Speech of Hon’ble Governor of Sikkim Shri Shriniwas Patil on the occasion of 40th Jawaharlal Nehru National Science, Mathematics and Environment Exhibition held on 11th November, 2013 at Saramsa, East Sikkim.
Respected Hon’ble Rashtrapatiji Shri Pranab Mukherjee, respected Union Minister of Human Resource Development, Dr.Pallam Rajuji, Hon’ble Chief Minister of Sikkim, Shri Pawan Chamlingji, Hon’ble Speaker and Members of the Sikkim Legislative Assembly, Hon’ble Cabinet Ministers of the Government of Sikkim, dear students and teachers, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
1. I am delighted that the Jawaharlal Nehru National Science, Mathematics and Environment Exhibition is being organized in Sikkim this year. This exhibition is rightly named after our first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru who advocated harnessing science and technology for developing a modern State and initiated scientific and technological development in India soon after independence. The industrial and green revolution that our country witnessed in the 1950s and 1960s are testimony to the emphasis given to science and technology by our leaders post-independence.
2. Similarly, Pandit Nehru too was to realize that skills in engineering, medicine and science were needed to fuel the development of industry and infrastructure in India. At the time, in spite of its huge natural and human resources, India was a country, struggling with illiteracy, underdevelopment and poor infrastructure. While attending the Convocation of Allahabad University in 1946, he aptly said ‘it was science that can solve the problem of hunger and poverty, of insanitation and malnutrition, of illiteracy and obscurantism of superstition and deadening customs, of rigid traditions and blind beliefs and of vast resources going to waste of a rich country inhabited by starving millions.”
3. Nehru realized that a strong temper in science and mathematics had to be developed in students. It also meant the creation of Institutes to impart technical education to lift the country from underdevelopment and for the efficient management and utilization of our national resources. It is a fitting tribute to him that this exhibition has been named Jawaharlal Nehru National Science, Mathematics and Environment Exhibition.
Dear students and teachers,
4. The National Science, Mathematics and Environment Exhibition is being organized by NCERT in collaboration with the HRDD of the Government of Sikkim to provide an opportunity to school children to show case their scientific talent. It forms a launching pad for many innovative thoughts and discussions. It is a forum for exchange of scientific thoughts and ideas, and the nurturing of young scientific minds.
5. I am informed that the first Science Exhibition was jointly organized under the banner of the National Science Exhibition for Children in 1971, by the NCERT and the University Grants Commission (UGC) at Delhi. From 1972 to 1978, the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund collaborated with the NCERT in its efforts to popularise Science Exhibitions by jointly sponsoring the National and State Level Science Exhibitions. In 1988, with the birth centenary celebration of Jawaharlal Nehru, the National Science Exhibition was renamed as the 'Jawaharlal Nehru National Science Exhibition for Children'. Since this year is being celebrated as the ‘Year of Mathematics’ and as well as, to give more emphasis on environment-related issues, this exhibition is now renamed as ‘Jawaharlal Nehru National Science, Mathematics and Environment Exhibition (JNNSMEE) for Children.’
6. Such exhibitions help to encourage, popularize and inculcate scientific temper among the children of the country, and showcase their talents in science and mathematics. This exhibition provides a forum for children to pursue their natural curiosity and inventiveness. It lays emphasis on them to develop science and technology as a major instrument for achieving goals of self-reliance and socio-economic and socio-ecological development and to open new avenues in the areas of agriculture, fertilizer, food processing, biotechnology, green energy, disaster management, information and communication technology, astronomy, transport, games and sports. It highlights the role of science and technology for producing good quality and environmental friendly materials for the use of society and to create awareness about environmental issues and concerns.
7. Alternately, the exhibition gives an opportunity to listen to some of the eminent scientists and scholars of the region in which the exhibition is organized. Additionally, they w1ould be able to interact with one another and share their views and, in the process, also share the diverse cultures of our country.
8. The theme of this year’s exhibition is “Science and society” . It, therefore, focuses on the need to find solutions to contemporary problems in society. Environmental degradation, climate change, water resource depletion, communication and transportation problems have affected all of humanity and it is imperative to find solutions to these problems. I am confident that our scientific community is capable of tackling such problems through their technological innovations. Events like this national exhibition will promote scientific activity and initiate school children to think about problem solving for social development. Children who have come from other States of the country will get a good exposure to society and nature in this part of the country.
9. I appreciate the role and the efforts of NCERT in the popularization of science by holding such exhibitions in each and every State and Union Territory in the country. It is to the credit of such exhibitions that now India has become a leader in many areas such as in information technology, space applications, biotechnology, medicine and power generation.
Dear Students and teachers,
10. Let us go back to our history. It gives me immense pride to mention that we have been leaders in the study and research in technology and applied sciences as far back as 2600 years ago. Famed institutions such as Taxila (in modern day Pakistan) and Nalanda in Bihar were centers of such learning. These institutions systematically imparted knowledge and attracted even a number of foreign students to study topics such as Vedic and Buddhist literature, logic, grammar, medicine, surgery, mathematics, astronomy and metallurgy. Chanakya, a Brahmin teacher, was among the most famous teachers of Taxila, who is associated with the founding of the Mauryan Empire.
11. In recent times, our Country has done encouraging well in terms of education of our children. As per the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2012, 96.5% of all rural children between the ages of 6-14 were enrolled in school. By the same statistics, 83% of all rural children between 15-16 years were enrolled in schools.
12. With regard to higher and technical education, the AICTE also reported 3495 degree-granting engineering colleges in India with an annual student intake capacity of over 1.76 million with actual enrollment crossing 1.2 million. Total annual intake capacity for technical diplomas and degrees exceeded 3.4 million in 2012. According to the University Grants Commission (UGC) total enrollment in Science, Medicine, Agriculture and Engineering crossed 6.5 million in 2010. The number of women choosing engineering too has more than doubled since 2001.
13. These statistics indicate that the dreams and vision of Pandit Nehru and M Azad are yielding results today.
14. Today, we are also celebrating the birth anniversary of independent India’s first Education Minister Maulana Abul Kalam Azad which is commemorated as National Education Day. Maulana Azad was an eminent visionary, nationalist and educationist. He made valuable contribution to India’s freedom struggle and its human resource development. He was convinced that democracy could not function without eradication of illiteracy. This led him to establish a national education system that emphasized free primary education aimed at improving the literacy level of the masses of newly independent India.
15. Addressing the conference on All India Education in 1948, Maulana Azad stated that “we must not for a moment forget, it is a birth right of every individual to receive at least the basic education without which he cannot fully discharge his duties as a citizen.”
16. The focus of Maulana Azad’s education policy was not just the primary education sector but also higher education. The Indian Institutes of Technology and the University Grants Commission were set up due to his foresight to advance higher education in the country. It is therefore a fitting tribute to this great scholar that his birth anniversary is observed as National Education Day.
17. With strong economic development and attainment of a better fiscal position for the Country, our Government decided to go even further by making education compulsory for the nation’s children and an enforceable right. This is in keeping with the vision and policy of M. Azad.
18. Following several constitutional amendments, especially insertion of Article 21A, the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, was enacted and came into effect on 1st April, 2010. This was a landmark event in the history of modern India.
19. The title itself of the RTE Act incorporates the words ‘free and compulsory’. ‘Free education’ means that no child shall be liable to pay any kind of fee or charges or expenses which may prevent him or her from pursuing and completing elementary education. ‘Compulsory education’ casts an obligation on the appropriate Government and local authorities to provide and ensure admission, attendance and completion of elementary education by all children in the 6-14 age-group. With this, we have moved forward to a rights based framework that casts a legal obligation on the Central and State Governments to implement this fundamental right of a child.
20. The RTE Act makes provisions for a non-admitted child to be admitted to an age appropriate class. It specifies the duties and responsibilities of appropriate Governments, local authority and parents in providing free and compulsory education, and sharing of financial and other responsibilities between the Central and State Governments. It lays down the norms and standards relating to Pupil Teacher Ratios (PTRs), buildings and infrastructure, teacher-working hours and for rational deployment of teachers to ensure that the specified pupil teacher ratio is maintained for each school for the all-round development of the child, building on the child’s knowledge, potentiality and talent through a system of child friendly and child centered learning.
21. I am glad o mention here that, we, in Sikkim have ensured that the RTE Act has been enforced in full letter and spirit. The CM’s Meritorious Scholarship Scheme is a novel scheme where ………. This Scheme seeks to provide opportunities and encourage and help students of rural backgrounds to obtain the education in the best possible schools in the State and the country. I am sure that soon we will be a 100 % literate State. Dear students and teachers,
22. Coming back to the Science exhibition, I am certain that with the exposure that such exhibitions provide to our students, they will be spearheading research and development in the future and work towards finding solutions and technology to improve the lives of our people. I implore on the NCERT and State Governments to continue to cooperate on this noble endeavor to provide encouragement and direction to the inventiveness and genius of our children.
23. I wish the participants of this exhibition all success and fruitful interactions and deliberations.