Opinion

Modi wants to send astronauts to space, scientist says there’s no need

PM Modi spoke at the inauguration of the recently concluded Indian Science Congress where some speakers had made amusing claims like India having mastered test tube technology thousands of years back

Photo courtesy: social media
Photo courtesy: social media

Bipin Bhardwaj

Anuj Sinha, retired adviser, Science and Communications, Department of Science and Technology (DST), who is also chairman of National Organisation for Science and Technology Communications (NOSTC), claimed that it was not necessary to send humans to space to do a job that machines could carry out. He was reacting to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement to send three astronauts to space via 'Gaganyaan' in 2022. Modi had said this at the inauguration of the Indian Science Congress (ISC), recently held at Lovely Professional University (LPU) in Punjab.

In his inaugural address, the Prime Minister had said that Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) was all set to realise the dream of ‘Gaganyaan’ (an ambitious project of the Modi government) in 2022. He added that successful trials have already been carried out by ISRO for the same programme.

Sinha further added that the project would cost almost ₹10,000 crore and pointed out how this was more of a prestige project and won’t add significantly to the capability of the Indian space programme.

Sinha pointed out recently that China recently released some photographs taken by their chang'e 4 lander that reached the “far and dark side of the moon”. Without sending astronauts to space, the Chinese scientists managed to do it with the help of machines only, he added.

Inaugurated by the Prime Minister, the 106th Indian Science Congress virtually turned out to be a comedy circus with scientists (delegates) making controversial statements/presentations which gathered criticism and protests from across the nation. Countless jokes and memes were also doing their rounds on the social media.

Another speaker, Kannan Jegathala Krishnan, a senior research scientist and coordinator at World Community Service Centre, Aliyar in Tamil Nadu, tried to negate the contributions of none other than Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein in his presentation.

G. Nageswara Rao, Vice-Chancellor of Andhra University, a biotechnologist, while presenting his work, claimed that Kauravas in Mahabharata were test tube babies and that Dashavatar, which talks about the 10 avtars of Lord Vishnu, gave a better explanation of evolution than Darwin’s theory.

"Everybody wonders how and nobody believes that Gandhari gave birth to 100 children. People ask how it is humanly possible for a lady to give birth to 100 children in her lifetime. People have always believed that the Kauravas were fictitious characters," Rao said, adding that 100 eggs were put into 100 earthen pots.

According to him, India had mastered stem cell technology thousands of years back.

Another speaker, Kannan Jegathala Krishnan, a senior research scientist and coordinator at World Community Service Centre, Aliyar in Tamil Nadu, tried to negate the contributions of none other than Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein in his presentation.

Krishnan said Newton failed to understand gravitational repulsive forces and that his and Einstein’s theories in physics were “misleading”. Einstein “misled” the world, he claimed, adding that he would soon come up with his own theories and rename gravitational waves as “Narendra Modi waves”. He also went ahead to state that Union Minister Harsh Vardhan was a greater scientist than former President APJ Abdul Kalam.

While the statements were rebuked and joked around with, organisations came out denouncing such statements at Indian Science Congress. The Kolkata-based Breakthrough Science Society said that such statements discredited the works of great scientists and should be avoided. "Puranic verses and epics are poetic, enjoyable, they contain moral elements and are rich in imagination, but not scientifically constructed or validated theories.”

Manoj Kumar Chakrabarti, general president of the Indian Science Congress Association (ISCA), organiser of this mega event, expressed his ignorance towards the statements made by the delegates in any session.

He said, “Speakers who had some expertise in science were invited to speak particularly on science-related subjects. I will enquire how such mythology-based statements were made that have no connection with science”.

On January 5, scores of delegates of Indian Science Congress, students, visitors and media persons were forced by the organisers to wait for Union Textile Minister Smriti Irani for almost 45 minutes inside the Shanti Devi Mittal Auditorium of LPU. Irani was to inaugurate the Women Science Congress (WSC)-2019, organised under the aegis of ISC on January 5, which was marked by low women’s participation.

As the Minister got delayed, the organisers tried to keep the audience, members of whom were asked to occupy their seats in advance, engaged and started giving excuses. This irked the audience and one of the scientists raised an objection, saying, “Is this what a Science Congress is all about? You are killing time,” he said in anger.

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