M A I N   N E W S

Science Congress focuses on biotechnology
Geetanjali Gayatri
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 3
Biotechnology, youth and women occupied centre-stage at the inaugural session of the 91st Indian Science Congress which began at Panjab University here today, as speakers reiterated their commitment to the Prime Minister’s slogan of ‘Jai Vigyan’ to propel the country towards success in all spheres of life and create an India that leads and not follows.

Reading from the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s address, circulated to the delegates before the session got under way, the chief guest, the Human Resource Development Minister, Mr Murli Manohar Joshi, said, ‘‘Biotechnology was expected to provide affordable solutions to the two biggest challenges in health care — namely, cure and prevention of diseases and improving nutritional status of women.’’

Mr Joshi, continuing to read the speech, added that good science was the output of good scientists which entailed attracting, nurturing and retaining ‘‘the brightest and most talented minds, especially young and dreaming minds, in large numbers’’.

Mr Vajpayee, who had to cancel his visit to the city for the inaugural session on account of his trip to Islamabad for the SAARC summit, in his speech, also highlighted the successes of India in terms of developing science and technology and research and development, stating that India’s research in biotechnology showed the country was matching global standards of excellence in the frontier areas of science.

In his address, Mr Joshi, while complementing the scientists, said while individual excellence in India was never a problem, he admitted that over-all excellence was a problem which could be dealt with by raising the environment for scientific research and development in all research and educational institutions.

He urged the state governments to provide necessary financial support and infrastructural facilities to the educational institutions. Giving a new motto of ‘‘India innovates, India leads and India excels’’ to the scientists, Mr Joshi added that it was imperative to recognise the best in the scientific community for which the India Science award, carrying an amount of Rs 25 lakh, had been instituted to honour the best brain of the nation. ‘‘Envisaged to be the highest and most prestigious national recognition for outstanding contribution to science, the award would be given for a ‘big’ achievement and would cover all areas of research in science. We expect our first winner this year,’’ he informed.

Redefining the ‘‘pursuit of excellence’’, Mr Joshi said that it meant competing against one’s own self to reach newer peaks to become a leader.

Highlighting the many schemes taken by his ministry, Mr Joshi listed out the introduction of new concepts in school syllabi, the Vigyan Rail Yatra and the National Children’s Science Congress as steps in the direction of infusing a sense of scientific enquiry among children and training students in the methods of scientific experimentation.

The President of the Indian Science Congress, Prof Asis Dutta, in his address, touched upon topics ranging from the challenges presented to science of a growing population, poverty and hunger and about the awareness of environmental responsibility and their possible answer in science.

Terming science as critical investment, Professor Dutta said that there was a need to re-examine every element of the nation’s science investment strategy right from the research portfolio to infrastructural requirements to produce world-class research and the scientific education of the people.

‘‘To sustain the development of science, we must improve the opportunities for well-trained scientists and engineers to pursue innovative research, to educate the next generation to apply science in areas of importance for the health, prosperity and security of the nation,’’ he emphasised.

Claiming that genomics was changing the face of biology, Professor Dutta went to underline aspects that would encourage and strengthen scientific excellence.

These included empowering of young scientists working in universities and institutes, higher funding for education through legislation which would guarantee a minimum outlay to raise its standard and tapping the female scientific strength in the quest for excellence.

Emphasising that women were great managers of people and time, he said that participation of women in the search for excellence in the realm of science was a top priority.

Earlier, the Vice-Chancellor of Panjab University, Prof K.N. Pathak, the Governors of Panjab and Haryana, Justice O.P. Verma and Babu Parmanand respectively, the Chief Minister of Haryana, Mr Om Prakash Chautala, and the Higher Education Minister of Punjab, Mr Harnam Das Johar, spoke on the many facets of science as well as its contribution in various fields.



13 scientists get awards
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 3
The Indian Science Congress Association today honoured 13 scientists during the inaugural session of the Indian Science Congress, while the chief guest, HRD Minister, Mr Murli Manohar Joshi, released the Plant Genome Research Road Map 2010, the logo of the ‘Year of Scientific Awareness-2004’ and its brochures in English and Hindi.

The 13 Indian scientists, honoured for their contribution to research in various fields of science, were given awards by Mr Joshi. The Asutosh Mookerjee Memorial Award went to Prof K Kasturirangan, Srinivasa Ramanujan Award went to Prof VC Dumir, Jawahar Lal Nehru Birth Centenary award went to Prof M Vijayan and Prof HY Mohan Ram, the MN Saha Birth Centenary Award went to Prof AK Sood. The PC Mahalanobis Birth Centenary award went to Mr Kalyan B Sinha.

The HJ Bhabha memorial award went to Prof AK Barua, the BP Pal Memorial Award to Dr HK Jain, the BC Guha Memorial Lecture Award went to Prof Samir Bhattacharya, the Rajkristo Dutt Memorial award went to Dr CM Gupta, the GP Chatterjee Memorial award was given to Prof VP Sharma, the Science in Society award was jointly given to Dr Robin Mukhopadhyay and Prof Anil K Gupta.

The Jawahar Lal Nehru prize was bagged by the Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parisad.



Opening of economy speeded growth, says expert
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 3
Dr R.A. Mashelkar, Director-General, CSIR, and Secretary, DSIR, Government of India, said today that the opening up of the economy nearly a decade ago was the best thing that could have happened to India.

“Competition and free enterprise is now propelling growth and transforming India rapidly. I have no doubt that this century will belong to countries like India. Already there is a buzz among the developed world about the rapid pace at which India is developing, especially in sectors like pharmaceuticals”, he said speaking at the Indian Science Congress here.

Dr Mashelkar made these observations while chairing a session on “Information science in future of India: five ideas than can transform India”. Besides him, five scientists who made technical presentations at the session included Mr F.C.Kohli, Tata Consultancy Services, Mumbai, on ‘Computerisation of societal systems’, Prof Ashok Jhunjunwala, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, on ‘Using Internet towards doubling per capita rural GDP in 10 years’, Prof Anil K. Gupta, President, SRISTI, and Professor, Indian Institute of Management, on ‘Making India innovative: can grass roots genius of India be given chance?’ and Dr Vijay Bhatkar, Chairman, ETH Research Lab, Pune, on ‘Transformation shifts in computing: pointers to India R and D’.

Dr Mashelkar also spoke about awards for innovations instituted by the National Innovation Foundation and said awards these had been drawing a very good response. Instituted three years ago, the applications for the awards were only 900 in the first year. The number of applicants swelled to 16, 000 in the second year. It remained to be seen what would the number in the third year.

He was of the view that an innovative genius need not be produced only by an IIT or a university. “There are any number of examples in the world where school dropouts have produced some of most astounding theories and products which have transformed the life of the common man.”



CSIO’s mission for physically challenged
P. P. S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 3
Not far from the humdrum of the 91st session of the Indian Science Congress, beginning here tomorrow, scientists are quietly engaged in using ‘technological compassion’ for the rehabilitation of the physically-challenged persons at the Central Scientific Instruments Organisation (CSIO).

It is a coincidence that while the theme of the Congress is ‘‘Science and society in the twenty-first century: quest for excellence,’’ the CSIO is already engaged in serving the less privileged of the society.

The CSIO Director, Dr R P Bajpai, identifies the physically-challenged as ‘differently abled’ and not ‘disabled’, who form 5 per cent of the total population in the country. However, only 10 per cent to 20 per cent of them are able to get rehabilitation aids and devices. There are any number of reasons for this, including economic or unavailability.

Therefore, medical instrumentation is a favourite pursuit at the CSIO, which has to its credit several state-of-art devices for the rehabilitation of the physically-challenged to enable them lead a better quality of life or get gainfully employed or contribute to the society. Delegates to the Congress will have a lot to learn from a visit to the CSIO, where the technological compassion project has been taken up with a mission with active involvement of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.

Dr Bajpai said the project was for those, who either suffered from neuro-muscular motor disorders or those visually and speech impaired.

For those with very low vision, the CSIO has developed low-vision aid and for the blind, a novel Braille-writer. An Indian Council for Medical Research report has revealed that around 45 million people suffer from low vision in the country. A majority lives below the poverty line. Low vision is an impediment with severely reduced visual acuity and visual field that can not be corrected surgically nor with conventional spectacles. For such persons, low-cost special low vision aids have now been devised, based on light-weight plastic aspheric lens.

Similarly, the CSIO has developed low-vision reading aids for near vision through the National Aspheric Facility for Aspheric Fabrication and Precision Metrology.

The CSIO has developed cost-effective methodology for high and low volume production. The technological compassion is ready for commercialisation. The low-vision reading aids cost less than Rs 350, per pair, against Rs 3,000 of the imported devices.

Now the CSIO is developing aids for distance vision requirements of low-vision persons.

The real challenge, Dr Bajpai says, has been to develop high magnification system that is light and compact in size. Against seven optical elements used in the imported devices, the CSIO has developed ‘swadeshi’ prototypes with only two lenses, thereby reducing the system weight from 32 gm to 20 gm.

This has resulted in less fatigue and enhanced usage time. This has dual purpose usage, it can be hand-held or hand-free (spectacle frame-fitted) and costs around Rs 1,000 against Rs 8,000 of the imported aids.

Dr Bajpai proudly says that ‘science and society’ dove-tail at the CSIO, when he talks about the ‘dual-face Braille-writer’ developed here.

Braille is the language of the visually impaired for writing and reading. In writing, alphabets are formed by coded patterns of pits punched on paper with special Braille-writer. While reading, the blind use their finger to scan these patterns to identify alphabets. Braille writing is done from right to left and reading s in reverse order.

The dual-face Braille writer enables writing and reading in one direction. Now visually impaired will not have to remember the reverse pattern for each character for writing.

Also on the anvil at the CSIO is a ‘text-to-speech synthesis system’ that will provide new ways of communication. A visually impaired person can either type through the key-board or read a scanned or stored text file from the computer system by converting text message into audio message. Similarly, this system will help speech-challenged persons in communication in voice mode through speech interactive system.

Dr Bajpai says the text-to-speech technology constitute the auditory interface for the real time translated multi-lingual telephony, which is likely to be available in the near future. The CSIO is also developing ‘near-natural upper and lower limb extremity prosthesis’, under CSIR-Net-worked project: ‘Electronics for societal purposes’.

The present prosthetic aids available in the country were mostly ‘non-functional’, employed ‘low-technology’ and were ‘body-powered’.

In the developed countries, high-technology devices are available but at a price.

Therefore, CSIO has undertaken a project on ‘intelligent prosthetic devices’ that will function in near-natural way and use sophisticated electronics coupled to suitable actuating mechanism. As these will be externally powered, this will reduce the mental burden of the users, enabling them to make better use of their otherwise limited residual capacity.


HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | National Capital |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |