Ansari launches festschrift on Ashok Parthasarathi
New Delhi, November 15, 2016
Vice-President Mohammad Hamid Ansari today said the foundations laid by people like Professor Ashok Parthasarthi, one of India’s best known science and technology planners, enabled India to enhance its science and technology capacity.
Releasing a festschrift (a collection of writings published in honour of a scholar) on Prof Parthasarathi, Mr Ansari said, “The one crucial area, however, which I believe has remained neglected when formulating our science and technological policies, has been the development of our universities, particularly Science and Technology research in the universities."
“I hope that subsequent S&T policy formulations will keep the central role the universities can play as the seats of innovation and ideas factories for the nation,” he added.
Mr. Ansari said the festschrift, titled "A lifetime of Moulding Technology and Science Policy in India", was timely and would inform the national debate on the need for developing a scientific temper and formulation of a new science and technology policy in the country.
Prof. M S Swaminathan, Emeritus Chairman of M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, was among those present on the occasion.
“A physics teacher, Prof. Parthasarathi trained as an astro-physicist, working with the likes of Martin Ryle. He also served in the Department of Atomic Energy assisting the then Chairman, Dr. Vikram Sarabhai,” the Vice- President said.
He was consulted by the Government during the 1971 war with Pakistan and had a role to play in 1974 peaceful nuclear explosion. Thereafter, he has been closely associated with several of India’s defence projects.
He served as the first, full time S&T policy advisor to the Prime Minister- first in the mid-70s and again from 1980-84. He went on to serve as Secretary to Government of India, and after retirement, as a Professor at the JNU.
He built on the legacy of the importance that science was accorded in independent India by Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. As a science policy planner, Prof. Parthasarathi advocated a major restructuring of policies and demanded higher budgetary allocations to reflect the government’s prioritization of science and technology, Mr Ansari said.
“This festschrift, which delineates various aspects of his contributions to moulding of India’s Science and Technology policy, is a fitting tribute. I see in the list of contributors, names of individuals who have known and worked with Prof. Parthasarthi and are in perhaps the best position to remark on his amazing talent” he added.
“Two particular contributions of Prof. Parthasarthi, in his role as our top Science Policy planner, have had deep impact on the shaping of Indian sciences and need to be mentioned," Mr Ansari said.
The first was, when, under his instigation, the National Committee on Science and Technology prepared a comprehensive S&T Plan in 1974. The Plan identified 24 sectors “with a view to evolving suitable programmes of research, development and design …..for accomplishing time bound targets”.
The Plan was geared towards import substitution, adaptation of imported technology, enhancement of industrial productivity, export promotion and building up capabilities in frontier areas and augmentation of R&D, he said.
It is not surprising that some of the sectors identified back then, including Nuclear Energy, Space Sciences, Pharmaceuticals and Heavy Engineering, are the areas where Indian has shown remarkable progress, he said.
The next was in 1980s, when Prof. Parthasarthi was again appointed the Science and Technology Advisor to the Prime Minister. The government issued the Technology Policy Statement (TPS) and a high level Committee was constituted to implement the recommendations of the TPS which included a focus on developing indigenous technology and efficiently absorbing and adapting imported technology.
The TPS aimed at fostering linkages between the various S&T institutions in order to generate technology which would impart economic benefit. These were later to transmute into various technology missions that saw translation of S&T gains into practical and public oriented solutions.
“Some commentators have, especially in recent years, criticised the over emphasis on import substitution, especially in critical sectors, where perhaps we could have benefitted more from external exposure. But few deny his deep impact on the Indian Science and technology policy formulation or his role in making science and technology a part of the highest strategic policy discussion in India,” the Vice President said.