Bengaluru joined the global science community’s movement of March for Science on Saturday, which was held at Malleshwaram’s 18th cross grounds.
Organised by the Breakthrough Science Society, the event saw participation from scientists, research scholars and students from the city. The attendees later forming a human chain in front of the grounds. The community paid tribute to Prof Stephen Hawking, and renowned Kannada science writer Prof J R Lakshmana Rao.
“We need to let scientists take charge of the narrative of science in the public domain,” said Prof. Sharbari Bhattacharya, who teaches in the Department of Physics at the Bangalore University. Many scientists lamented statements made by political leaders that placed more faith in superstitions and Hindu mythology than in scientific evidence.
Dr Sudha K, Senior Plastic Surgeon and member of the March for Science (MFS) Organising Committee, said that while cosmetology does have a very long history, it needs to be examined objectively. “It was propagated that Ganesha was a product of plastic surgery. As a plastic surgeon, I felt embarrassed,” she said, referring to the Prime Minister’s statement on evidence of scientific advances in ancient India.
"It falls on us to educate people about what is science and what is not science, for a better health scenario in the country," she added.
Ram Lal Mauryan, Former Scientific Officer, DRDO, talked about the need to be wary of the deliberate policy of the central government to produce “mythological scientists”, referring to the encouragement of research on cow urine.
The MFS was started last year by scientists to demand evidence-based policy making and an increase in government funding for scientific research, triggered by the Trump administration’s attitude towards scientific knowledge. While last year’s Indian edition of the March was held a few months after the US, it has been organised simultaneously in nearly 200 cities and towns globally this year.
Some of the scientists talked about the need for scientists to engage with social problems at the Bengaluru March this year.
"Do not confine yourself to labs. We must speak about social issues, about the crimes being committed against women and children in the country," Ram Lal Mauryan said.
One of the demands of the March was that funding must be increased for research and education and it must be ensured that policies and education are based on scientific evidence. Ram Lal also spoke about fund cuts and fee hikes in public universities such as JNU and UoH in recent times, and said that it keeps students from marginalised communities from accessing education. Many scientists also spoke about the need to defend science and inculcate scientific temper.
Prof Sabyasachi Chatterjee, President, All India Peoples Science Network, condemned the use of science for military use.
"Science must be used for the progress of mankind, not for military use. Militarism cannot be a part of patriotism," he said.
Nagesh Hegde, a popular science writer in Kannada, spoke about the way he atoned himself for his early pro-nuclear writings after the occurrence of several nuclear disasters through his later writings.
Call for action
Sathish Kumar, State President of the Breakthrough Science Society urged everyone at the gathering to give their suggestions to the MHRD to rationalise the curriculum for classes 1 to 12. Scientists from the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) talked about their initiative ‘Science and the City’, an attempt to share scientific knowledge with the public without the use of jargon, and called for people to organise talks through the initiative in their apartments and housing societies. The MFS Organising Panel will submit a memorandum addressed to the Prime Minister through the governor of Karnataka. The memorandum includes the four demands being made by the March for Science Organising Committees across India.
All images courtesy of Breakthrough Science Society.