Four months after the global March for Science was organized in many cities of the world, India observed its own March for Science on August 9, 2017. Marking the 75th anniversary of the Quit India Movement, the India March for Science called for superstitions, divisive tendencies, intolerance, and illiteracy to quit India. The protesters demanded that the government allot 3% of the gross domestic product for research and development, which has remained around 0.9% for the last few years, and urged it to stop the spread of superstitious and unscientific ideas by making policies that are strictly based on scientific evidence.
Organized by the Breakthrough Science Society, the march was observed in about 40 cities across India including Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Pune, and Hyderabad, and about 15,000-20,000 people participated in the event. In Bengaluru, a city referred to as the Silicon Valley of India, more than 1,500 people, including school and college students, teachers, scientists, and other science enthusiasts participated in the march. The participants displayed signs including “Promote scientific temper,” “Without science, it’s all fiction,” “Celebrate, nurture and protect science,” and “Believe in astronomy, not astrology,” as they walked from the Townhall to Bangalore University.
The march was followed by a public address by a panel presided by Prof. Dipankar Chatterji from the Indian Institute of Science. The panel consisted of many senior scientists, including Prof. T.V. Ramachandra from the Indian Institute of Science, Dr. H.S.M Prakash from the Geological Survey of India, Prof. Richard Rego from St. Joseph’s Research Centre, and Prof. Sarbari Bhattacharya from Bangalore University. Prof. Dipankar Chatterjee pointed out that the main aim of the March for Science is to get sufficient funds for practicing science and to discourage superstitious ideas that prevail in India. He added that “while the Indian government has always been supportive of science and technology, mismanagement of funds is a big problem.” It has been pointed that the process of fund allocation lacks transparency and funds have been allotted to the projects, such as exploring the potential health benefits of cow urine, that are solely based on religious beliefs rather than on scientific evidence. Prof. Raghavendra Gadagkar from the Indian Institute of Science sent a written message that encouraged scientists to engage with the media and the public. He advised that “scientists should practice science in a truthful, transparent, and ethical manner and that in addition to sharing the final results and products of their research, they should also share the process of science with society.”
The march was covered by many international and national news reports, including Nature, Science, The Wire, The Indian Express, The Hindu, and The Times of India. Addressing the protesters’ demands, Prof. Ashutosh Sharma, secretary of the Department of Science and Technology, has commented that the department has almost doubled the funds allotted for basic and applied science in the last five years, Nature reported. The organizers of the march are planning a convention to decide on follow-up actions to take so that the march does not become a one-time effort and proper measures are implemented.
In conclusion, this march marks an important event for India as this is the first time researchers have participated in a nationwide call to action and it demonstrates that India stands in unity with the whole world when it comes to supporting scientific research. More such events in the future will hopefully help to bridge the gap between scientists and society and will sensitize the society about the importance of science and technology.
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