Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Cattle are known to be responsible for 18% of emission of green house gasses because of their consumption of large quantities of forage which anaerobically generates methane and other by products. Just as fossil fuels have become integral part of modern civilization without which life is difficult to be sustained, cattle also form an important player in human survival because of their contribution to the food basket in the form of dairy products and meat foods. Hence world has no option but to continue to depend on these animals for decades to come till viable alternatives are developed, possibly through the intervention of Biotechnology.

What is common between cattle and a convention unless it is convention of the Ranchers to discuss about issues concerning cattle? Not much except for producing of lot of 'gas' in the form of intangible outputs. Convention is a conference of professionals, politicians or others with a common interest. The most recent conventions which caught the attention of the world were the two mega events in USA, sponsored by the two political parties Democrats and Republicans to nominate their presidential candidates. Though the events passed off on familiar lines of speeches and resolutions, the single most visible out put was projecting their leader for the White House and to that extent it was a highly focused effort. Of course every body will forget every thing after the convention except the candidates behind whom the parties would coalesce for 'capturing' power. But most other conventions are just collection of people with same interest and invariably the 'hope' is that the organization will get some attention from the media and the public for a brief period before hibernating for rest of the time.

A convention of professionals is supposed to throw up a 'route map' for achieving the goals for which the conference is held. While a political convention can be seen as a propaganda venture for the political class, a professional convention must propagate the subject of its specialization and strive to bring in tangible results within a time frame. Unfortunately over the years most of the technical conventions are politicized with real professionals being sidelined and politicians and the politician-scientist hybrids taking the center stage with the result the out put from such meetings have very little technical value. It is a sad commentary on the scientific community that their agenda of propagating science is hijacked for self glorification and temporary attention, spanning a few days with no long term benefits. Other wise one cannot understand what is the logic for hoisting a dozen people on the Dias with innocuous assignments like invocation, welcome, comments, remarks, theme speech, special lecture, key note address, inaugural address, book release, presidential address, award presentation, vote of thanks etc? Why cannot these be business meetings, focussing on the technical agenda and bringing out actionable reports for concrete action, leaving aside all the frills and a concrete mechanism to pursue the goals with dedication and commitment? In the past 61 years of independence of this country, there must have been thousands of conventions organized by different bodies and can any one remember any one of them contributing to any tangible achievement in any areas of concern to the nation?

The usual practice in these conventions is to read 'papers' which any how are not peer reviewed, 'lecturing' by some favored experts', passing toothless resolutions, recording the proceedings in some cases and promptly forgetting everything within a matter of few days! It is a pity that many technical conventions are not planned properly, right people are not involved who could enrich the technical content and not organized to make them free from hassles. On top of it many peers brought to participate do not stay long enough to interact with the delegates, treating such occasions more like a tourism jaunt! Cannot we change these wasteful practices and be truthful in our thoughts and action? Why cannot we have truly technical events with least diversions for secondary and irrelevant activities on such occasions? Whether it is a food convention or wood convention, we must have it in a place which is accessible easily to one and all, instead of in a corner of the country and must involve scientists as well as entrepreneurs on whose shoulders technology must ride to bring in visible returns and perceptible impact. It must clearly bring out what the country needs in the chosen area and go all out to influence both policy makers and the industry in achieving the goals set forth by the convention. It should not be like a convention of politicians or trade unions or social organizations such as Rotarians, Lions, Round Table etc which are organized mostly for social net working.

Coming to the similarity between the cattle and the conventions, the ' gober gas' generated by cattle can at least be used as a fuel but in the case of most of the modern conventions, the output is worse than this as every thing is dissipated as soon as the convention is over, wasting the enormous human and financial inputs that go in organizing such 'show piece' events, which the country can ill afford.


No comments: