Wednesday, September 26, 2012

PM’s Address at CSIR Foundation Day

Following is the text of the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh’s address at the CSIR Foundation Day function in New Delhi today: 

“I am delighted to join you on the 70th Foundation Day of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research. Dr. Brahmachari just reminded me of a personal attribute that I happen to share with the Council --- we were both born on 26th September. I can think of no better company than this illustrious gathering of men and women of science, with whom to have my first public engagement on this very special day.

With your indulgence, I could stretch my association with the Council fraternity even farther. Dr. Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar, the man whose memory we cherish today, came to this city from Lahore with a dream to build the chain of CSIR’s national Laboratories. I followed him with a more modest dream of my own, to make a fresh beginning in free India, though in the tragedy and chaos of Partition that forced this choice upon my family, to dream was indeed to dare!

Partition was, of course, in many ways a national tragedy far more poignant than our personal losses. In those days of horror, it was easy to write off India, with its deep-rooted poverty, widespread ignorance, frequent epidemics and an economy that had remained stagnant in the five preceding decades.

But we were fortunate to have in Jawaharlal Nehru a leader who saw science and technology as an elixir for India’s development, and in Dr. Bhatnagar a scientist of extraordinary organizational capacity and caliber to implement this vision of Jawaharlal Nehru.

Recognizing the potential of scientific research, Jawaharlal Nehru placed the Council under his personal charge, thereby beginning a tradition that successive Prime Ministers have continued. Science has always commanded the utmost priority of our policymakers. I consider it a privilege to preside over this hallowed organization in the seventh decade of its outstandingservice to our nation.

I glad that the Council has proven its professional worth in every phase of India’s growth, in line with prevailing national policies and national priorities. In the early days of Independence, it was a champion of import substitution, rebuilding our industrial base in the face of shortages and resource crunch. When India became a victim of technology denial, CSIR laboratories created advanced products and technologies, such as India’s first super computer, radiation shielding glasses and components for aerospace and satellites, emerging as a credible partner for our strategic sector. During this time, the Council also catapulted India as the top generic drug producer.

After India embraced globalization, introduced economic reforms and joined the WTO, the CSIR quickly emerged as the flag bearer of the Intellectual Property movement in our country and became the single largest holder of US and European patents. The Council, in recent years, has also become a world leader in specific domains of biotechnology and recombinant DNA products.

I would like to particularly compliment the Council on its unique attempt to make healthcare affordable by exploiting the power of open source drug discovery. As a concept, this is a global first and the world has turned from skepticism to partnership. I am happy to learn that the Council has opened its patent chest for accelerated drug discovery for hitherto neglected diseases like tuberculosis and malaria.

While we aim for global excellence and competitive advantage for our country in science, the Council must not lose sight of the mandate of science in our country that Jawaharlal Nehru spoke about while addressing the Indian Science Congress in 1947.

He said, “Science must think in terms of the 400 million persons in India”. I am glad that the Council has remained firmly rooted in the social milieu of our country while selecting and implementing projects. I commend the recent CSIR 800 programme which aims at affordable scientific interventions to improve the quality of life of the people at the base of the economic pyramid. The Council’s thrust on research and innovation in renewable energy, in water, environment and waste management also reflect its awareness of contemporary challenges that our country faces.

In recent times, conventional scientific disciplines and approaches are proving unequal to dealing with complex developmental challenges. New disciplines are emerging at the interface of traditional boundaries. The newly created Academy of Scientific and Innovative Research promises to train our young scientists and engineers in trans-disciplinary skills by tapping into the entire resources and infrastructure of the CSIR fraternity. This is a good initiative and I look forward to early results.

Last week, while inaugurating a new campus of the Council’s Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, I was impressed by the power and potential of public-private partnership in scientific research. I am told that across CSIR laboratories, new ecosystems like Innovation Complexes are being created to foster innovation through partnership with industry, academia and other R&D institutions. Mechanisms have been put in place to identify needs of India’s industries and to tap bright ideas of the CSIR’s young talent. The Council has announced policies to encourage scientists to create spin offs and new ventures. It is also partnering with the National Innovation Council to provide focused technology assistance to small and medium enterprises.

However, with all our achievements, we cannot rest on our laurels. As a nation, we have not succeeded in mobilizing enough private investment into science to raise our investment in scientific research to 2% of GDP. We need to recognize that excellence has not percolated across all our research and academic institutions. We have not been able to make an impact on a world scale commensurate with our large scientific manpower pool. CSIR, therefore,  will need to devote itself to these national challenges in the years to come. It will have to take up national leadership in science, engineering and technology.

In this journey, young people like many of those gathered here are our nation’s hope and future. I congratulate the awardees for their talent, for their devotion to duty and for their aspirations for Indian science. Young scientists must dream big and refuse to despair. I would like to remind them of the exemplary determination and selfless patriotism of Dr. Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar that led to the establishment of one of the finest scientific institutions of our great country – The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

With these words, I wish you all success in your endeavours.  Jai Hind.”

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