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Updated: January 6, 2011 23:37 IST

Manmohan Singh: knowledge, not army might, determines a nation's strength

Special Correspondent
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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh flanked by Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and Chief Mentor of Infosys N.R. Narayana Murthy (left) during the Infosys Prize 2010 award ceremony in Mumbai on Thursday.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh flanked by Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and Chief Mentor of Infosys N.R. Narayana Murthy (left) during the Infosys Prize 2010 award ceremony in Mumbai on Thursday.

Right to Education a special achievement of our government: Prime Minister

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday said making education a fundamental right was one of the special achievements of his government.

“If there is one initiative that our government has taken in these six and a half years in office I consider really special, it is the Right to Education that has now been enshrined in our Constitution,” he said speaking at a function here where he presented Infosys Science Foundation awards.

Acknowledging the importance of private institutions like the Infosys Science Foundation that had a large role to play in generating funds to reward excellence, Dr. Singh said: “The strength of a nation is no longer determined by the might of its army. It comes from the quality of collective knowledge, the productivity of its working people, the creativity of its entrepreneurs and the dedication of its professionals.”

The Infosys Prize 2010 was presented for outstanding achievements in scientific research. The awards were in five categories — Mathematical Sciences, Physical Sciences, Engineering and Computer Science, Life Sciences and Social Sciences. The prize in each category comprises a 24-karat gold medallion, a citation expounding the laureate's work and Rs. 50 lakh in cash (tax free). Congratulating the recipients, K. Dinesh, co-founder, Infosys, and president of the Board of Trustees, Infosys Science Foundation, said: “Scientific research is of the utmost importance for India's rapid economic and social development. We endeavour to encourage the scientific community to make breakthroughs and discoveries that will drive the nation forward in the years to come. We hope that initiatives like this will go a long way in motivating and encouraging young minds to undertake research as a career.”

The Infosys Science Foundation was set up in February 2009 by the management of Infosys. The corpus has increased from Rs. 45 crore to Rs. 100 crore with about half the amount coming from the management of Infosys.

The winners

Professor Chandrashekhar Khare of the University of California, Los Angeles, got the award in the Mathematical Sciences category, in recognition of his fundamental contributions to the Number Theory particularly his solution of the Serre conjecture.

Professor Sandip Trivedi of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research won the award in the Physical Sciences category for finding an ingenious way to solve two of the most outstanding puzzles of Superstring Theory simultaneously: What is the origin of dark energy of the universe? And why is there no massless scalar particle?

Professor Ashutosh Sharma of the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, won the award in the Engineering and Computer Science category for his fundamental contributions to mechanics, materials and manufacturing on small scale including self-organisation and instabilities, nano-patterning and functional multiscale interfaces.

Chetan Chitnis of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) won the award in the Life Sciences category for his pioneering work in understanding the interactions of the malaria parasite and its host, leading to the development of a viable vaccine.

The Social Sciences category award was jointly presented to Professor Amita Baviskar of the Institute of Economic Growth, in recognition of her contributions as an outstanding analyst of social and environmental movements in modern India, and Professor Nandini Sundar of the Delhi School of Economics, in recognition of her contributions as an outstanding analyst of social identities, including tribe and caste, and the politics of knowledge in modern India.

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It is good that our PM talked about the importance of 'knowledge" putting it on a higher plane than military prowess. A Knowledge Commission was also set up in the past with an eminent thinker. It has been often said in seminar circuits that everyone should have an opportunity to partake in the benefits of "knowledge economy". The matters do not proceed farther than these pious declarations. Educationists lament on the decline of reading habits. Librarians in their meets wail about then decline in book borrowing habit. Organisations endowed with large resources, both in the private sector do not just bother about their obligations to setting up well endowed ,libraries with a view to constantly enriching the knowledge and outlook of their staff. It has been said in jest that the librarians quest for adding more books to his organsiations libraries depends solely on what the bookseller sends them. There is little proactive demand on the booksellers and for books. So much for the earnestness of the organisations and those in charge of their libraries and HR. Take private sector. They talk endlessly in seminar circuits of their commitment to corporate socials responsibility. But there is little else. Even the 19th and 20th century philanthropists initiatives are absent among modern day tycoons even though the number of our trillionaires/billionaires in the Forbes's list. Take any city, except the British Council and the American libraries catering to the general public with a collection of valuable and uptodate books, there is neither state participation in meaningful terms or private initiative. It is not that our earlier administrators were negligent. For decades, in Delhi, municipal public libraries were existing in almost every locality functioning from modest premises and catering to the peoples' reading habits at a ridiculously low charges. It is hoped that the PM's call will be seriously taken by his ministers and civil servants and also the apex business chambers and the top 100 business houses. They need to invest their resources - financial and physical- to just start the first prerequisite, libraries in each city in major localities with uptodate books and periodicals. We ape the west for all but here is a field in which we could just copy what the little Singapore is doing with its countless national Libraries in various localities.. Here is some food for thought and work for our ministers and civil servants and business CEOs.

from:  S Subramanhyan
Posted on: Jan 7, 2011 at 11:25 IST
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