The Indian Science Congress should worry about scaring away real science

The Daily Fix: The Indian Science Congress should worry about scaring away real science
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Above the fold: Top stories of the day

1. Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed is dead.

2. North Korea said it had tested its first hydrogen bomb.

3. The Pathankot attackers were helped by fence floodlights that didn’t work, gaps in border patrol and patchy police response.

4. Actor Sanjay Dutt is to walk free on February 27.

The Big Story: Shiva the environmentalist

Last year, planes from the Vedic age flew at the Indian Science Congress. This year, audiences at Mysore narrowly missed a lecture on Lord Shiva as the greatest environmentalist. The person presenting the paper is said to have suffered a last-minute accident. He protested, however, that his paper merely aimed to show how ancient Indian literature inculcated habits of conservation and environmental awareness that are indigenous to the subcontinent. Shiva’s family rode animals, for instance, instead of nasty, polluting cars.

Perhaps it is not surprising that the paper made it through an apparently rigorous process of selection (another lecture that made the cut spoke about the health benefits of blowing the shankh). In spirit and in theory, it does not sound so different from the brochuredistributed by the Indian delegation at the Paris climate change summit, which spoke of the Indian way of life being naturally eco-friendly: vegetarian food, yoga, traditional architecture. The Indian establishment, government or otherwise, has often felt the need to insist that modern ideas are spiritually sound and culturally rooted. Science is not science unless it came from the belly of ancient Indian civilisation, and environmental awareness must be validated as a native way of life.

It is unfortunate, however, that these anxieties should be allowed to permeate the congress and overshadow other exciting ideas generated by the science fraternity. Scientists have expressed increasing alarm about the number of popular lectures on the programme. Recently, Nobel prize winning biologist Venkatraman Ramakrishnan called the event a “circus”, which he would never attend again. With controversies taking over the agenda, the Indian Science Congress should be wary of scaring away actual science.

Politicking and policying

1. The Chattisgarh Congress Pradesh Committee expels MLA Amit Jogi for six years, following revelations that party members took bribes to drop out of the 2014 Antagarh bypoll.

2. High courts across the country are functioning with 43% vacancies. The number of cases pending in these courts could soon hit once crore.

3. The Supreme Court has asked the Centre to put in place an interim mechanism to protectwhistleblowers.

4. Actor Aamir Khan, who spoke out against intolerance, may no longer be part of the Incredible India campaign. Government says his contract ran its course.


1. In the Hindu, Stanly Johny on Saudi Arabia’s attempts to ratchet up tensions in the region by executing an influential Shia cleric.

2. In the Indian Express, Tahir Mahmood on the dream of Akhand Bharat.

3. In the Business Standard, Shyam Ponappa on long-term approaches to cleaning up air pollution.

Don’t Miss…

TA Ameerudheen on how the Communist Party of India (Marxist) promotes yoga in Kerala, without the “Om” chants:

“The Jawahar stadium did not reverberate with “Om” chants. Clad in white robes, the yoga practitioners went through their paces on red mats, with the accompanied by mellifluous music.

The event, organised under the aegis of a CPI (M)-supported outfit, Indian Martial Arts Academy and Yoga Study Centre, assumes significance as Kerala will witness a tough electoral battle for the State Assembly in four months. The CPI (M)-led Left Democratic Front, which aims to wrest power from incumbent Congress-led United Democratic Front, fears that the BJP will attempt to use Hindutva as a strategy to gain its first seats in the Assembly.

CPI (M) leaders made their intentions about the yoga event clear when they selected Kannur as the venue, the hotbed of political clashes between CPI (M) and BJP cadres. “The CPI (M) supports yoga training as some communal outfits are trying to misappropriate it,” said district secretary P Jayarajan.”