Science and technology in India
Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India (office: 15 August 1947 – 27 May 1964), initiated reforms to promote higher education, science, and technology in India. The Indian Institutes of Technology – conceived by a 22 member committee of scholars and entrepreneurs in order to promote technical education – was inaugurated on 18 August 1951 at Kharagpur in West Bengal by the minister of education Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. More IITs were soon opened in Bombay, Madras, Kanpur and Delhi as well in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Beginning in the 1960s, close ties with the Soviet Union enabled the Indian Space Research Organization to rapidly develop the Indian space program and advance nuclear power in India even after the first nuclear test explosion by India on 18 May 1974 at Pokhran.
India accounts for about 10% of all expenditure on research and development in Asia and the number of scientific publications grew by 45% over the past five years. However, according to India's science and technology minister, Kapil Sibal, India is lagging in science and technology compared to developed countries. India has only 140 researchers per 1,000,000 population, compared to 4,651 in the United States. India invested US$3.7 billion in science and technology in 2002–2003. For comparison, China invested about four times more than India, while the United States invested approximately 75 times more than India on science and technology. Despite this, five Indian Institutes of Technology were listed among the top 10 science and technology schools in Asia by Asiaweek. One study argued that Indian science did not suffer from lack of funds but from unethical practices, the urge to make illegal money, misuse of power, frivolous publications and patents, faulty promotion policies, victimization for speaking against wrong or corrupt practices in the management, sycophancy, and brain drain. However, the number of publications by Indian scientists is characterized by some of the fastest growth rates among major countries. India, together with China, Iran, South Africa and Brazil are the only developing countries among 31 nations with 97.5% of the world's total scientific productivity. The remaining 162 developing countries contribute less than 2.5%.
Jawaharlal Nehru aimed "to convert India’s economy into that of a modern state and to fit her into the nuclear age and do it quickly."  Nehru understood that India had not been at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution, and hence made an effort to promote higher education, and science and technology in India.
Nehru's Planning Commission (1950) fixed investment levels, prescribed priorities, divided funds between agriculture and industry, and divided resources between the state and the federal governments. The result of the efforts between 1947–1962 saw the area under irrigation increase by 45 million acres (180,000 km2), food production rise by 34 million metric tons, installed power generating capacity increase by 79 million kilowatts, and an overall increase of 94 percent in industrial production. The enormous population rise, however, would balance the gains made by Nehru. The economically beleaguered country was nevertheless able to build a large scientific workforce, second in numbers only to that of the United States and the Soviet Union.
Education – provided by the government of India – was free and compulsory up to the Age of 14. More emphasis was paid to the enhancement of vocational and technical skills. J. P. Naik, member-secretary of the Indian Education Commission, commented on the educational policies of the time:
The main justification for the larger outlay on educational reconstruction is the hypothesis that education is the most important single factor that leads to economic growth [based on] the development of science and technology.
On 18 August 1951 the minister of education Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, inaugurated the Indian Institute of Technology at Kharagpur in West Bengal. Possibly modeled after the Massachusetts Institute of Technology these institutions were conceived by a 22 member committee of scholars and entrepreneurs under the chairmanship of N. R. Sarkar.
The Sino-Indian war (1962) came as a rude awakening to Nehru's military preparedness. Military cooperation with the Soviet Union – partially aimed at developing advanced military technology – was pursued during the coming years. Defence Research and Development Organisation was formed in 1958.
Radio broadcasting was initiated in 1927 but became state responsibility only in 1930. In 1937 it was given the name All India Radio and since 1957 it has been called Akashvani. Limited duration of television programming began in 1959, and complete broadcasting followed in 1965.
The Indian Government acquired the EVS EM computers from the Soviet Union, which were used in large companies and research laboratories. Tata Consultancy Services – established in 1968 by the Tata Group – were the country's largest software producers during the 1960s.
The roots of nuclear power in India lie in early acquisition of nuclear reactor technology from a number of western countries, particularly the American support for the Tarapur Atomic Power Station and Canada's CANDU reactors. The peaceful policies of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi may have delayed the inception of nuclear technology in India.
It was not until the late 1960s that chemical fertilizers and high-yield food seeds brought the Green Revolution to India. The results were mixed, as many poor or small farmers were unable to afford the seeds or the risks involved in the new technology. Moreover, as rice and, especially, wheat production increased, there was a corresponding decrease in other grain production. Farmers who benefited most were from the major wheat-growing areas of Haryāna, Punjab, and western Uttar Pradesh.
The Indian space program received only financial support from the Soviet Union, which helped the Indian Space Research Organisation achieve aims such as establishing the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station, launching remote sensing satellites, developing India’s first satellite—Aryabhatta, and sending astronauts into the space. India sustain its nuclear program during the aftermath of Operation Smiling Buddha – India's first nuclear tests.
The Ministry of Steel and Mines drafted a policy statement to evolve a new model for managing industry. The policy statement was presented to the Parliament on December 2, 1972. On this basis the concept of creating a holding company to manage inputs and outputs under one umbrella was mooted. This led to the formation of Steel Authority of India Ltd. The company, incorporated on January 24, 1973 with an authorized capital of Rs. 2000 crore, was made responsible for managing five integrated steel plants at Bhilai, Bokaro, Durgapur, Rourkela and Burnpur, the Alloy Steel Plant and the Salem Steel Plant. In 1978 SAIL was restructured as an operating company.
In 1981, the Indian Antarctic Programme was started when the first Indian Expedition was flagged off for Antarctica from Goa. More missions were subsequently sent each year to India's base Dakshin Gangotri.
Indian agriculture benefited from the developments made in the fields of Biotechnology, for which a separate department was created in 1986 under the Ministry of Science and Technology. Both the Indian private sector and the government have invested in the medical and agricultural applications of biotechnology. Massive Biotech parks were established in India while the government provided tax deduction for research and development under biotechnological firms.
The Indian economy underwent economic reforms in 1991, leading to a new era of globalization and international economic integration. Economic growth of over 6% annually was seen between 1993–2002. Same year a new permanent Antarctic base Maitri was founded and continues to remain in operation till date. On 25 June 2002 India and the European Union agreed to bilateral cooperation in the field of science and technology. A joint EU-India group of scholars was formed on 23 November 2001 to further promote joint research and development. India holds observer status at CERN while a joint India-EU Software Education and Development Center is due at Bangalore. Certain scientists and activists, such as MIT systems scientist Dr. VA Shiva Ayyadurai, blame caste for holding back innovation and scientific research in India, making it difficult to sustain progress while regressive social organization prevails. In addition, corruption and inefficiencies in the research sector and have resulted in corruption scandals and undermine innovation initiatives.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Science and technology in India.|
- India: Science and technology. U.S. Library of Congress.
- Indian National Science Academy (2001). Pursuit and promotion of science: The Indian Experience. Indian National Science Academy.
- Geek Nation: How Indian Science is Taking Over the World by Angela Saini (2011)
- Special report: Physics in India, Matin Durrani, Physics World, 2012.