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Tuesday, Oct 26, 2021
Outlook.com

The Devil's Laboratory

Behind the noises of self-aggrandisement lies a story of slow poisoning: idle minds, skewed priorities, misdirected funding and an atmosphere that stifles independent thinking

The Devil's Laboratory
The Devil's Laboratory
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

Think for a moment. Why is it that India can make satellites but cannot provide safe drinking water to more than 70 per cent of its people? Why is it that we can fashion sophisticated nuclear weapon systems but controlling epidemics like malaria or tuberculosis is not strategic enough? Why is that we are rooting for a mission to the moon but consider preventing floods that affect millions of lives every year unimportant?

Think for a moment again. Why do a majority of internationally reputed Indian scientists invariably happen to be either mathematicians or theoretical physicists? Or, conversely, why do we not produce great innovators, biologists, product designers, archaeologists or even, for that matter, environmental scientists?

What is, indeed, wrong with Indian science? A fast-greying scientific community, misprioritised resources and a brain drain that progressively impoverishes the atmosphere of scholarship at home-it's a lethal cocktail. The hierarchical structure of science institutions and a brahminical insistence on theory rather than on solving people's problems doesn't help matters either. Add to this the refusal of industry to patronise science and the looming synergy of the military-industrial complex, and the picture is one of utter gloom.

Pushp M. Bhargava, prominent biochemist and former founder-director of the Hyderabad-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, is scathing about the relevance and quality of Indian science: "Science here is characterised by a pervasive mediocrity. There is a lack of originality and of the courage to challenge absurdity in all spheres-individual or at the policy level-and to defend truth. There's widespread plagiarism and the denial of credit where it is due. There's complacency, self-glorification and cronyism in our scientific community too."

He is right. For one, Indian science...

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