A scientific temper is a must for India, especially its economy, to progress; and that scientific temper needs a society conducive to raising questions, said Hamid Ansari, the vice-president of India, Tuesday.
Ansari, speaking at a business award ceremony, pointed out how in research and development India Inc lagged way behind global peers despite government incentives. The way forward, according to him, is “inculcating the ‘culture and attitudes’ needed to foster innovation and entrepreneurship”.
The V-P quoted Raghuram Rajan to underscore his points on how to encourage ideation and innovation.
In a speech last year, the former reserve Bank of India cited two “essentials” to keep new ideas flowing in:
* Encouraging challenge to “authority and tradition”
* Protection, not of specific ideas and tradition, but of the right to question them
These were the two “essentials” Rajan, the former Reserve Bank of India governor, had cited in a speech last year.
The outgoing vice-president has been known for speaking his mind. His latest speech comes amid worries that the Indian society is growing increasingly intolerant to criticism of traditions that are often taken up as a question of faith.
The ruling side has been found busy promoting issues like astrology, ‘ancient sciences’ and Vaastu, giving the development of scientific a temper – a Fundamental Duty, according to the Constitution – a go-by. Prime Minister Narendra Modi citing Ganesha as a case of “plastic surgery” can be said to only have encouraged such trends. Of late, censorship and violence by fringe groups have also taken centrestage.
Scholars and observers have regularly commented upon media reports highlighting tendencies of harking back to a mythical golden past on the one hand and of hurrying to declare India a present day superpower on the other.
On Tuesday, Ansari highlighted how India’s economy was not in the best of shapes, reeling under huge debt. He went on to stress that manufacturing, especially of high-value products, was key to make the country prosper and spread that prosperity among a wide part of the population. This, he said, would be possible only when Indian companies can be competitive on the global stage and make products that stand out.
His speech may have been addressed to the pink-paper posse, but the government would do well to pay heed.
Here’s the link to his full speech at the All India Management Association JRD Tata Corporate Leadership Awards: