Science Congress Starts in Bhubaneswar: Despite Weaving Utopia, Prime Minister Stresses on Traditional Wisdom of Orissa’s Mayurbhanj

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

(Pictorial input from Piyush Mohanty)

The 99th Annual Session of the Indian Science Congress commenced here at Bhubaneswar on January 3, 2012 on the theme: “The role of Science and Technology for Inclusive Innovation with special reference to the role of women”.

Matching the theme, in his inaugural address, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh informed that his government is providing “large number of scholarship” in science sector, “most notably, in the Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research or INSPIRE scheme which gives awards to one million science students” out of which, “49.6 per cent are women”.

He maintained that, “more than 60per cent of INSPIRE fellows pursuing doctoral research happen to be women”.

Yet, the hard reality that glared through his speech was that, “60 per cent of nearly 2000 Indian women Ph.Ds in science who were surveyed (in a study published last year) were unemployed. The main reason cited was lack of job opportunities”.

He, however, claimed that, “Public investment in Research and Development has been growing at 20-25per cent per year during the 11th Plan period”.

“Over the last few years, the number of scientific publications by Indian scientists working in India has increased at more than 12 per cent per annum against the global average of 4per cent. India has moved from the 15th rank in 2003 to the 9th rank in 2010 with respect to the number of publications in peer-valued journals”, he claimed.

But, there was no escaping from the reality that “over the past few decades, India’s relative position in the world of science had been declining and we have been overtaken by countries like China”.

Brooding loudly over the question as to “what is the role of science in a country like India?”, he said, though “there is no simple answer”, yet, “for a country grappling with the challenges of poverty and development, the over-riding objective of a comprehensive and well-considered policy for science, technology and innovation should be to support the national objective of faster, sustainable and inclusive development”.

Pointing out that “there is much that the scientific community can do to achieve these objectives”, he said, “research should be directed to providing ‘frugal’ solutions to our chronic problems of providing food, energy and water security to our people. Science should help us understand how to give practical meaning to the concept of sustainable development and green growth. Science should help us shift our mindsets from the allocation of resources to their more efficient use.”

Science, in India, has stayed far away from age old wisdom, as a result of which, its relevance to people at the grassroots has remained obscure. He therefore stressed on attention to traditional knowledge. “Explore and rejuvenate traditional knowledge systems found all over our country in areas such as agriculture, architecture, handicrafts and textiles” he said.

Look at Mayurbhanj and Koraput of Orissa

“One need go no further than the tribal communities of the Kharia, Santhals, Gonds and Kolhas who live in the deep forest areas of Mayurbhanj and have a reservoir of knowledge on medicinal usage of locally available plants”, he said while congratulating “the tribal community of Koraput for the global recognition they have received for their contribution to conserving bio-diversity and developing climate-change resilient farming systems” and exhorted the scientists to look at these phenomenon in right earnest so that “technology and process engineering should help us reach the benefits of development to those who need it most”.

Like any politician leading a plutocracy, he churned out wishes such as “we must ensure creation of a new innovation ecosystem”, “we must achieve greater alignment of the Science and Technology sector with the inclusive development needs of our nation” etc etc. But it looked like weaving utopia, because, on his own admission, “while it is true that science and engineering continue to attract some of our best students, many of them later opt for other careers because of relatively poorer prospects in science”.

According to his further admission, “science is often pre-occupied with problems of the rich, ignoring the enormous and in many ways more challenging problems of the poor and the under-privileged”.

“It is in some ways ironic”, he confessed, that, foreign firms such as “General Electric and Motorola have created world-class technology hubs in India, while our own industry has not done so”.

And, against this backdrop, the Science Congress commenced its 99th session.


Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

It is well known that the Western Electricity Supply Company of Orissa Ltd.(WESCO) is infested with corrupt personnel. But it was not yet known that it also collaborate with housebreaking and power hijacking by the housebreakers!

Several of its employees and officials have been captured redhanded in different places on different days by the State Vigilance while taking bribes and also have been subjected to raids for accumulation of wealth beyond known sources of income.

Authorities are of the view that, it also is a mismanaged organization.

In analyzing its performance for 2010-11, the Orissa Electricity Regulatory Commission (OERC) has not only noted it to be “really shameful” , but also has arrived at “the inescapable conclusion” that “stealing of electricity by high end consumers with active connivance of the employees at different level” is going on with “the top management sitting as silent spectator”(OERC Report on Review of Performance of WESCO for the FY 2010-11, taken up on 26.05.2011).

Sadly, the Government run by Naveen Patnaik is also sitting nonchalant over such specific observation of OERC.

Encouraged by the State Government’s collaboration with corruption, the WESCO officials have become so very emboldened that they have started even collaborating with housebreakers in having energy connections at their criminally trespassed sites. One such instance has come into light in the town of Sambalpur.

Owner of ‘Asharani House’ behind Misra Lodge at Fatak, Sambalpur, Smt Asharani Misra, who resides with her family at Bhubaneswar, was, shocked to see that two illegal trespassers into her house were using electricity illegally dragged into by “wire-hooks connected to the street electric pole”.

In a complaint dated 23 Nov 2011, duly acknowledged by the SDO of the concerned electrical sub-division of WESCO, she wanted instant disconnection of the illegal line and corresponding actions against the miscreants.

But to her surprise and shock, to neither Sri Satpathy, the Junior Engineer to whom the complaint was addressed, nor Sri Tanuram Behera, the SDO concerned to whom copy of the complaint was given, this was a matter to merit attention.

A shocked Smt. Misra, in a complaint before the Chairman of WESCO filed on 30 Nov.2011, wanted her house to be free from illegal power connection failing which she would seek redressal in appropriate courts and make WESCO liable for the damage.

The illegal hook was then removed on 2 Dec. 2011, but despite Smt. Mishra having named the illegal users of hook to drag energy into her house, no action was taken against the hijackers of electricity.

Yet, to her surprise, Sri Behera, the SDO, gave her alarming threats over phone that if any hooking is found in future, she shall be prosecuted against for the same.

Smt. Mishra immediately informed the WESCO Chairman of this telephonic threat in her communication dated 6 Dec 2011.

To her horror, she found on 20 Dec 2011 that illegal connections are given to the trespassers by the WESCO officials on permanent basis sans any meter and inspection of wiring!

This being a potential threat to safety of her house, as she contacted the area JE, she was informed that, he had to give the connections under orders of Behera, the SDO as well as of the area Executive Engineer Sri Bibhudendu Padhi. This information was to her hand on 28 Dec 2011 and instantly she apprised the WESCO CEO of this illegality in her written complaint.

But yet, no action is taken against the illegal users of energy and their collaborators in WESCO!

The WESCO chief is unable to throw any light on this scenario.

It is apparently clear that WESCO has started collaborating with housebreaking by miscreants in absence of legal owners and helping the housebreakers in power hijacking too.

What next!