Bharat Ratna-designate Prof. C N R Rao terms ISRO's long-time practice of seeking the divine blessings in Tirupathi before its space missions an act of superstition he does not believe in.
"Yes", he replied when a reporter asked if he thought the space agency placing a miniature replica of soon-to-be-lofted satellite at the feet of Lord Balaji in the temple town of Tirupathi in Andhra Pradesh, every time before its launch from Sriharikota spaceport, amounts to superstition.
"Human beings are scared. They think that if they do offerings, their work will get right. What to do?" the eminent scientist said at a meet-the-press programme hosted by the Press Club of Bangalore.
"I am not superstitious. I don't believe in astrology. I don't believe in any other kind of superstition", the President of Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR) here and Chairman of the Prime Minister's Scientific Advisory Council, replied to another question.
Meanwhile, Rao said there was an impression that he is anti-information technology, which is not correct, adding that he held the view that other sectors should not be deprived of bright youngsters as bulk of the talent opts for IT as a career.
But, he admitted that "quality of science from India is not very good".
Rao lavishly praised China's strides in the field of science and said it's investing heavily in the field. "They have beaten the world; America is nothing".
Indians are easy-going. Indian youngsters are second to none but they need to be far more determined to succeed and have to be fiercely proud in being Indians.
Rao indicated that Bangalore is losing out on science, noting that in the last 15 years, JNCASR has not even been able to attract a single student for science research from the city. States such as West Bengal, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala were doing better.
He said the phenomenon of brain-drain is a thing of the past. "Lot of youngsters are coming back to India. Green pastures in America are all getting dry. Today India offers opportunities in research, like no other," Rao said.
But he noted that "there is no contribution of Indian industry for scientific research", in sharp contrast to the countries such as the US, Japan and South Korea where more than 50 per cent of the scientific work is supported by the industry.
"People like Mukesh Ambani (Reliance Industries) and Tatas need to loosen their purse strings and give some money (to support scientific research). They are utilising the fruits of scientific research," Rao said.
Rao said India had no option but to invest more in science. "You can't be a very powerful country and backward in science."
He said India needs a well thought-out plan for higher education and school education. "We can't go on increasing the number of colleges; that's not the way to do it," he said, noting that while India admitted about seven lakh students in engineering colleges this year, the number is just 75,000 in all US universities put together.