New Delhi: As unscientific remarks from politicians continue to spark outrage, scientists and research scholars from at least 20 cities will ‘March for Science’ on 14 April to highlight the urgent need to safeguard science and build a scientific temper among the masses.
It is for the first time that Indian scientists will march on the same day as those in over 600 cities across the globe, unlike last year, when the march was held on 9 August, almost four months after it was organized across the world on 22 April.
“We expect more people to come forward this time. It’s for the first time, that we will march together with science fraternity across the world. Students, research scholars, anyone who believes in scientific thought are urged to take part in the march," said Vinay Kumar, from department of mathematics, University of Delhi.
The nation-wide call made as part of the global effort has found support from various organizations who have decided to come forward to take part in the march. Organizers have also urged school-children to participate in the march.
Expressing concern over the low funding for research and development, Jayasaree Sengupta, former HoD, Department of Physiology, AIIMS, Delhi highlighted how several research projects have been stuck or facing delays due to dearth of funds.
“The budget allocated for R&D is less than 1% of GDP and only 3% for higher education. This is seriously insufficient to drive any real development. Despite being the primary health body, ICMR gets a paltry 2% of it," said Sengupta, demanding an increase in the budgetary allocation.
Scientists also demanded that all major political decisions by government should be based on scientific evidence, highlighting perils of lack of scientific temper among policy-makers.
“People in powerful positions and some interest groups are propagating unscientific ideas. Ridiculous and unsubstantiated claims are being made about India’s past, forgetting its real contribution that to the growth of science," said professor Soumitro Banerjee, from IISER, Kolkata urging every citizen to develop the scientific temper, humanism, spirit of enquiry and reform, which has been stated as one of the duties of a citizen in Article 51 A (h) of the Constitution.
In January, Union minister Satya Pal Singh had caused outrage by dismissing Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution as ‘unscientific’, claiming that no one saw ‘an ape turning into a man’. In March, Union minister for science and technology, Dr Harsh Vardhan stoked controversy, stating that the late Stephen Hawking had said that Vedas had a theory which was better than Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.
In wake of efforts by several government agencies to revise history textbooks, scientists also demanded that any concept which is not backed by scientific evidence should not be included in the school curriculum.
“We made several representations last year, but no heed was paid to it. The situation has not improved and forces acting against science have become more active. Academics and researchers have to come on the street to ensure that their voices are heard," said Banerjee.
Several noted scientists including noted agricultural scientist M.S. Swaminathan have appealed to people to participate in the March for Science.
Apart from Delhi where scientists would march along the Parliament Street, there will be marches in at least 20 other major cities, including Kolkata,Chennai, Patna, Bangalore, Mumbai, Chandigarh, Bhubaneshwar, Hyderabad, Jamshedpur, Agartala, Bhopal, Guwahati, Rohtak and Thiruvanathapuram.