National Technology Day was 'celebrated' on Monday, May 11. 2009 in India and many functions were organized to remind us that technology has done wonders for the country, to confer honors on so called 'achievers' and make grandiose declarations without any intention to implement the same. No doubt scientific institutions like Atomic Energy Commission, ISRO and a few others have creditable achievements to show for the large investments made on their projects with tax payers' money. But a major part of the scientific establishment has not covered themselves with glory by their pedestrian work and mediocre achievements. Why GOI wants a day to be set apart in the name of technology defies any rationality. Probably GOI thinks that earmarking one day in an year for eulogizing about technology in many platform speeches will make up for the lack of solid achievements this country can boast of. The word technology means different things to different people and there is not much awareness about the role technology has played in shaping human society as we to day, let alone appreciate what potential technology has in improving the quality of life on earth.
Besides National Technology Day which falls on the day in May 1998 when India declared its entry into the exclusive Nuclear Nations Club through the Pokhran explosion of the ingeniously developed atomic device, there are 16 more earmarked days in an year to celebrate various events including Army Day, Central Excise Day, Science Day, Sports Day, Air force Day, Farmers Day and others. Globally there are 44 designated days by different world bodies to commemorate different events and India has thus 61 special days, including its own, to "celebrate" providing scope for many 'photo-op' occasions for people to indulge in verbosity. No body has any quarrel regarding such events provided they are used for introspection, review of past achievements, identify shortfalls of targets and initiate action to achieve well laid objectives, in stead of indulging in self glorification and self congratulation for under performance.
According to a recent report Indian science and technology community is sliding into a state of utter despair with the politics and corruption gnawing at its seams. Public funded scientific and technological institutions, controlled by Delhi, invariably play the political game forgetting their core constituency, viz scientific endeavor. Appointments to head S & T Institutions are no more based on merits and performance but by sycophancy and wire-pulling. Political indecision seem to have made several such institutions headless during the last six months! Awards, Rewards, Incentives, Promotions and Compensation are not decided through rational and logical selection procedures but by 'net-working' and appropriate 'connections' at Delhi. The S & T Ministry is invariably headed by any one but a scientist or a technologist!
Against such a background there are glimpses of hope when one comes across some of the programs in place to encourage excellence in S & T in the country. The National Innovation Foundation (NIF) is endowed with Rs 1.5 crore per year for bringing to surface innovative ideas from the grass-root level. Of course this is a minuscule provision for a country of the size of India but still can be a spark for much bigger programs later. Unfortunately these funds remain frozen for the last 9 years for reasons not very clear. NIF started well and its early endeavor was able to identify 10000 new ideas, new innovations and traditional knowledge of significance. It is estimated that the large population of technology students in various Schools, Institutions and Universities work on thousands of technology projects every year as a part of their courses but there is no mechanism by which these projects can be upgraded into workable innovations that would have benefited the country. Even 1% of this idea pool, if pursued could have resulted in thousands of new products. During the celebration of Technology Day in the past, firm resolutions and declarations were made to increase the S & T expenditure equal to 0.5% to 2% of GDP by those heading the ministry but pathetically it remains still at less than 0.1% of GDP, indicating the lack of commitment to S & T by the country. It is time that those at the helm of affairs think beyond Pokhran and Chandrayan and put in action concrete plans to energize grass-root scientific workers to achieve quantum jump in our performance in this field and be counted as a formidable force in S & T in the global landscape.