A question for Modi

On December 18, Manmohan Singh took a jibe at Narendra Modi for not holding any press conferences in his term as PM. To get in on the action, 15 people at The Wire (including myself) pitched 15 questions we’d like to ask Modi if we ever got the chance. The full list is here to view.

My question, eleventh on the list, has been whittled down. Understandably so since the original text was 182 words long. If I’d asked it during a presser or wherever, I’d have sounded like one of those gasbags we love to hate – the guy hogging the mic, sounds like he may not actually have a question and is actually bragging about how much he knows.

With apologies for that, this is the question I’d like to ask Modi should I get the chance (as of this moment). I’ve presented it in full.

Many scientists and science academies have protested that lawmakers’ words and actions – including your own – are negating India’s efforts to improve scientific temper in society. Your government is increasing spending for ‘conventional’ science and for research on gaumutra at the same time.

Government-funded research on these projects presents neither accessible evidence for claims nor sources of data, and experiments don’t have any protocols to follow. This is especially dangerous in healthcare (ayurveda, BGR 34, homeopathy, etc.). On the other hand, your government constantly wants scientists to deliver more and win Nobel Prizes while also working towards “national priorities” that you refuse to set in stone.

Your ministers say absolute spending on R&D has been the highest in your term but forget that it’s an abysmal fraction (0.7%) of the GDP. All science departments received more money in the latest Union budget – but while the MST got a 6.1% hike, the AYUSH ministry got a 13% hike, and postdocs around the country have protested at least twice for better stipends.

How would you address these contradictions?