Numerous scientists, research scholars and students took out a march on Wednesday, perhaps the first protest action demanding an end to the financial neglect of science as well as pseudo-scientific ideas being propagated.
The March for Science, being conducted in over 27 cities of the country, including Bengaluru, saw protestors marching from Town Hall to Bengaluru Central University.
The protest aims to highlight the cut in funds to national science laboratories and “dwindling” government support, as well as “rising wave of unscientific beliefs and religious bigotry.”
“The first edition of the present government (implying the NDA government between 1999-2004) had imposed astrology in Universities. Now, we are seeing the attempts to teach Vedic Mathematics for school children. Vedic Mathematics is neither based in the Vedas nor is Mathematics. We must fight against this,” said S. Balachandra Rao, Director, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan’s Gandhi Centre of Science and Human Value.
Similarly, D.P. Sengupta, a retired professor from IISc, termed the constant rewriting and distortion of history as disturbing. “We talk about Pushpa Vimana [flying vehicle used by Ravana] in mythology, but we take decades to produce a light combat aircraft here. We can’t mix mythology with science,” he said.
While funds remained an issue, the bigger problem was the “mismanagement” of resources meant for scientific research, said Dipankar Chatterjee, Padma Shri awardee and Molecular biologist at Indian Institute of Science.
Taking a potshot at the recent IT Raids on Karnataka Minister D.K. Shivakumar, former Advocate General Ravivarma Kumar said: “Even the house of an astrologer was raided. There is a reason why scientists are not raided. Science is poor, and scientists are poorer,” he said.
The demands include enacting policies based on evidence-based science, stopping propagation of “obscurantist ideas and religious intolerance”, ensuring scientific ideas are taught in educational institutions and allocation of at least 3% of GDP to scientific and technological research.
More than 3,000 scientists across the country have signed the petition. In Bengaluru, more than 500 research scholars and scientists from institutions such as Indian Institute of Science, Raman Research Institute, Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, National Centre for Biological Sciences, ISRO, Indian Institute of Astrophysics, among others have extended support.