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India needs more quality research in science: PM

Kanpur, July 3 (Calcutta Tube) India needs to boost quality research in science and technology with a sense of urgency, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Saturday.

Addressing the convocation ceremony at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) here, the prime minister also called for increased collaboration between the IITs and the corporate world.

‘We as a nation urgently need to increase quality research in science and technology,’ Manmohan Singh said. ‘Science and technology today play a dominant role in determining the power and progress of a nation.’

‘This role has become even more critical in the wake of newer challenges like climate change. We need more innovation in areas like sustainable agriculture, affordable health care and energy security,’ he said.

‘India’s strength in frugal engineering and extremely affordable innovations is becoming known internationally. Indian scientists and engineers should leverage this strength to play a more prominent role in addressing problems that affect all countries,’ he said.

He said that graduating students must always bear in mind that the people of the country had partly paid for their education. ‘You must in some manner, however small it might be, give back to the society and the people who have nurtured you.’

He asked the IITs to collaborate more with each other in research projects and urged IIT Kanpur in particular to go for more collaboration with the corporate sector.

‘This would be of mutual benefit to both,’ he said. ‘To the corporate sector it could mean cost effective solutions and newer technology and products while for the IITs it would bring in much needed funds and enhance their research capabilities.’

The prime minister lamented that although government spending on higher education had been hiked manifold, the issue of quality remained.

‘A major constraint is the availability of good faculty. An obvious solution lies in encouraging a larger number of bright students to join academics.’

He urged the IIT community to come together to evolve other innovative ways to address these issues.

The prime minister, an economist turned politician, was conferred with the honorary degree of doctor in science on the occasion.

He said the government had set in motion an ambitious programme to completely restructure the legal and regulatory environment of higher education. ‘Intensive consultations are being carried out for setting up the National Council for Higher Education and Research. Several important bills have been introduced in parliament. I would urge the entire IIT community to carefully go through these bills and offer suggestions to make them better,’ he said.

Paying handsome compliments to the IIT system, he said it had done the country proud. ‘IIT alumni have helped immensely in this transformation of India’s image, serving as excellent ambassadors for their country. Many of them are leaders in business and technology, both within our country and abroad,’ the prime minister said, adding that there were three officers from IIT Kanpur in his office and both his private secretaries were alumni of the IITs.

The prime minister hoped that the students will build their lives on the bedrock of ethical conduct.

‘The life ahead will test the strength of your character and the mettle of your spirit as never before… I hope you will be a little old fashioned and build your life on the bedrock of ethical conduct,’ he said.

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