October 31, 2015

India: Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-linked body Vijnana Bharati organising science festival at IIT Delhi

The Telegraph, 31 October 2015

Sangh science festival at IIT
Our Special Correspondent

New Delhi, Oct. 30: The Centre has directed IIT Delhi to host a five-day science festival that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-linked body Vijnana Bharati will organise from December 4.

The science and technology department has asked the IIT to provide the venue and other help for the India International Science Festival, likely to be attended by over 4,000 scientists and students and inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Kshitij Gupta, officiating director of the IIT, said the government had picked Vijnana Bharati as the main organiser. Institute chairperson Vijay Bhatkar, who also chairs Vijnana Bharati, said Sangh-minded scientists had founded the organisation in 1991.

"Vijnana Bharati promotes science by holding conferences and debates. It also tries to identify indigenous knowledge and works for its validation and propagation," Bhatkar said.

IIT Delhi has in recent months been collaborating with several Sangh-linked or spiritual bodies.

Under the Modi government's Unnat Bharat Abhiyan, it is partnering Sangh affiliate Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram and spiritual organisation Gayatri Pariwar to provide technological solutions to villagers' problems in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Agra.

It has also involved the Patanjali Trust of Baba Ramdev for similar projects in Tehri Garwal, Uttarakhand.

The science festival will provide a platform to young scientists from India and neighbouring countries to exchange ideas. It will also showcase India's contributions to science and technology.

Government research institutions like the Defence Research and Development Organisation and the Atomic Energy Commission will organise exhibitions at the festival highlighting "the scientific temper in Indian art, culture and society".

Young scientists will display their research on subjects such as indigenous science and technology, and innovative agricultural practices and livestock management.

Bhatkar said Vijnana Bharati had conducted conferences on subjects such as Vedic science and Ayurveda over the past several years. He said eminent scientists such as Anil Kakodkar and R.A. Mashelkar were involved with the organisation.

Gupta defended the IIT's association with Sangh affiliates: "We're involving these bodies to reach out to people -what's wrong with that?"

He criticised the recent IIT Council move to increase tuition fees, saying bright students from poor families who clear the entrance test should be taught at a nominal cost.

The IIT will hold its convocation tomorrow, awarding 1,880 students with degrees, including 221 PhDs.