Science and technology can help restore economic growth to the old rate of eight to nine per cent and enable India become a knowledge society, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said here on Saturday.

“I know that in the past year India’s economy has slowed down, but this is not an inevitable or irreversible outcome. The fundamentals of our economy are sound and with greater effort being made to mobilise all the latent physical and human resources, we can go back to the growth rate of eight to nine per cent per annum achieved from 2003 to 2008 ... Science and technology have to play a major role in the transformation of our economy,” Dr. Singh said, while delivering the golden jubilee convocation address at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay.

“India today needs national leaders from the fields of science and engineering. Not just politics, sports and cinema,” he said.

While the government had opened new IITs and Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), one of the major challenges “is to ensure that this quantitative expansion in institutions and seats also fosters a qualitative improvement in the working of institutions of higher learning.”

“India currently lags behind many other countries in term of research and development and we must work much harder to bridge this knowledge gap.”

“Every year when I see how many hundreds of thousands of students apply for admission to these institutions, and when I see how high the minimum cut-off marks for admission have become, my heart is pained by the limits we are placing on the opportunities available to our youth,” Dr. Singh said.

Highlighting the need to harness our human resource, the Prime Minister said the knowledge base of the economy had to expand with economic growth so that “we can catch up with other developed nations.”

Wipro Chairman Azim Premji was conferred a Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa). Mr. Premji dedicated the honour to the employees of his company and drove home the importance of “making mistakes,” but learning from them.

Union Communications Minister Kapil Sibal, Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and Governor K. Sankaranarayanan were present.

  • “Increase in number of institutions should foster a qualitative improvement in higher learning”

  • Knowledge base of economy has to expand so that we catch up with developed nations, he says