Research without funds? An open letter to Smriti Irani


Dear Ms Smiriti Irani,

This is in reference to your comment that you made at IISER on 19th February that good research is possible even with less money. Precisely what you had said was that “youngsters should concentrate on better science with less money”.

The immediate question that springs to mind is ‘How?’. But let me start by asking you not ‘how’ but ‘why’ and ‘from where’.

Tell us please as to why the young scientists of India should now become your agents of thrift when ‘development’ was the primary election plank of the party which has placed you in the chair that you are occupying currently.

From where did you government get the guts to be stingy on fundamental research after all the talk of acchedin….sabke sath sabka vikas….ek hath mein computer….beti padao….make in India etc. etc.

Now before you start fomenting some far-fetched justification in your head please be assured that in the 21st century science is the basis of each and every development. Nothing, not even your boss’s favorite Swachh Bharat can be attained without scientific research and development.

From where did you get the face to ask fundamental science to wear the garment of austerity when the PM finds it fitting to don a Rs. 10 Lac suit? Why fundamental research should have to satisfy itself with modesty? Is government of India in dearth of finance?

Certainly not in dearth of finances. The government is in dearth of people with sound judgment and reasoning.

In your dialogue delivery at ISSER you went on to say that “ Bigger money does not mean better science. Millions of dollars are being spent on a fusion experiment in Orange County but the same experiment is being carried out in Bengaluru with just Rs 2 Lakh. Youngsters should concentrate on better science with less money.”

Ok. We never realized that you are a better authority on research expenditure than American scientists!

By the way Bharat Ratna scientist CNR Rao does not agree with you. He feels that drought of funds might push scientists out of science.

“I am not asking for big money. Even the existing money is being cut. It is already marginal funding. I think we will all have to close up and say, ‘look here, what else do I do next other than science?’ The government has to look into that,” Rao had said at the annual meeting of the Indian Academy of Sciences in November 2015.

May we ask if you ever been inside the lab where the Indian equivalent of America’s fusion experiment is being carried out at a fraction of the cost of America’s. What is your source of this information we would certainly want to know.

Now to the question of ‘how’. How is better research possible in lesser amount? What were you talking about? Cotton sarees in wholesale market? Are you not aware of simple rules of economics or do you expect young Indian researchers to pull a miracle?

I hope you realize soon that you are the HRD minister of India and no more the heroine of an Ekta Kapoor soap where impossible becomes possible at the whim and fancy of the script writer.

Aazeen F. Kirmani

Views expressed by the author are personal. (Image: Saddahaq)

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