Idea of India
Instead of blaming the ideas and leaders of the past, India must search for a new way forward unto development that is free of political divisiveness and obscurantist ideas
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in his treatise The Discovery of India in 1944, wrote thus, 'The search for the sources of India's strength and for her deterioration and decay is long and intricate. Yet the recent causes of that decay are obvious enough. She fell behind in the march of technique (means technology here), and Europe, which had long been backward in matters, took the lead in technical progress. Behind this technical progress was the spirit of science and a bubbling life and spirit which displayed itself in many activities and in adventurous voyages of discovery. New techniques gave military strength to countries of Western Europe, and it was easy for them (to) spread out and dominate the East. That is the story not only of India but of almost the whole of Asia.'
Panditji's soliloquy could permeate the consciousness of the Indian people perhaps only when this volume reached the aspiring Indian in 1961, but it is historically documented that he had already set a technological wheel into motion when independent India was still embryonic. The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research had come into being good half a decade before the country's independence, constituted as an autonomous body in 1942 by a resolution of the Central Legislative Assembly, as it existed those days. There was a deeply nurtured measure of euphoria about science, its processes and relevance and Nobel Prize recipient Sir CV Raman and Acharya Sir Jagdish Chandra Bose, both eminent scientists were national icons. My growing impressionable years instilled a deep sense of pride when my teachers revealed to me that the concept of zero as a number took place in my own India in the 9th century AD.
The achievements of Ramanujam, in the little above 30 years that he lived, during which he became a Fellow of the Royal Society and conducted his own research on Bernoulli numbers appeared awesome. They were indeed awesome because not only was he never formally indoctrinated into the realm of numbers nor did he ever get exposed to the methods of education. He was merely a genius who was discovered like we acknowledged the exalted tradition of Aryabhatta and Varahamihira after centuries of obscurity.
Panditji conceived his best efforts to create a nucleus of modern industry in India. With the establishment of India's pioneering steel mill in the rural township of Rourkela and the gigantic power-generating megaprojects of the Bhakra Dam in Punjab and the Damodar Valley Project for Bihar and West Bengal, a vision seemed to be unfolding. It was during his era when the Defence Research and Development Organisation grew out of the Defence Science Organisation in the year 1958. It eventually blossomed to nearly 50 laboratories from a motley 10 at its initiation.
Then why is it that we are so cynical about our intent and desire to pursue our own independent path towards research and development? Tomes have been written deriding Panditji's efforts at indigenous development and the goals of self-sustainability - Make in India. The grand old man left us in 1964 and what did we do since then? We still cannot do things on our own and blame him for just about everything on the earth for our failures. So much energy is being wasted in trying to discover as to where have we gone astray than going about doing what we ought to be doing. We need a new slogan through the length and breadth of the nation across the national milieu free from political divisiveness and obscurantist ideas. But that is the 'freedom to cherish'.
The writer is a retired Air Commodore and strategic affairs commentator