Those sharing the first-ever photo of Black Hole widely on social media pay attention. Modi Government has issued directives to NOT allow researchers to study topics, which may lead to such globally celebrated discoveries, in India. Yes, you read it right! If one goes by the circular issued by a central university, at the behest of the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) headed by BJP leader Dr. Prakash Javadekar, then one can safely extrapolate that studies like General relativity will not be allowed in India. The reason, the research will be deemed as “not in the national interests”. Amazed? Shocked? Curious?
Ok, let me give you a little perspective here. MHRD had, in a meeting of vice-chancellors of central universities in December last year, asked the V-Cs to “discourage research in irrelevant areas”. The Indian Express reported that the minutes of that meeting held December 15, 2018, was as follows, “When Fellows are being admitted for PhDs, the topics for the thesis should be in accordance with the national priorities. Allotting privilege topics to the Ph.D. students should be dispensed with. ” What does that mean? It means Einstein’s theory of General Relativity which forms the basis of Black Hole discovery could easily have been refuted and dismissed as not being a national priority. In an attempt to sell nationalism through research, the ruling political brigade has forgotten that research needs to be driven by curiosity around natural or societal topics. The so-called leaders of the country in trying to promote their political interests showed the limit of their vision for the human society; as I believe that when they should have been encouraging research of revolutionary importance they are instead trying to discourage it by using terms like privilege topics.
When I was representing India as the DST-fellow at Lindau Meeting of Nobel Laureates in Germany we debated over funding for fundamental research, say mathematics or basic science or humanities including social, cultural and philosophical areas. An excellent video by the FASEB was broadcasted showing how, retrospectively talking, focussing on basic research on E. Coli bacterial self defence mechanism resulted in diabetes treatment (Link: https://youtu.be/GmhD-RWNL6c).
We all know the importance of MRI in medical diagnosis. Do you think researchers carried out research over this clinical marvel in accordance with national or medical priorities? No, it was a by-product of purely fundamental research on Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) studied as a physical phenomenon. My point is clear, that the government under the leadership of Modi ji is trying to dilute the research in the name of nationalism. Research, as evident by black hole discovery, is always the search for the unknown. This pool of these “unknown” should not be bounded for vested political interests as we never know what “non-national priority” research can give rise to next big thing or prove beneficial to the entire humankind. Topics of national importance like national security could be promoted by additional funding but not at the cost of fundamental, so-called “privileged topics” (sarcasm intended), research ideas. When the ethos of the country is “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”, our research should be aimed at excellence and at the benefit of the entire humankind.
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