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Why India risks losing its scientific thinking and temper


Why risks losing its scientific thinking and temper

Dinesh C Sharma

As we celebrate the Science Day on Tuesday, let's take a moment to remember what it stands for and analyse if our actions are in line with the principles of scientific thinking and temperament that this day is supposed to propagate.

Scientific temper is a way of life and as scientist Prof CNR Rao has noted in his new book, “Decision-making in society and the government can best be done if there is a scientific approach.” Scientific temper, he says, is essential to tackle problems in society and in life itself.

But, we seem to be failing at working towards this vision of scientific approach as exemplified by some recent public actions.

For example, the summary rejection of scientific studies on mortality due to air pollution, purely on the basis of the fact that these research papers have been published by foreigners, is unscientific. The scientific way would have been to point out the flaws in the studies and data they presented, which have all been published in peer-reviewed and journals. It would be dangerous to say that we will only accept findings of studies by Indians.

Science is international and scientific groups, including those in India, collaborate with each other. But if we find something wrong in the methodologies or models being used in air pollution studies in India, we should be able to point those out in the very journals which published the original papers. Simply pointing fingers at others and seeing a conspiracy in everything is not constructive.

The ministry should be funding research about environmental health in Indian institutes and universities, which is still a neglected area of research. We not only need data on the impact of air pollution on people's health in India, but also the impact of water pollution, ewaste, plastic waste, etc.

We can take lessons from elsewhere in the government for this. The health ministry gracefully revised the estimate of tuberculosis cases in the country after new evidence was reported in the scientific journal The Lancet that the number of TB cases in India was actually two to three times higher than what the government was reporting. This was because cases being treated in the private sector were not counted in the official estimates. The under reporting was massive — almost one million new cases a year.

The revised estimate of new TB cases in India now stands at 2.8 million or 217 per one lakh population as against the previous figure of 1.7 million cases or 127 per one lakh population. The revision is mainly due to the new reporting system, which includes cases detected in the private sector.

In any case, it makes a huge difference to the approach towards managing tuberculosis in India and even worldwide.

(Courtesy: Mail Today)

The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.


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