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India: March for Science 2018 - Call for protest in Delhi on 14 April and Charter of Demands

Tuesday 10 April 2018, by siawi3

Source: http://sacw.net/article13715.html

India: March for Science 2018 - Call for protest in Delhi on 14 April and Charter of Demands

9 April 2018

STAND UP FOR SCIENCE.
STAND UP FOR RATIONAL THOUGHT.
STAND UP FOR YOUR RIGHT TO THINK.

India has been witnessing attacks on scientific and rational thought in recent times, as well as massive cuts in government spending on education and research. Apart from slashing down resources for research, the current regime has actively been promoting unscientific ideas with ministers publicly denying the theory of evolution, promoting mythology instead of facts, and ministries officially funding pseudoscientific ideas. The government has also been aggressively attacking dissenting voices and rationalists.

A similar pattern is being seen across the world. In the wake of these attacks, an International March for Science is being organised in numerous countries, with India being an enthusiastic participant.

To voice our discontent with this government’s hardline stance against science, the Delhi organising committee of the March for Science calls all individuals and students, teachers, activists, political groups and bodies to join the protest.

Date: 14th April, 2018
Time: 3:30 PM
Route: Mandi House to Parliament Street

Join us and stand up for your right to think and question

o o o

Full Text of Charter of Demands

March for Science 2018 — India

Last year, an international March for Science was organized in the wake of widespread attacks on science and science institutions in numerous countries. In the US President Trump proclaimed climate change a hoax and banned use of the term in official documents and websites. He also slashed funding for science and environmental agencies and research. Other countries have also been witnessing cuts in government funding for science research and education. The call for a Global March for Science in 2017 therefore received overwhelming support across the world, with marches being organized in more than 600 centres worldwide. In protest against the attack on science and science institutions in India, last year the Indian scientific community had organised a March for Science on 9th August.
Since these attacks on science and scientific institutions still continue, an international call has been issued to March for Science again this year on 14th April 2018. The All India Peoples Science Network has resolved to join this Global March for Science.

The AIPSN sees a pattern in the attacks on science and reason across the world. US President Trump’s denial of climate science, and the current Indian central government Ministers’ rejection of evolution and other scientific advances, are examples of anti-science and obscurantist outlook being fostered by parties in power. Such obscurantism and attacks on reason in India have also fostered a climate of hate and violence, culminating in the assassination of rationalists.

AIPSN believes that the scientific community, and all people believing in science and reason, must unitedly resist such attacks. The AIPSN calls on all right thinking people to also oppose the attacks on scientific and educational institutions, not just on funding cuts, but also on their democratic functioning.

April 14th, the date of the Global March, is also Ambedkar Jayanti. The AIPSN calls on the scientific community to fight all forms of discrimination in the work place, particularly caste and gender discrimination. A Rohit Vemula should not again be denied his dream of reaching the stars due to the "fatal accident of his birth".

Promoting Obscurantism and Attacking Rationalists

The current governing and affiliated forces, including Ministers and other political leaders, are promoting obscurantist beliefs and pseudo-science, and citing myths as history, claiming fictional achievements as ancient, uniquely Indian science, including at the Indian Science Congresses. The numerous genuine scientific achievements by ancient Indian thinkers and technical practitioners are left out in this narrative as is also the history of sharing of knowledge – both inward and outward – with other cultures as part of the universal heritage of science. What is also left out in this obscurantist narrative is the exclusions of “lower” castes of the people, who were actively involved in the development of crafts, technologies and productive forces.

School textbooks are being rewritten and so-called “research” to “prove” pseudo-scientific claims are being officially funded and conducted under the aegis of government research institutions. Such forces even attack scientists, historians and other academics, who question pseudo-science and pseudo-history, labelling them as pro-Western or anti-national.

This anti-science and anti-rational atmosphere whipped up by the obscurantist and extremist forces with official support has generated a climate of violence resulting in the murders of rationalists and independent thinkers and activists Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, M.M.Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh. All this not only undermines the Constitutional obligation to promote a scientific temper but also serves to suppress critical thinking in schools, colleges/universities and in society at large, severely undermining the advancement of India in the contemporary world.

Attack on Scientific Institutions and Denial of Resources

Budgetary support from the Central Government for research in and use of S&T has continued its declining trend in India since the advent of the neo-liberal economic policy paradigm. The latest budget of 2018 continues this trend. The allocation for S&T now remains at around 0.8% of the gross domestic product (GDP), stagnant for over a decade, compared to well over 2% of GDP in China with a double-digit annual GDP growth.

Today, publicly funded R&D organizations in India are compelled to raise resources from private industry and foreign agencies. The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) network of 40 laboratories, has been forced to accept the so-called Dehradun Declaration to move towards self-financing by earning 50% of its budget from the market rather than government funding. Consequently, with the Indian corporate sector content with importing technologies or being junior partners of foreign collaborators, and highly reluctant to spend on R&D despite a plethora of incentives, publicly funded laboratories have been restricted to salary budgets leaving little for equipment, field experiments and materials. The same condition prevails in Institutes of national importance such as IITs, IISERs etc. The social sciences have suffered equally.

The same neoliberal policies are reflected in school education, with the central and various governments cutting down on primary and secondary education, and promoting private schools. This paves the way for reserving quality education only for the rich and the elite.

Autonomy of S&T institutions and institutions of higher learning are being steadily and seriously eroded. The scientific community is receiving recommendations from obscurantist and backward-looking organizations for appointments of affiliated individuals as Directors and Vice-chancellors whose academic credentials are dubious. There is an Emergency-like atmosphere on University campuses, with academic and intellectual freedoms being severely curtailed, while independent thinking, articulation of views on societal issues, and diverse cultural practices not deemed to be in conformity with a particular, supposedly majoritarian, perspective being throttled.

India needs to invest far more in science and technology research, as well as in its capabilities and human resources in these areas of knowledge and skills, so as to promote its development. The more India falls behind now, the more difficult it will be to catch up and prevent this country becoming subservient to others. Such advancement in S&T is impossible without combating obscurantism and blind belief in received wisdom whether from religious or traditional cultural roots, or without cultivating critical thinking among the Indian people, from school through higher education and in the wider society. March for Science 2018 – India stands for these demands and pledges to strive for their fulfilment. In the knowledge age, advancement in science, technology and innovation will be crucial determinants of economic growth, societal progress and self-reliant development.

AIPSN has resolved that it will join hands with all organisations willing to participate on the Global March for Science, and hold joint rallies in various cities/towns in the country. It also appeals to the scientific community, progressive organisations and all right thinking people to join such rallies on
14th April 2018.

Demands:

Stop the attacks on science and reason, and spreading obscurantist values through the use of public institutions.
Bring to book the murderers of Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, M.M.Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh
Increase the spending on Education (school and higher education) to 6% of the GDP.
Increase R&D spending in science to 3 % of the GDP.