Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize Presentation Ceremony

2.6 SHANTI SWARUP BHATNAGAR PRIZES PRESENTATION CEREMONY


Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prizes for 2002 were presented by the Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee at a glittering ceremony held on 12th July, 2003 at Vigyan Bhavan. The function was presided over by Prof. Murli Manohar Joshi, Hon’ble Minister for Human Resource Development, S&T and Ocean Development and Vice President of CSIR. Shri Bachi Singh Rawat, Hon’ble Minister of State for Science & Technology also graced the function. The function was attended by a large number of dignitaries and distinguished scientists.

Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee presented the Bhatnagar Prizes for the year 2002. The Awards presented were: Prize for Biological Sciences – Dr. Raghavan Varadarajan and Dr. Amitabha Mukhopadhyay; Prize for Chemical Sciences – Dr. Tushar Kanti Chakraborty and Dr. Murali Sastry; Prize for Earth, Atmosphere, Ocean and Planetary Sciences – Dr. Ganapati Shankar Bhat and Dr. Sankar Kumar Nath; Prize for Engineering Sciences – Dr. Ashutosh Sharma; Prize for Mathematical Sciences – Dr. Dipendra Prasad and Dr. Sundaram Thangavelu; Prize for Medical Sciences – Dr. Sunil Pradhan; Prize for Physical Sciences – Dr. Avinash Anant Deshpande and Dr. Mohit Randeria. Dr. Mashelkar then invited Prof. Joshi to address. In his address, Dr. Joshi said, “Hon'ble Prime Minister of India, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee ji; my colleague, Minister of State for Science & Technology, Shri Bachi Singh Rawat ji; Dr. Mashelkar; Dr. Brahmachari; the proud Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prizewinners and their equally proud family members; young research students who are attending the Bhatnagar Prize function in such large numbers for the first time; distinguished invitees; ladies and gentlemen:

Let me begin by welcoming all of you to this 29th Bhatnagar Prize function. I am especially happy to welcome our Prime Minister, who has set up, as was told earlier, a record. No Prime Minister of India has given away the Bhatnagar prizes for the fifth time in a row. Our Prime Minister has done it. This reflects the deep commitment that our Prime Minister has in Indian science and also his total faith in the Indian scientists.

His abiding faith has been reflected repeatedly over the last five years through what he has said and what he has done. He not only gave his famous and inspiring slogan of 'Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan and Jai Vigyan' but also followed this up with several determined actions. His pronouncement during the Pune Science Congress to raise the level of expenditure in Indian Science & Technology to 2% of India's GDP, was followed up with concrete action. Indeed, the last two years have seen a record increase in the budgetary support for science and technology over the previous years, dare I say, the highest in post-independent India! We thank you Hon'ble Prime Minister for this unstinted support, and assure you that we are determined to use Indian S&T as the most powerful tool for the socio- economic transformation of India so that your dream of 'twenty-first century being India's century' will come true.

Let me begin by congratulating all the Bhatnagar Prize winners. This prize continues to remain the most prestigious prize today that an Indian can get. What is very satisfying for me is that you have committed yourself to do science in India rather than some distant land of promise, and this prize comes to you for the work done primarily in India. I am sure this award, which is a recognition of the outstanding scientific research that you have done, will spur you to go on further and higher, bringing all the glory to Indian science.

I was very keen to organise something very special this time that has not been done before. Apart from the actual awards function, there is a Bhatnagar Laureate (2002) Symposium to follow. In this, each one of the Bhatnagar Laureates will present the gist of the work that got him this prestigious prize. The young researchers will get a glimpse of the best in science that India has to offer. They should be inspired by the presentations of the Bhatnagar Laureates. I am sure this event will make the young scientists present here the aspirants for this prestigious prize in the future. We will continue this practice of holding the Bhatnagar Laureate symposia from now onwards for all future Bhatnagar Prize functions to follow.

The Bhatnagar Prize has been given primarily for the work done in basic science. Today, I want to spend some time on responding to a question that is often asked — Can a poor country like India afford to spend its scarce financial resource in basic scientific research? Should it not just use the scarce funds wisely and just concentrate on converting the currently available knowledge into something useful for the nation? I even heard recently that in a meeting organized abroad, one of the speakers said that scientists working in developing world should forget about Nobel Prizes. Instead they should just work on improving their lot by using known pool of scientific knowledge. I beg to differ completely. Basic research is a foundation. This foundation for Indian science must be strong. Then only can we build a strong edifice of cutting edge technology. There is no high technology without high science.

Let me begin by quoting what Sir C.V. Raman had said once:

"Unless the real importance of pure science is recognized and its fundamental influence in the advancement of all knowledge is realized and acted upon, India cannot make headway in any direction and attain her place among the nations of the world. There is only one solution for India's economic problems and that is science and more science and still more science."

Coming from a scientist, his craving for more and more pure science need not come as a surprise. But let me turn to Homi Bhabha. Not only was he a great scientist himself but he was a great science administrator too. Based on his quarter of a century of experience in India, he was categorical in what he said about the importance of basic scientific research for India. In January 1966, in the last speech that he gave in his life, addressing the International Council of Scientific Unions in Bombay, he remarked:

"What the developed countries have and the underdeveloped lack is modern science and an economy based on modern technology. The problem of developing the underdeveloped countries is therefore the problem of establishing modern science in them and transforming their economy to one based on modern science and technology. An important question, which we must consider is whether it is possible to transform the economy of a country to one based on modern technology developed elsewhere without at the same time establishing modern science in the country as a live and vital force. If the answer to this important question is in the negative — and I believe our experience will show that it is — then the problem of establishing science as a live and vital force in society is an inseparable part of the problem of transforming an industrially underdeveloped to a developed country.”

The Government is fully committed to supporting basic science as well as honouring great achievers in basic science in the best possible way that the nation can. That is why during the Science Congress held earlier this year in Bangalore, I requested our respected Prime Minister to announce the Indian Science Prize of Rs. 25 lakh. The Prime Minister graciously agreed and announced it. This will be the highest ever prize in science and I want it to grow in status over the years. Mind you, Rs. 25 lakh is not a small sum. If one looks at the purchasing power parity, then this is equivalent to over Rs. 2 crore in Europe or USA. So this is a large prize, which we want, to give to our large achievers. And mind you, the recently set up CSIR Diamond Jubilee Prize for Technology, which is again the highest in India, is Rs. 10 lakh. Clearly, there is a message here about how deeply we value breakthroughs in fundamental science in India.

My friends, the Government is striving very hard during the last five years to make India a science & technology superpower. It is true that in recent years we have seen that the best of minds do not turn to science. Those who do unfortunately do not stay in science. Therefore, apart from increase in funding, we have launched several schemes to attract young people to science. These include DST's Kishore Vaigyanik Protsahan Yojana, CSIR's Programme on Youth for Leadership in Science, and several others. We have set up Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Fellowships for the most exceptional young research scientists. We also have Swarna Jayanti Fellowships for the most talented of our scientists and engineers.

We perfectly realize that the real fountainheads of new scientific knowledge are universities. Furthermore, mere teaching without research is sterile. Therefore, we have a scheme to identify our best universities with potential for excellence and support them enthusiastically. DST has created the FIST programme for supporting basic research in universities. UGC is also launching Centres for Studies in Integrative Sciences where integrated 5 year M.Sc. will be offered with a unique course content, which will create budding researchers of the highest quality.

I am happy to see that a lot of efforts that the government has put in over the past five years is beginning to pay a dividend. We had the disappointing news that our basic research output in terms of the papers published in Science Citation Index (SCI) journals had remained almost constant at around 13,000 during two decades, i.e. during 1980 to 2000. This is in spite of the fact that the number of universities more than doubled during that period and the investment in science and technology went up by a factor of 15 in real terms. We inherited this legacy of the past. On this backdrop of our past, I am beginning at last to see the silver lining already. I understand that the cut-off percentage for admission to science courses in Delhi has gone up by about 5% this year, which was steadily declining so far. This is a good sign. I am told that India's rank of SCI papers was constant at the 15th position during the four years period i.e. 1998 to 2001. In 2002, however, we have moved up to the 14th position by displacing Switzerland to the 15th. We, of course, need to go up much higher, but I believe a good beginning of the reversal of the trend has taken place. Recently, while I was in Mumbai, I met an industrialist. She had just returned from Stanford. She told me as to how she met many Indian young scientists, who felt so positive about India and who were wanting to come back to India. Although these are small signs of change, they are, to me, very satisfying signals of the direction in which we are moving.

In Bhatnagar Prize winners, we have the best in science in India. I want the aspirations of our scientists to rise higher and higher. At the end of the day, one must recognize that in science only those are remembered who say either the first word or the last word. For this, we require daring innovation and creativity. We require self-confidence. Let us not forget that this country has a great heritage of courageous scientists, who accomplished magnificently in science. We cannot think of better examples of men of science than Ramanujan, Raman and S.N. Bose. Raman was sure that he would win a Nobel Prize when he discovered the Raman effect. He even booked his voyage for the Nobel Prize function. Such shows his confidence. S.N. Bose, shortly after his post-graduate studies, had the courage to send his research results to none other than Einstein for review. It needed tremendous confidence to feel that the work he had done deserved the highest recognition. Einstein, being what he was, recognized the genius of Bose rightaway. Much earlier to this, Ramanujan did something similar. Working as a clerk in a port trust, with no one to help and without a college education, Ramanujan felt that he had discovered something new working on "Orders of Infinity" and sent the result to Prof. Hardy at Cambridge. This led to a new era in Mathematics. My young friends, this is the Indian legacy. You are proud inheritors of this legacy. Feel inspired by this legacy and march on. Glory will come to you and Indian science automatically.

I want to emphasize that basic research must form an integral part of every research body. I have very often emphasized that in the case of CSIR, which is the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, the word “scientific” precedes the word "industrial"; and in fact the organization can be effective in industrial research only if this is based on strong scientific research. This is equally true in areas of agriculture, in medicine, in defence and so on.`

I have often said that science cannot be left to the market forces. Strangely, this is something that even the Europeans had recognized, when they were competing with the Americans. As a physicist, I recollect what Cecil Powell said when he was arguing in the early 1950s assuring for support for basic research in Europe. United States was then vigorously moving into the field of high energy elementary particle physics. European physicists were trying to obtain support for a common European accelerator. European Council for Nuclear Research (CERN) did not exist then. Cecil Powell then said: "In the long run, it is most painful, and very expensive, to have only a derivative culture and not one's own, with all that it implies in independence in thought, self-confidence and technical mastery. If we left the development of science in the world to the free play of economic factors alone, there would inevitably result most undesirable concentration of science and scientists in too few centers, those rich in science becoming even richer, and those poor, relatively poorer". This is precisely what has happened today. The gap between the developing and the developed nations has increased enormously. We cannot afford to have such a gap. India simply cannot lag behind. It must surge ahead and be a leader in science.

Finally, let me again congratulate all the Bhatnagar Prize winners once again. Let your work bring a great fame to Indian science. I want to extend my very best wishes to you for your journey up that limitless ladder of excellence.

I am extremely grateful to the Prime Minister for his total support to the development of Science and Technology for then only he has been able to spare so much of time for us out of his busy schedule.

Prof. Joshi requested then Hon’ble Prime Minister to deliver the address.

Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi, Shri Bachi Singh Rawat, Dr. Mashelkar, Dr. Brahmachari, Bhatnagar, Laureates, my young scientist friends and other distinguished guests.

This is the fifth Bhatnagar Awards function that I have the privilege to address. It is always heartening to be in the company of the most outstanding among our country's scientists. But today, I have an additional reason to be pleased. For I see in front of me hundreds of young science scholars, who are participating for the first time in the Bhatnagar Awards function.

I must congratulate the CSIR for the 'innovation' it has introduced in this event by holding the Bhatnagar Laureates Symposium. This will give the young minds present here an opportunity to interact with the brightest among Indian scientists. I would like to congratulate the Bhatnagar awardees, who have excelled in their respective areas of research. I am happy to note that most of the Bhatnagar awardees of yesteryears have continued to remain and work in India. They have over the years pioneered new schools of thought, spawned new paradigms for technology, established centers of excellence and won many laurels.

To the new Awardees, I would like to say, "You now have an onerous responsibility. You are the role model for young scientists. You have to set an example to them by your continued pursuit of excellence in science, high levels of ethics in your work, and the larger vision of nation-building that ought to guide the work of scientists as well as all the rest of us in our respective professions."

Today as I pay tribute to the achievers — both past and present — in Indian science and technology, I naturally think of those of our compatriots who have gone abroad and whose superior research capabilities are now acknowledged all over the world.

While speaking to DRDO scientists on this year's Technology Day, I had said that we are proud of the fact that tens of thousands of Indian scientists and engineers around the world are making valuable contributions to the areas of their specialization and to economies of their countries of domicile. Many Heads of State, including those of industrialized nations, have spoken to me praising their contribution.

This gives us the hope and confidence that by creating the right environment for learning, teaching and working here in India, our talented scientists and engineers can produce path breaking discoveries and inventions in our own country.

Here I am reminded of the words of an immigrant scientist in the United States who went on to win a Nobel Prize. "A scientist is like a painter. Michael Angelo became a great artist because he had been given a wall to paint. My wall was given to me by the United States."

So, the first thing all of us should together resolve — those of us in Government as well as those of you in Science & Technology institutions — is to provide a big enough canvas to our researchers right here in India. We should further improve the environment for research and development in India. I am told that much improvement has taken place in recent years, especially in areas such as information technology, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. But we need to accomplish much more.

The Bhatnagar prize is a national honour. But your ambition should be to benchmark your research with the best in the world and win prestigious international honours. I am happy to see that this year, as many as seven Indians have won the honours of getting elected to the US National Academies of Science & Engineering.

What gladdens me especially is the fact that, although five of them have won the honours for work done in USA, the remaining two — Dr. Obaid Siddiqi and Dr. Raghunath Mashelkar have done their entire work in India. I would like to congratulate them heartily.

What does their success mean? It means that you can indeed do world class research in our own laboratories in India, provided you dare to dream, and provided your efforts match your dreams and your ambitions.

Apart from prestigious international honours, the other criterion to judge the quality of output of India's S&T establishment is the number of research papers published in reputed international journals. Perhaps this is an area that has not received adequate attention.

There seems to be an apparent disconnect between our proven technological capability to harness existing knowledge and unsatisfactory contribution to new knowledge. After all, India has made notable progress in the past two decades in agriculture, space, nuclear energy, and several manufacturing sectors. However, this progress is not matched by globally recognized original research in India.

It should be the endeavour of our scientists and researchers in CSIR laboratories, universities. IlTs, ICMR, ICAR and other organizations to significantly increase their output of globally recognized research papers.

As history tells us, a nation can progress economically in the short term based on `existing knowledge', but such progress is not sustainable in the long run — especially in today's competitive conditions in the absence of creation of 'new knowledge'. Thus, we have to be equally adept at both generating new knowledge and applying it to our various national needs.

On this occasion I cannot help reiterate my concern over the declining interest in science among students. In 1950s and '60's, the best students chose to go for science education. Today's bright students seem to be shying away from science. As a result, in few years' time, all our top research organizations would face a shortage of good science graduates. This issue needs to be addressed effectively, imaginatively and comprehensively.

I am happy that Dr Joshiji has initiated several good measures in this regard, both in respect of technology education and science education. However, it is not enough to attract the best and brightest students to science education. It is equally important to create sufficient employment opportunities for them in our country.

I would like the S&T establishment, public and private sector industry, as well as the concerned Government agencies to collectively address this issue. Some international firms have started to set up their R&D centers in India, employing large numbers of PhDs. This trend can be broadened by actively encouraging location in India of R&D activities of big and small corporations abroad. Our aim should be to make India a global R&D hub.

We should also seek the involvement of our Diasporic community in this endeavour. I am told that one of the issues that were discussed at the first Pravasi Bharatiya Sammelan early this year was how to synergise India's scientific talent at home and abroad. I would like this effort to be further strengthened.

Friends, I have always looked forward to the Bhatnagar Awards function to share with you my ideas on some of the priorities in India's socio-economic development and how the S&T establishment can help in meeting these challenges. Today the Nation expects your valuable inputs in many critical areas of development. For example, yesterday the Planning Commission presented to me two excellent reports on promotion of bio-fuels and bamboo.

These subjects may sound unglamorous to some, but both have an immense potential to generate productive employment, help millions of artisans and farmers to be liberated from poverty, achieve significant import substitution and earn considerable export revenue. To achieve these goals, we need critical R&D inputs from agriculture scientists, energy scientists, and technologists of various disciplines.

Let me mention another issue of overriding national importance — namely, water conservation. India is blessed by nature with bountiful water — it is amongst the 'wettest' countries in the world, yet 'desert like' conditions are now prevalent in many parts of the country. We are fast plunging into a water emergency era.

Although many parts of India have received timely rains this year, I have appealed to all our citizens and all institutional users of water to conserve every drop of available water. Among other things, this requires low -cost water saving, water recycling, and water treatment technologies. Our kisans need to know effective techniques of recharging the sources of ground water.

Thus you, my scientist friends. have a great responsibility to contribute to making, India water secure'. Let us remember that 'Water sustains life, and it is now our duty to sustain all sources of water'. I have given only a few illustrative examples. But they show how scientists and technologists can become crucial partners in the Nation's development efforts. You are already playing this role in diverse fields, and I commend you for your valuable contribution. But a much bigger challenge awaits you. I have full confidence in your ability as well as in your readiness to meet this challenge.

Prof. S.K. Brahmachari, Director, Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, Delhi, proposed a vote of thanks.

Announcing the winners of Invention Awards for School Children, Dr. Mashelkar said, it is unbelievable the tremendous learning capacity the school children have got. If India has to become ‘innovative’, it has to start right from these children. The Invention Awards for School children, he said, have been instituted with the aim to encourage the innovative spirit of these children. The first prize is Rs.50,000 (one), Second prize Rs.25,000 (two), third prize – Rs.15,000 (three), fourth prize – Rs.10,000 (three) and fifth prize – Rs.5,000 (five). This year, Dr. Mashelkar continued, 83 applications were received for this award. First prize has not been given to any one. Only one second prize has been given and this went to Bhushan Prakash Mahadik from a school in Navi Mumbai, for developing a process for preparation of carbon nanotubes using plant oils. Two third prize have been given: one to D. Prabhu Hari from Chennai for neo-fertilization-target ovum, and another to Purushottam Bohra from Madhya Pradesh, for developing a process for the preparation of curd powder from curd. Dr. Mashelkar had a special word of praise for Madhav Pathak from Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh, who had won the first prize last year for developing the front fact braille writer, which makes writing much easier for the blind. This year also Madhav Pathak won a prize – fourth prize for developing a device for preventing soiling of railway tracks at the platform. The other fourth prize has been given to a team comprising Rucha Vinay Joshi, Priyanka Holambe, Divya Patil and Abha Biyani from Nanded, Maharashtra, for developing a process for the preparation of biscuits using banana peel pulp. Three fifth prizes have been given. One to Rupinder Singh from Bhatinda, Punjab, for developing a novel machine useful for conversion of sea-wave energy to potential energy. The second to Jaydeep Mandal from the Murshidabad Distt. West Bengal, for developing a device useful for lifting the surface water of the river. The third prize has gone to T. Sri Ram Kumar from Coimbatore, for a slope-measuring instrument named as ‘Universal spirit level’.

Intended to propel technology innovation in industry, the first CSIR Diamond Jubilee Technology Award, Dr. Mashelkar announced, has been given to Tata Motors design, development, manufacturing and commercialization of Indica and Indigo cars. Ratan Tata was allowed to make the cars in 1993. So far over 300,000 Indica/Indigo have been sold. Indica, a ‘B’ segment hatch back and Indigo, a ‘C’ segment sedan have been primarily designed to suit Indian driving cycle and space, and the fuel economy needs, yet conforming to stringent global environmental norms. It is providing direct employment to 4000 employees and indirect employment to 25,000 people.

The cars have not only successfully competed against some well known and established brands in the country but are also making inroads in the competitive export market, as Indica is going to be introduced in UK under the brand name of ‘City Rovers’ by M.G. Rovers. British Morris came to India as ‘Ambassador’ and now with the introduction of Indica in UK as ‘City Rovers’, the circle has been completed.