‘Lack of political will holds up India’s big scientific projects’

India is not moving fast enough on major scientific projects because of “political and legal delays,” David Gross, physicist and 2004 Nobel laureate, told an audience at a prelude to the Vibrant Gujarat summit here.

He was referring to the stalled India-based Neutrino Observatory, a massive underground detector of subatomic particles, proposed to come up in Tamil Nadu. It is to come up in an ecologically fragile zone, and has run into criticism from activist groups.

Scientists have asserted that the detector is not an environment threat, but it is yet to get clearances from the State.

“India has to go beyond being a minor collaborator in big science research projects and take the lead, but there have been inexcusable political and legal delays,” Mr. Gross said. “China is fast seizing these opportunities.”

He also referred to the approval given by the government last year for an India-based arm of an observatory to detect gravitational waves, called LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory). The decision came after signs of gravitational waves, resulting from the collision of two massive black holes 1.3 billion light years from the earth, were announced last year by a large team of scientists across the world, including several from India.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced support for LIGO India last February, but there has been little headway since then.

India is not the only country to face environmental hurdles to large observatories. The proposed Thirty Meter Telescope in Hawaii is likely to be shifted out after protests by environmentalist groups.

“I don’t see [India’s] hurdles as environmental, but [they stem from] from lack of strong political will,” Mr. Gross told The Hindu on the sidelines. “Withdrawal of [the high-value] currency may be good or bad, but Mr. Modi has gone ahead and done it.”

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2022 8:33:35 PM |

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