The vital role of science in modern life is not overstated in view of today’s world. Science and technology have profoundly influenced the course of human civilization. Science has provided us remarkable insights into the world we live in. The scientific revolutions of the 20th century have led to many technologies, which promise to herald wholly new eras in many fields, As we stand today at the beginning of a new century, we have to ensure fullest use of these developments for the well being of our people. Science and technology have been an integral part of Indian civilisation and culture over the past several millennia. Few are aware that India was the fountainhead of important foundational scientific developments and approaches. These cover many great scientific discoveries and technological achievements in Mathematics, Astronomy, Architecture, Chemistry, Metallurgy, Medicine, Natural Philosophy and other areas. A great deal of this traveled outwards from India. Equally, India also assimilated scientific ideas and techniques from elsewhere, with open-mindedness and a rational attitude, characteristic of a scientific ethos. India’s traditions have been founded on the principles of universal harmony, respect for all creations and an integrated holistic approach. This background is likely to provide valuable insights for future scientific advances. During the century prior to independence, there was an awakening of modem science in India through the efforts of a number of outstanding scientists. They were responsible for great scientific advances of the highest international caliber.
Apart from the vast changes it has brought about, the development of a scientific temper in the people is considered important. In the planned economy of a country, science must necessarily play an especially important role. Improvements in techniques evolved as a result of scientific research brings about great increases in production in the different sectors of the economy. National resources are augmented by the substitution of cheap and abundant materials for those in scarce supplies and by finding uses for materials, which have remained un-utilized, prior to independence, very little attention was given to the problem of scientific and industrial research in India. A number of universities and institutes carried out research, mostly on fundamental aspects of science. Certain industries also had their own research organizations. However, industry depended, by and large, on foreign techniques and did not develop research programmes of its own.
A large number of products that had been imported into the country had to be manufactured to meet both civilian and military needs. Indian substitutes had to be found for imported materials and processes had to be developed which would use these materials in place of imported ones. In these circumstances, the Government of India constituted die Board of Scientific and Industrial Research in 1940. The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research was formed in 1942. Since independence there has been a greater emphasis on the provision of additional facilities for the promotion of scientific and industrial research. The most significant development in this sphere has been the establishment of a chain of national laboratories and research institutes in different parts of the country. The establishment of national laboratories and research institutes has a special importance in a country like India where medium and small-scale producers contribute a considerable proportion of industrial production. These industries cannot afford to have research facilities of their own, as the larger producers can. Besides these laboratories and research institutes, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research has made contributions towards the promotion of fundamental and applied research at a number of institutions and universities.
In the half century since independence, India has been committed to the task of promoting the spread of science. The key role of technology as an important element of national development is also well recognized. The Scientific Policy Resolution of 1958 and the Technology Policy Statement of 1983 enunciated the principles on which die growth of science and technology in India has been based over the past several decades. These policies have emphasized self-reliance, as also sustainable and equitable development. Successes in agriculture, health care, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, nuclear energy, astronomy and astrophysics, space technology and applications, defence research, biotechnology, electronics, information technology and oceanography are widely acknowledged. Major national achievements include very significant increase in food production, eradication or control of several diseases and increased life expectancy of our citizens. While these developments have been highly satisfying, one is also aware of die dramatic changes that have taken place, and continue to do so, in die practice of science, in technology development, and their relationships with, and impact on die society.
Particularly striking is die rapidity with which science and technology is moving ahead. Science is becoming increasingly inter-and multi-disciplinary, and calls for multi-institutional and, in several cases, multi-country participation. Major experimental facilities, even in several areas of basic research, require very large amount of materials, human and intellectual resources. Science and technology have become so closely intertwined, and so reinforce each other that, to be effective, any policy needs to view them together. The continuing revolutions in die field of information and communication technology have had profound impact on the manner and speed with which scientific information becomes available, and scientific interactions take place.
Science and technology have had unprecedented impact on economic growth and social development. Knowledge has become a source of economic might and power. This has led to increased restrictions on sharing of knowledge, to new norms of intellectual property rights, and to global trade and technology control regimes. Scientific and technological developments today also have deep ethical, legal and social implications. There are deep concerns in society about these. The ongoing globalization and the intensely competitive environment have a significant impact on the production and service sectors.
Because of all this, our science and technology system has to be infused with new vitality if it is to play a decisive and beneficial role hi advancing the well being of all sections of our society. The nation continues to be firm in its resolve to support science and technology in all its facets. It recognizes its central role in raising the quality of life of the people of the country, particularly of the disadvantaged sections of society, in creating wealth for all, in making India globally competitive, in utilizing natural resources in a sustainable manner, in protecting die environment, and ensuring national security.
India has the third largest scientific and technical manpower in the world; 162 universities award 4,000 doctorates and 35,000 post-graduate degrees and the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research runs 40 research laboratories that have made some significant achievements.
In the field of missile launch technology, India is among the five top nations of the world. Science and Technology, however, is used as an effective instrument of growth and change. It is being brought into the mainstream of economic planning in the sectors of agriculture, industry and services. The country’s resources are used to derive the maximum output for the benefit of society and improvement in the quality of life. About 85 per cent of the funds for science and technology come directly or indirectly from the Government. The science and technology infrastructure in the country accounts for more than one per cent of the GNP. Science and technology in India is entering a new frontier.
The prime objective of India’s nuclear energy programme is the development and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes such as power generation, applications in agriculture, medicine, industry, research and other areas. India is today recognized as one of the countries most advanced in nuclear technology including production of source materials. The country is self-reliant and has mastered the expertise covering the complete nuclear cycle-from exploration and mining to power generation and waste management. Accelerators and research and power reactors are now designed and built indigenously. The sophisticated variable energy cyclotron at Kolkata and a medium energy heavy ion accelerator ‘pelletron’ set up recently at Mumbai are national research facilities in the frontier areas of the science.
As part of its programme for peaceful uses of atomic energy, India has also embarked on a program of nuclear power generation. Currently eight nuclear stations are producing 8 billion kilowatts of electricity. Four more nuclear power stations have been planned. The new nuclear reactors have been completely designed in India. The peaceful nuclear programme also includes producing radio-isotopes for use in agriculture, medicine, industry and research.
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), under the Department of Space (DOS), is responsible for research, development and operation in space systems in the areas of satellite communications, remote sensing for resource survey, environmental monitoring, meteorological services etc. DOS is also the nodal agency for the Physical Research Laboratoty which conducts research in the areas of space science, and the National Remote Sensing Agency which deploys modern remote sensing techniques for natural resource surveys and provides operational services to user agencies. India is the only third world country to develop its own remote sensing satellite. India joined a select group of six nations on October 15,1994, when the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) successfully .accomplished its mission of placing the 800-kg remote sensing satellite, IRS-P2, in the intended orbit.
The INSAT series of satellites launched earlier are performing well and provide vital services for telecommunications, television, meteorology, disaster warning and distress detection. The latest INSAT series will include new features like Kit-band transponders and mobile satellite service, transponders. The remote-sensing satellites, launched in 1988 and 1991, have already become the mainstays of the natural resource management system of the country. The projected launch of advanced remote sensing satellite will not only enhance the scope of their application, but will also offer commercial service to other countries.
The most significant milestone of the Indian Space Programme during the year 2005-06 was the successful launch of PSLV-C6. On may 5,2006, the ninth flight of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C6) from Satish Dhawan Space centre (SDSC) SHAR, Sriharikota successfully placed two satellites-1560 kg CARTOSTAR-1 and 42 kg HAMSAT-into a predetermined polar Sun Synchronous Orbit (SSO). The successful launch of INSAT-4A, the heaviest and most powerful Satellite built by India so far, on 22 December 2005 was the other major event of the year 2005-06. INSAT-4A is capable of providing Direct-To-Home (DTH) television broadcasting services.
The Indian space programme entered a new era when ISRO’s Polar Satellite Launch vehicle (PSLV)-C7 successfully launched on January 10,2007 four satellites into high polar orbit from Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC), Sriharikota. The four satellites put into orbit were India’s CARTUSAT-2 and space Capsule Recovery Experiment. (SRE-1), Indonesia’s LAPAN-TUBSAT and Argentina’s PEHUENSAT-1.
The Indian achievement in the application of space-based remote sensing technology has led a US company to enter into an agreement for marketing the data from Indian satellites globally.
India’s progress in space technology has attracted worldwide attention and demand, with leasing agreements for marketing of IRS data and supply of space hardware and services. India also believes in co-operation in space with agencies all over the world. A high-level UN team selected India for setting up a UN Centre for Space Science and Technology Education. India is on the threshold of achieving self-reliance in the launch capability. It will be a befitting tribute to the father of the Indian space program, Dr. Vikararn Sarabhai, whose 90th birth anniversary was observed in August 2006.
India has been the forerunner among the developing countries in promoting multi-disciplinary activities in the field of biotechnology, recognizing the practically unlimited possibility of their applications in increasing agricultural and industrial production, and in improving human and animal life. The nucleus of research in this area is the National Biotechnology Board, constituted in 1982. A Department of Biotechnology was created in 1986.
Recently, the Biotechnology Consortium India Limited was set up. It will play the role of catalyst in bridging the gap between Research and Development, Industrial and Financial Institutions. Some of the new initiatives taken include developing techniques for gene mapping, conservation of biodiversity and bioindicators’ research, special biotechnology programs for the benefit of die scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and activities in the area of plantation oops. The areas, which have been receiving attention, are cattle herd improvement through embryo transfer technology, in vitro propagation of disease resistant plant varieties for obtaining higher yields, and development of vaccines for various diseases. Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) was established in 1942, and is today the premier institution for scientific and industrial research. It has a network of 40 laboratories, two co-operative industrial research institutions and more than 100 extension and field centres. The Council’s research programs are directed towards effective utilization of the country’s natural resources and development of new processes and products for economic progress. It is now playing a leading role in the fulfillment of the technology missions evolved by the Government.
Thus, we see that India has made unprecedented development in the field of scientific research and technology during the post-independence period and this just seems to be the beginning of a road with endless possibilities. All we need is to plan and organize in a way so as to be able to harness our intelligentsia in the right direction and provide it with the right opportunities.