Crusaders of science
Crusaders of science
a piece of inspiring information was in store for the 1,000 delegates who assembled in Shimla during the second week of October 2003 to be a part of the latest biennial conference of the All India People's Science Network (aipsn). They came to know that a recent conclave of the sangh parivar had termed this umbrella organisation of 40-odd people's science movements (psms) from across the country as an emerging threat. The psms were happy to hear this. "It shows we are moving ahead in the right direction,' said a prominent aipsn activist.
Constituted about 16 years ago as a loose confederation of like-minded institutes, aipsn has been at the forefront of harnessing the power of science and technology for common good. Its three lakh volunteers (including scientists, teachers, writers, farmers and students) have brought about a remarkable difference in as many as 300 districts of the country. Their most notable nationwide accomplishment was the crusade against illiteracy, which led to a 16 per cent increase in the literacy rate during the last decade.
As a precursor to the conference, a month-long campaign was organised on the key themes of peace, unity and sovereignty. It included programmes by over 40 kala jatha troupes that travelled across the country for over three weeks and addressed more than five million people. The Shimla meet, officially called the 10th All India People's Science Congress, was a platform to take stock of the work done by psms in the last two years and plan the future. Participatory governance experiments in different parts of the country, and the formation of a large number of new self help groups (shgs), were said to be the main outcomes of the work done by psms. Two good example of new shgs are: malar, a women's organisation which emerged as a role model for economic empowerment of women in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu; and an unique tank irrigation association that helped fight ingression of seawater into farms in Pondicherry.
In his inaugural address to the Congress, Virbhadra Singh, chief minister of Himachal Pradesh, stressed on the need to inculcate a scientific temper among people and fight obscurantist values. Rajaraman, an internationally reputed nuclear physicist, called for the immediate cessation of further production and testing of nuclear weapons to