Why Indian party manifestoes are silent on science

New Delhi: How committed are Indian political parties on science and research? Not much, if one is to go by their manifestoes.

Even as the curtains come down on the election campaign, a report in ‘Nature’ magazine has noted that two of the three main political parties make “scant mention of science in their manifestoes”.

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And on that evidence, it concludes that Indian science will not get the boost it needs to become internationally competitive.

“Unfortunately, in the value system of both the government and our society at large, science is not at the top – in fact, it may be at the bottom,” C.N.R. Rao, chairman of the Indian Scientific Advisory Council to the prime minister, has been quoted as saying in the report.

While the Congress party manifesto promises a spend of at least two percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) on science and technology if elected to power, scientists say this is not sufficient keeping the rapid pace of research and development in countries like China and South Korea.

“We have still not crossed 1 percent for over two decades now, whereas others, such as (South) Korea, China are rapidly moving towards, or have already moved to, 3 percent and beyond in the same period,” R.A. Mashelkar, former director general of the Indian Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, was quoted as saying.

The BJP, according to the report, has devoted the most space to science and technology, health, energy and environment in its manifesto.

“It promises to set up world-class centres for nanotechnology, brain research and thorium-reactor technology for India’s nuclear-power programme,” the Nature report said.

The new entrant Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) manifesto is largely silent on science and technology. However, it does focus on management of natural resources such as coal and minerals, the report said.

India currently contributes no more than 1 percent of the top 1 percent of global research, Rao noted.

“If India can make careful investments in particular areas of scientific research, it will be able to compete with countries such as China and South Korea in terms of patents acquired and high-quality publications produced,” he maintained.