In today’s technology oriented world of 21st century, any country is considered powerful on the basis of many developmental parameters, amongst which the most prominent is the technological advancements that country has made with the help of scientific acumen of it’s human resource.

This is one of the main reasons why USA, China, Japan and Russia are considered developed countries and why India is still counted under developing nations. It’s not that Indians did not have any scientific knowledge in the past.

But, a series of political, social and religious changes had their negative repercussions on our scientific advancements and pulled us back from a curious and mindful nation to a imitative and monotonous one. However, India is ready to thrive and rise once again to prove it’s worth and make noticeable achievements as a sci-tech expert in coming future.

But, future is dictated by actions taken in the present and present is a reflection of achievements and mistakes made in the past. Hence, in order to understand the rise and decline of India as a scientific power, we need to review and analyze the glorious history of science in the county and the reasons that led to it’s collapse.

Glorious Past & Significant Achievements

Science has been a part of Indian culture for centuries. We have had many scientists, technicians and subject experts that have given significant scientific theories and nearly accurate measurements of astronomical distances. Some of the noticeable achievements of Indians in the related field are:-

Invention of number zero by brilliant Indian mathematician and astrologer Aryabhatta. Bhaskara-I, Sridharacharya, Varahmira, Brahmagupta and Sripathi are few other Indian mathematicians who accrue the credit of giving first explanations of concepts like permutations, combinations and proportions. Number system was also founded in India.

Indian books like Surya Siddhanta and Bhagvad had compiled & computed Earth’s diameter, distance between Earth and Moon and Earth’s age much before and that too is nearest approximation to later founded correct measurements. Aryabhatta gave the theory of Earth’s spin about it’s own axis, revolution and eclipses.

India had it’s own medical systems named Ayurveda and Siddha. Also, the first person to explain the concept of surgery was an Indian- Sushruta who wrote detailed procedure of it in his book titled ‘Sushruta Samhita’.

The nearly correct measurements of speed of light and age of the universe as mentioned in Rigveda(the oldest Indian Veda) is a proof that India had achieved technical and scientific expertise much earlier than any other nation in the world. Indian scientist Kanada is also well renowned for his contributions in the field of Atomic Theory. Also, the Harrapan civilization was well versed about the metals and their use for various purposes.

However, all the curious and innovative aspirations of Indians were trifled with the onset of monarchy and Brahmin Raj and were later demolished under British rule.

The Downfall of Scientific Advancements in India

There was a decline in scientific activities in the Pre-Independence era due to multiple reasons, some of which are:- Frequent invasions by foreign rulers like Mahmud of Ghazni and Ghori caused lot of destruction especially of Iron industry and resulted in loss of many scientific documents. Political instability can also be counted as one of the reasons that disturbed the upbringing of scientific acumen in the country.

Necessity is the mother of Invention’ and since in the pre- colonial era, people were satisfied with their simple agro-based lifestyle, they did not feel the need for innovation and invention. Hence, lagged behind in scientific advancements.

Casteism also affected developments in science to a larger extent. Brahmins reserved the elite subjects of science and astronomy for themselves and did not let any other community participate in them. This led to a serious loss of talent and expertise.

In between these times, Hinduism introduced a new concept under which foreign travel was forbidden. Scientific ideas relating to science were declared blasphemous and disrespectful. All knowledge related to science was made more secret, secluded and concealed and every new thought and invention faced grave opposition.

Later, Britishers took over our nation and completely ruined it’s scientific culture and advancements. They started exporting iron ore to plants in Britain rather than use it for making finished products in India as part of helping their own industry at the cost of Indian industry. They also secretly conveyed our art of surgery and astronomical theories for research to the universities in Britain. Gradually, India fell behind in the march of technique and European countries which had been backward earlier, took the lead.

These are some of the reasons that led to downfall of scientific activities in the country before and during independence. However, what is more disturbing is that despite making serious efforts of revival in this field, India has not been able to match up with the scientific and technical standards of developed nations and is still not recognizable as a scientific power around the world.

Reasons why we still lag behind

It’s not that India has not made any progress with regard to science and technology since independence. Infact, we have had brilliant scientists like Dr. Homi Bhabha, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam to name few and many technology experts who have contributed immensely for the cause.

We have top airspace technology , developed missiles like Brahmos and indigenously developed ballistic missiles like Agni V. But there remain some aspects where we haven’t made any significant progress and that need to be addressed soon if we want India to emerge as a scientific superpower in the coming decades. They are:-

DRAWBACKS IN SCIENTIFIC EDUCATION: In our country, education in the field of science and technology is still not in line with the international benchmark. Rote learning is promoted and hardly any creativity is applied during practicals. Children are not much curious to reason about different concepts and phenomenon as they can fetch marks by simply learning the facts and existing subject matter. Even if few of them try to know the logic, teachers don’t address their queries properly due to the logic part being missing from the ‘curriculum’. Hence, there is a dire need of educational reforms with regard to these concerns.

LACK OF RESEARCH AND INNOVATION: Scientific research and innovation are very important for continuous development of any country. This is the main reason behind success of developed countries like USA, China, Russia and Japan. USA and China together contribute around 50% of R&D in the world whereas India contributes a mere 2.7%.

Hardly any new researches were made in the fields of pharmacy and manufacturing & material technology in past few years. The research infrastructure is not very developed and so, many intellectuals from our country leave for abroad in search of better pay and opportunities. India produces around 1.5mn technical graduates every year but either they are brain drained or do not add value to present achievements due to lack of proper guidance.

Way back to revival

The above discussed issues need to be addressed through a series of social and educational reforms in order to revive back our lost prowess in the field of science and technology.

Some of the suggested solutions are:-

IMPROVING SCI-TECH EDUCATION AND INCREASING FOCUS ON PRACTICAL APPROACH: The standard of science education needs to be improved. This could be done by reforming syllabus and curriculum according to international standards of universities like Harvard and MIT. Also, students should be made to approach theories and concepts practically. On the intermediate level, concept building should be encouraged instead of rote learning.

PROMOTING RESEARCH: Research and innovation should be promoted in colleges and universities. This can be done by providing research fellowships. Proper patent system should also be ensured so that scientists and researchers get due credit for their achievements and discoveries.

INDIGENOUS PRODUCTION: India should produce its own defence equipment's, satellites and industrial machines using indigenous technology and skills. This would not only help reduce budget deficits due to imports of these things from other countries but also help India rely on it’s own technical know- how and would make it technically independent.

Present Scenario

The recent government has already taken few actions in line with the above solutions and the result is noticeable in terms of India’s improving rank and image as the most attractive investment destinations for technology transactions in the world. India ranks 6th for scientific publications and ranks at 10th for patents. Improvement has been recorded in the Global Innovation Index where it currently stands on 60th position.

Not only this, but with the advent of start-ups era, India has become world’s third largest technology startup hub. Research and development is also being promoted extensively. The engineering R&D and product development market in India is forecasted to grow at a CAGR of 20.55 per cent.

Ministry of Science and Technology and Ministry of Human Resource &Development are collaborating to promote platforms and schemes like- Prime Minister Research Fellowship, IMPRINT, Atal Innovation Mission and Innovate India. We are also moving towards self -reliance in the field of nuclear technology. Moreover, research in nanotechnology is expected to transform the Indian pharmaceutical industry.

Way Ahead

The above achievements are definitely celebratory but much is left to be done if we want to be counted among scientific powers of the world and get Indians more of the Nobel prizes for research and innovation. For this, the roots of the problems responsible for our present situation need to be pulled out.

We need to work at the basic level starting from right deliverance of scientific education to our youth and future generation who are the torch bearers of India’s fate as a sci-tech power in future.

Fresh inputs through talent & skill development , investment in R&D, and systematic public-private partnership is required in order to make India revive it’s past position of a celebrated scientifically intellectual nation.