After India became independent, Jawaharlal Nehru, the country’s first Prime Minister, a man of scientific temperament, initiated several reforms in higher education, science and technology. One important step was the establishment of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT). The first of these was founded in Kharagpur, West Bengal, in 1951. An Indian Institute of Science was also founded in Bangalore. India’s close ties with the Soviet Union during the 1960s also kick started the Indian space program spearheaded by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) as well as India’s nuclear program.
On May 18, 1974, India conducted her first nuclear test explosion at Pokhran, codenamed Operation Smiling Buddha. The ISRO was responsible for establishing the Thumba Equatorial launching station in Trivandrum, Kerala, where eminent scientists like Vikram Sarabhai and APJ Abdul Kalam, former Indian President, have worked. It also launched remote sensing satellites, developed India’s first satellite, Aryabhatta, and sent astronauts into space.
India was able to acquire nuclear reactor technology early on from western countries like the US and Canada. As of 2008, India has 17 atomic power plants in operation, generating 4,120 MW power. More are coming up. In 1981, began the Indian Antarctic program when the first Indian expedition left for Antarctica from Goa. India established a base, Dakshin Gangotri, to which missions were sent each year.
Among the Asian countries, India accounts for about 10% of the total expenditure on Research and Development (R&D). In the past five years the numbers of scientific publications in the country have grown by 45%. But compared to other developed countries, India is still way behind. India has only 140 researchers per 1, 000, 000 population while the figure is 4,651 in the US.
In 2002-2003, Indian investment in science and technology was US$ 3.7 billion whereas China’s was four times more. As for the US, it was 75 times more! Still, India’s position was strengthened by its premier institutions, the IITs, which were listed by Asia Week among the top 10 science and technology schools in Asia.
Recently, India has caught the world’s attention in the nascent field of Biotechnology. In 1986, a separate department was created under the Ministry of Science and Technology. Many biotech parks have come up. On 25 June 2002, India and the European Union agreed to bilateral cooperation in science and technology. One problem in India is that youngsters are not interested in pursuing careers in science.
Instead they opt for IT and Management as they are more lucrative. Unethical practices, greed, misuse of power, frivolous publications and patents, skewed promotion policies, favoritism, sycophancy and brain drain are some of the ills that hinder the progress of science and technology in India.