year as we celebrate Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav. Let us celebrate the role of our scientists, science communicators, science teachers, policymakers and institutions that have contributed to the building of this great nation.
Thank you. Namaskar.