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Jalandhar: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday urged scientists to find low-cost solutions for social good. It is time to take the next step and add “Jai Anusandhan" to the slogan of “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan, Jai Vigyan", Modi said at the inaugural session of the 106th Indian Science Congress in Jalandhar.

The event, which began on Thursday, is being attended by more than 15,000 scientists and delegates from over 20 countries, including the US, the UK, China and Australia. The theme for this year is “Future India: Science and Technology".

Former prime minister, late Lal Bahadur Shastri, had made the slogan “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan" popular at a public gathering in 1965, to which former Prime Minister the late Atal Bihari Vajpayee appended “Jai Vigyan" after the nuclear tests at Pokhran in 1998.

Modi said India is already positioned among the top five countries with highest research publications, according to the Scopus database, and the country must now take a leadership role. Scientists should not just focus on doing research, but also on taking that research to a level so that the world follows.

The focus must be on innovation and startups, the Prime Minister said. “The industry must now contribute by providing timely direction, vision, partnership and mentorship to startups. Our scientists must commit themselves to addressing problems of affordable healthcare, agricultural productivity, housing, clean air and food processing."

India has improved its Ease of Doing Business ranking, but the efforts must now be directed at improving “the ease of living", Modi said. He urged scientists to commit themselves to find sulabh, sugam aur saste samadhan (easy, affordable and low-cost solutions) to problems faced by the society in a time-bound manner.

The Prime Minister highlighted the need to work on scientific ways of drought management in areas that receive low rainfall, improving forecasting of extreme weather events, tackling malnutrition and fighting health-care challenges in terms of diseases such as Chikungunya, and the need to develop high-level cybersecurity systems for sensitive locations.

Modi exhorted scientists to devise low-cost scientific ways to help farmers, especially those with relatively small farm holdings. “There are large numbers of farmers in our country who have less than two hectares of land. Our focus should be on how we can use big data analytics, artificial intelligence, block-chain and communication technologies to help improve yields."

Modi also emphasized that India’s true strength lies in connecting science, technology and innovation with its people.

The PM flagged concerns over the limited research facilities in state universities and colleges, and said that an action plan will soon be drafted in consultation with the ministry of human resource development to build a strong ecosystem in these institutions. “Our strengths in research and development are built on the backbone of our national laboratories, central universities, IITs, IISC, TIFR and IISERs. However, 95% of our students go to state universities and colleges, where research is still limited."

Modi termed the global rise of cyber-physical systems a big challenge and inter-disciplinary research the need of the hour. He also announced the government’s approval to the 3,600 crore National Mission on Interdisciplinary Cyber Physical Systems, which will cover research and development, human resources and skills, innovation, the start-up ecosystem and a strong industry, besides international collaborations.

The Prime Minister highlighted the achievements of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and said that scientists have successfully demonstrated the crew-escape system and that the first manned-space mission, Gaganyaan, will be launched, as announced, in 2022.

It is the eighth time that Punjab is hosting the annual science congress organized by Kolkata-based Indian Science Congress Association. The event will conclude on 7 January.

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