"Let us make the year 2008, the year of revitalising science education in India," he said while inaugurating the 95th Indian Science Congress here on Thursday. About 4000 scientists including 500 foreign delegates are participating in the Congress.
Singh called for increasing enrolment of students in basic sciences and said that a mission on vocational education and skill development would be launched. With a view to enlarging the pool of scientific manpower a special scheme, Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research would be launched.
Keeping in view the theme of the Science Congress - Knowledge-based Society Using Environmentally Sustainable Science and Technology - the Prime Minister urged for action to combat the impact of climate change and said : "We need a global response, a national response and a local response." He said that the approach has to gapple with issues of sustainability, equity and efficiency. Sustainability involves safe levels of emissions, equity involves country's legitimate share of the permissible emissions and efficiency involves development of low-cost alternative techniques for achieving the goal, he said.
Singh identified five areas for application of knowledge on war-footing, namely food production and conservation of water, energy generation, manufacturing technologies, mass transport systems and building and construction technology. He also suggested the need for tapping the traditional knowledge base and said that traditional building technologies were largely environment-friendly.
"Over the years a great deal of what is called modern building technology is environmentally ill-suited and unsustainable......We have to evolve patterns of urbanisation which minimise environmental hazards such as noise pollution," he said.
On the controversial issue of nuclear energy, the Prime Minister, however said : "In the longer run, atomic energy can also play an important contribution to energy security."
The Prime Minister's Council on Climate Change is engaged in developing India's response to the challenge and an expert committee under the chairmanship of R Chidambaram has suggested a research agenda to study the impact of climate change. Singh said that the Planning Commission has been asked to work on the issue of climate change.
Union science and technology minister Kapil Sibal said that a centre for climate change would be set up at the Pune-based Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorolgy. The ministries of science and technology and earth sciences would jointly set up an expert group to study climate change impact. The department of biotechnology would set up Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council to help small and medium industries. The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) has been asked to draft an Law, he said.