Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Following is the text of the Prime Minister’s remarks on the occasion:
“I am delighted to be here today to lay the Foundation Stone for a new temple of learning in Punjab, the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research. I sincerely believe – and it is my earnest hope – that this institute will take Punjab to a new horizon in science teaching and research. For the past century, India has had only one national institute of excellence in Bangalore. In the past one year, our Government has approved the creation of three new institutes of the same standard. I have had the pleasure of laying the foundation stone of a similar centre in Kolkata. The Department of Atomic Energy is setting up a similar facility at Bhubaneswar. It is now the turn of Punjab to claim its rightful place in the evolving knowledge economy in India and to become a first ranking State in science education and scientific and technological research.
I am confident that this quantum leap in high quality science education will herald a new era in the development of modern science in India. The charter of the Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research is to emerge as world-class institutions, both for undergraduate as well post-graduate education in science, with an intellectually alive atmosphere for research. In these institutions, education will be totally integrated with cutting edge research in various disciplines of modern sciences.
I believe there is an urgent need in our country to revitalize and expand opportunities at every level of the education pyramid. From the apex, at which there will be institutions such as the IISER, to the base consisting of primary schools. While primary education is our major concern, ignoring tertiary and higher education is fraught with great perils. It is our Government’s commitment to increase the allocation of funds for education to 6% of GDP. We hope to effect a substantial increase in allocation for the higher education in the next Five Year Plan. Our aim is to widen access to education for all, and at the same time, promote excellence. I do not see any contradiction between these twin aims of our education policy.
Even though we are not a rich nation our higher education system has had very rich and proud traditions. This is especially true in Natural Sciences. With institutions like IISERs, we hope to provide high quality scientific manpower to research organizations in the Government as well as in the private sector. India has had a long and deeply rooted tradition of research within the University system. We had a great University in Nalanda and in more recent history, Calcutta, Madras, Bombay and Allahabad universities were cradles of good research. Frontline scientific research was carried out within the university premises. However, for a variety of reasons we seem to have lost this tradition in recent decades. Universities have become overcrowded with a lot of teaching but very little research. We expect IISERs to help us bridge this gap.
At the moment, our universities have to deal with very large numbers, with little time, space and energy left for doing research. Consequently, we have slipped into a system wherein research is confined to national institutions. There is virtually no organic link between colleges, universities and research institutions. This is unhealthy. Universities are the places where knowledge is living and young students must be given access to the ambience of research. I hope the IISER stimulates the intellectual curiosity of our young minds, in Punjab and across the country.
Since Independence, we have established several scientific research institutions, expanded R&D facilities and produced first-rate work, comparable to the best in the world. However, there is a decline in the new recruits entering these organizations. These recruits have to come out of our university system. We will strengthen the University system even as we set up new national institutions such as this. We will ensure greater investment from all sources to ensure an expansion of the University system. We will attract more private capital into our Universities while we step up public investment. In a few years, our Government wants India to become not only a generator of knowledge but also a source of knowledgeable workers.
For a variety of reasons our creative young minds are not opting for careers in basic sciences. Science is losing out to other more “lucrative” disciplines even at the school level. It is important to offer the best of our students an exciting and stimulating research environment in colleges and universities. Our endeavour to create these new Institutes of Science Education and Research is a step in this direction. I congratulate the Ministry of Human Resource Development and the Department of Science and Technology for the good work they have done in setting up these institutes.
I am sure this institute will revitalize science education and research in Punjab and neighbouring states.
I am delighted that the first of the five National Institutes of Public Health is being set up here in Mohali by the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) in collaboration with the Government of Punjab. The Institute would train over 1000 healthcare professionals annually. I hope that this would be an important milestone in our efforts towards improving healthcare delivery systems for the poor. I congratulate the Chief Minister and the Government of Punjab as well as Mr. Harpal Singh and others of the Public Health Foundation of India on this happy occasion.
Punjab has been at the forefront of the Green Revolution. The Green Revolution was made possible not only because of the efforts of the dynamic farmers of Punjab but also because of the excellent research work done by the Punjab Agricultural University. This work backed up by the first-rate extension system in the state, enabled the farmers to usher in what was then seen as a miracle. A miracle made possible by the application of knowledge and technology. I pay tribute to Late Pratap Singh Kairon. The role of M.S. Randhawa, Vice Chancellor is also commendable.
We need much more of that today in agriculture and in other spheres of activity. Punjab needs to be in the vanguard of the knowledge revolution that is sweeping across the country and the world. I do believe that the application of modern science and technology to agriculture will have a significant impact on the income of farmers and on rural development. Our agricultural economy must become more knowledge-based so that we can increase the productivity of our farms and the incomes of our farmers. The Chief Minister has ambitious plans for promoting nanotechnology in the state. I am told that a Centre for Pharmaceutical Nanotechnology is being set up in Mohali. Punjab needs many more such centres in all spheres. Let IISER usher in a new era of institution building – institutions for the creation of knowledge; institutions for creating knowledge workers. Let there be many more institutions of higher learning in the state – both public and private. We will stand by and support the state in all its efforts.
I wish the people of Punjab, especially the young people of this great, progressive state a golden future”.