Jammu: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Monday that his government had substantially, if not fully, redeemed its pledge to promote science and technology as the key driver of India’s development.

Inaugurating the 101st session of the Indian Science Congress at Jammu University here Monday, the prime minister said: “I am delighted to be part of the very first Indian Science Congress session to be held in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.”

“I thank the general president of the Indian Science Congress Association, Professor Sobti, for his initiative to bring this premier congregation of scientists for the first time to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Their presence here is a vindication of our commitment to achieving inclusive and balanced development of our nation.

“Although not a scientist myself, I have always been deeply aware of the importance of science and its role in the development of our nation. I belong to a generation which drew its inspiration from the life and work of Jawaharlal Nehru, our first prime minister, who asked at the dawn of independence: ‘Who indeed could afford to ignore science today? At every turn, we have to seek its aid…’ The future belongs to science.”

The prime minister remarked that this was the 10th time he had enjoyed the privilege of addressing the inaugural session of the Indian Science Congress.

“Together with the scientific community represented here today, our government has worked hard to promote the use of science and technology as a key driver of development. As Panditji might have put it, “we have redeemed our pledge, if not in full, but very substantially”.

He said: “To do science, someone must pay for it. We must increase our annual expenditure on science and technology to at least two percent of our GDP.”

“This has to come from both government and industry. In countries such as South Korea, where a high percentage of the GDP goes to science, the contribution of Korean industry is indeed very significant. I am happy to say that our Department of Biotechnology has activated private-public partnerships in R&D in biotechnology. I appeal to the corporate sector to join hands with the government in realising the goals that we have set for more our nation”.

The prime minister made special mention of India’s space missions.

“I congratulate our scientists in ISRO for having mastered the technology of liquid hydrogen rocket engines. The launches of our Moon and Mars Missions are testimony to the giant strides we are now making in Space, for which our space scientists deserve genuine credit”, he said.

Speaking of strides in healthcare, the prime minister said: “Our government has established a new department for health education and research. Efforts to discover drugs for neglected diseases are beginning to bear fruit. A rota virus vaccine, a new drug for malaria and many other leads emanating from collaborative research are all reassuring developments.”

The prime minister announced the establishing of a neutrino-based observatory in Tamil Nadu at a cost of Rs.1,450 crore and said the country would be joining the famous CERN institute of Switzerland as an associate member.

The prime minister also regretted that science had still not got the recognition it deserves in the country’s value system.

“Before I close, I would like to stress on something that has troubled me for some time: I worry sometimes that science has not yet got its proper due in our value system. I would like science to be high in our value system so that our entire society provides both moral and material support for its development. This is not only necessary because our future depends on it, but also because instilling a scientific attitude and temper in our population is essential for developing a progressive, rational and humane society. I do hope that our scientists and educators will ponder seriously on how we can achieve this transformation in the mindset of our society,” he said.

The prime minister also said his government affirmed the contribution of scientists to development by awarding the Bharat Ratna, the country’s highest civilian honour, to C.N.R. Rao. “Let this be only the first step in creating an environment that gives birth to many more Bharat Ratnas in the field of science. That is my wish, that is my prayer,” he said.

Source: IANS