Bane of Indian Science: Need to Free Scientists from Babu-dom

Topics: Liquid crystal, Indira Gandhi, Silicon Pages: 5 (1590 words) Published: January 10, 2013
Dear Friends,
It gives us great pleasure for all of us here from the TALKING GREEN team to forward this special editorial issue as part of our new initiative this year to focus on specific subject of importance on science and the world and come up with a monthly editorial issue . We sincerely thank you for your response to our first editorial issue and with that this time also it will provide you some food for thought and share your views and observations to grow and move on better roads ……………….. When we talk and share dreams of a developed nation we fail to touch the basic reality and the ground issues of Indian science. Either we want to be on the comfort zone as for always or we do not want to be the bad guy to talk about it and PAGE 3 scientific attitude has developed during these years in our national scenario . Enjoy reading ……….


Bane of Indian science -Need to free scientists from babudom

In his address to the 97th Indian Science Congress, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has admitted that bureaucracy was the bane of Indian science. Later Dr Madhavan Nair said that except in departments under the Prime Minister’s control, every other science section suffered from red tape. Clearly, there are many telling instances of how the bureaucracy had smothered the enquiring mind and innovation in India’s science labs.

Ironically, most of world’s greatest scientists like Dr Sivaramakrishna Chandrashekhar and Dr Subramaniam Chandrashekhar won laurels and recognition abroad and not in India.

A typical example of bureaucratic interference in India is regarding the technology of growing ultra pure silicon crystals to make solar and other silicon cells that convert light into electricity. Two Indian Institute of Science scientists had developed the technology. In the early 80s, Mettur Chemicals (MetChem) in Mettur near Salem tried to install a pilot plant to make pure crystalline silicon as a commercial venture using this indigenous technology. The cells were to be manufactured by bodies like the Bharat Heavy Electricals in Bangalore. The spirit of enquiry is still suppressed in most scientific establishments and in our universities by the heavy weight of seniority and turf battles

However, MetChem was made to rue the day they applied for an industrial licence for silicon manufacture using this technology. The reason: the government had already entered into a collaboration with an American MNC to import this silicon and make these cells in a Mohali-based public sector concern. A powerful Joint Secretary in the Department of Electronics, who had direct access to the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had said “no” to the MetChem plan.

Similarly, the government aborted another project on liquid crystal devices of the Bharat Electronics with the technological support from Bangalore’s Raman Research Institute. Dr Sivramakrishna Chandrasekhar was to attend the World Congress on Liquid Crystals, but the babus in the Science and Technology and Electronics departments did not sanction his foreign trip, raising queries after queries.

The reason why he was being harassed was his support for the BEL’s attempt to manufacture devices from liquid crystals. The Joint Secretary referred to earlier had already negotiated with a Japanese company to make LCD devices. In those days of socialist mantra in planning, there was no place for competition though BEL with HMT collaboration on the front end and RRI collaboration at the back end was planning to make LCD-based watches for as low as Rs 200 a piece.

The series of newspaper articles exposing this bureaucratic hurdle to indigenous technology led to questions in Parliament and in the Prime Minister’s consultative committee on science and technology and electronics. This shook the establishment and rescued Dr Chandrasekhar as well as the two indigenous technologies. Still the government decided to form the...
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