Science in the Service of Society

It was an honour and privilege for me when Prime Minister Narendra Modiji assigned me the Science and Technology portfolio in November 2014, and during the three years that I have served in the Ministry, we have strived to ensure that science and technology reaches out to the common man and helps ameliorate his lot. The duty of scientists is to connect science and technology to society, to the growth of the country and to alleviate the suffering of the common man, so that everyone can enjoy a better standard of living.

The areas where science and scientists can contribute to improving the average Indian’s life cover affordable healthcare, affordable housing, sustainable energy, farmer-friendly technologies, the cleaning of rivers, etc. In addition, our scientists are working diligently to shore up our space and atomic energy programmes as well as our defence capabilities.

Ensuring self-reliance

In their endeavours, Indian scientists need to uphold the paradigm of self-reliance which the Government of Shri Modiji has already committed itself to. Some recent decisions of the Prime Minister have reaffirmed the principle of reliance on India’s own scientific-technological establishment. Scientific and technological self-reliance, I feel, is closely related to national sovereignity and the development of national character.

Another area where science and technology can lend a hand is affordable and effective health solutions for preventive and personalised medicine based on a holistic understanding of an individual. Research into Ayurgenomics will get full government support, as it holds out exciting possibilities in mankind’s search for low-cost solutions for disease. In this respect, scientists and technologists working on genomics and integrative biology should focus on common diseases afflicting Indians. Genomics and integrative biology are poised to emerge as frontier areas in the 21st century.

Focus on health

Going forward, our scientists need to focus

on both infectious and lifestyle diseases. We should concentrate on developing next-generation drugs, biologics, biosimilars, gene therapies, stem cell therapies and nanomedicine. Our Prime Minister is committed to making India one of the leading destinations for end-to-end drug discovery and innovation by 2020. I am confident of India’s potential of becoming a global pharmaceutical powerhouse and am in the process of putting some key enablers in place.

Aerospace and defence are highly competitive areas, defined by technology denial regimes and highly proprietary systems. Aerospace also needs huge investment and is marked by long gestation periods. Nevertheless, it is imperative to develop streams of innovation that provide significant long-term payoffs in terms of import substitution as well as cutting-edge technologies.

Boosting economy

Science and technology and innovation have a big role to play in boosting economic growth and employment generation. In fact, our Prime Minister has said that good governance is also about integrating science and technology into the choices we make and the strategies we pursue.

As science and technology are key drivers for socio-economic development, the Ministry of Science and Technology as also the Ministry of Earth Sciences have aligned several of their programmes with the government’s ambitious programmes, such as Start-Up India, Make in India, Swachh Bharat, Skill India, Digital India, etc.

As far as the official research establishments, such as CSIR are concerned, there is a need for increased linkages with private industry that would enable quick commercial benefits from the technologies developed.