(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
January 23, 2011
13th CONGRESS OF THE AIPSN
Science for Secularism, Democracy & Development
Amit Sen Gupta
THE thirteenth All India Peoples Science congress was organised in Thrissur, Kerala, on December 27-31, 2010. Over 600 delegates, representing 35 Peoples Science organisations, affiliated to the All India Peoples Science Network participated in the congress, which was organised by the Kerala Shastra Sahitya Parishat on behalf of the AIPSN. The congress was held in Kerala 22 years after the formation of the AIPSN at its first congress in Cannanore in 1988. The key theme of the congress was Science for Secularism, Democracy and Development.
CALL TO MOBILISE
AGAINST NUCLEAR DEAL
The inaugural session of the congress was presided over by C P Narayanan, president of AIPSN. In his inaugural address, Dr A Gopalakrishnan, former chairman, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, said that the Indo-US nuclear deal could prove to be a bigger scam than the 2G spectrum scam. He explained how the deal would jeopardise India’s indigenous capability in nuclear technology. Years of efforts by Indian scientists would be put to rest as a consequence of the deal. Further, import of nuclear reactors would place the country at the mercy of foreign suppliers for access to enriched fuel. He also related how the deal creates dependency on US and French suppliers and risks national sovereignty without any gains for the country. To the contrary, the deal allows untested nuclear reactors to be exported to India at costs that are many times higher than indigenous costs and with the potential to endanger the lives of a large number of people in the country.
Dr Gopalakrishnan also questioned the logic of applying the Official Secrets Act in the case of India’s civilian nuclear programme. He called upon the Peoples Science movement to demand of the government that all details associated to the present programme be made public. He also suggested that the science movement should mobilise against the consequences of the nuclear deal, and also act as watchdogs over possible environmental and health hazards that could be created by the installation of untested imported nuclear reactors.
Dr Thomas Isaac’s book, titled Kerala Land and the People was also released at the inaugural session of the congress. Speaking on the occasion Dr Issac spoke about his long association with the Peoples Science movement and the Kerala Shastra Sahitya Parishat. He spoke about the need for the science movement to understand the dynamics related to the rapid changes in science and technology today. He stressed on the necessity for the science movement to mould its responses, especially given the rapid privatisation of the education system and scientific research.
Dr Prajval Shastri from the Indian Institute of Astrophysics called upon the delegates to use the medium of science popularisation to instill among people an awareness about science. She explained how astronomy can be a vehicle for enhancing public interest in science and also about how popular astronomy helps to enhance the capacity to deconstruct science.
The inaugural session was followed by a colourful jatha that wended its way around the city centre and culminated in a public meeting. The jatha comprised of all the state delegations dressed in their traditional costumes. As the jatha moved through the city delegates sang, danced and raised slogans. At the public meeting representatives from member organisations conveyed solidarity messages in their own languages. It was followed by a colourful and vibrant cultural presentation by artistes from the KSSP.
The second day of the congress was devoted to reviewing the AIPSN’s 22 year old journey. Dr Amit Sengupta, general secretary of AIPSN, presented the background document that drew from contributions from several senior AIPSN activists and organisations. The background document traced the events that led to the formation of the AIPSN in 1988, and the very large network since then. Dr Amit Sengupta recounted how, the AIPSN, from its initial focus on science popularisation and science policy analysis has expanded to include diverse interests in issues related to education, health, development, agriculture, livelihoods and S&T application for rural industrialisation. He urged the delegates to combine the various streams of work and build synergies that can further contribute to the strength of the organisation. The background paper emphasised on the tasks before the science movement. On one hand the science movements needs to be vigilant in developing critiques of present day policies that seek to commercialise science and knowledge production. On the other hand it has to demarcate its positions from many in the NGO sector, who look at science itself as the problem. Dr Amit Sengupta argues that the Peoples Science movement needs to vigorously pursue its understanding that science has the potential to change people’s lives, reduce drudgery and enhance the quality of life. At the same time, the Peoples Science movement has the historic task of safeguarding the takeover of the cycle of knowledge production and reproduction by commercial interests. New challenges face the movement today, including the very important challenge posed by climate change and its potential to destroy the planet.
Several speakers responded to the background paper, including Komal Srivastava, Dr Sabyasachi Chaterjee, Dinesh Abrol, Dr K N Ganesh, Dr M P Parameshwaran, and D Raghunandan. In the second part of the organisational session, all the state delegations presented their views on the background paper. Subsequently all participants divided themselves into eight groups, that deliberated at length on issues emerging from the earlier discussions. A consolidated report of the group discussions was presented on the last day of the congress.
LIVELY TECHNICAL SESSIONS
AND CULTURAL PRESENTATIONS
The technical sessions of the congress were organised on December 29-30. The discussions were divided into eight thematic axes: environment; S&T, emerging technologies and self reliance; agriculture; decentralisation and democratic governance; education; science popularisation; health; and social exclusions. Discussions were divided into plenary sessions in the morning and workshops in the afternoon and evening. A total of eight plenaries and over 30 workshops were organised over the two days. Eminent scientists, social activists and academics participated in the technical sessions. Prominent speakers in the different sessions included Dr B Ekbal, former vice chancellor, Kerala University; Prof M A Oommen; S M Vijayanand; Dr S Krishnaswamy, Madurai University; Dr Venugopal Rao; Dinesh Abrol; Prof Sabyasachi Chatterjee, Indian Institute of Astrophysics; Prabir Purkayastha; Dr T Jayaraman, Tata Institute of Social Sciences; Dr Vinod Raina; D Raghunandan; Asha Mishra; K T Radhakrishnan; Dr M P Parameshwaran; Dr Ajay Khare; Dr T Sunderaraman, director, National Health Resource Centre; Amitava Guha; Prof M K Prasad; Dr Archana Prasad; Sudha Sundararaman; Dr D P Duari, director, Birla Planetarium; Dr Shyamal Chakravarty and Dr P V Unnikrishnan.
Cultural presentations livened up the congress every evening. Presentations were made by cultural troupes from AIPSN member organisations and by artistes from the KSSP.
LUCKNOW IN 2012
The congress in its concluding session on December 31, adopted four resolutions. These included: a resolution calling for a national ban on endosulphan based pesticides; a call to halt the installation of a nuclear power plant in Jaitapur, Maharashtra; demand for a thorough judicial review of the life imprisonment imposed on social activist, Dr Binayak Sen; and a demand to implement 33 per cent reservation for women in parliament.
The congress endorsed the election of a new 21 member executive committee, with D Raghunandan as the president, Sabyasachi Chatterjee and Komal Srivastava as vice presidents, T Gangadharan as general secretary and Satyajit Chakravarty and Joginder Walia as joint secretaries. Delegates welcomed with loud applause the announcement that the next Congress, in 2012, would be organised in Lucknow.
The congress concluded with a rousing reception by the delegates to volunteers from the KSSP who had worked round the clock to make the thirteenth congress a truly memorable event.