Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday said transformation of the agricultural sector should be the top priority of the country's public policies including those on science and technology. Singh also said that complex issues related to genetically modified food, nuclear energy or the exploration of outer space cannot be settled by faith, emotion and fear, but by a structured debate.
"Nearly 65% of our people live in rural areas. The 12th Five Year Plan assumes that a sustained growth in agriculture at the rate of 4% per annum is essential to achieve food security," Singh told the centenary session of Indian Science Congress here.
"This transformation of the agriculture sector must be the top priority concern of our public policies, including science and technology policies," Singh said. Noting growth was constrained by shortage of water and land, he said, "We need new breakthroughs in water-saving technologies in cultivation, enhancement of land productivity and development of climate-resilient varieties".
Releasing the country's Science, Technology and Innovation Policy 2013, the prime minister said, "India aspires to be among the top five global scientific powers by 2020". He said development in science and technology had been central to the phenomenal material advancement and efficiency in the use of resources. "As India seeks a sustained growth in national income, we must endeavour to harness the tools of science and technology to cater to the needs of the underprivileged and to bridge the gap between have and have-nots," Singh added.
The prime minister also called upon the younger generation to adopt science-based value system in order to benefit from what the discipline could offer. "Complex issues, be they be genetically modified food or nuclear energy or the exploration of outer space, cannot be settled by faith, emotion and fear, but by structured debate, analysis and enlightenment, he observed.
"A scientific approach and understanding of these issues are, therefore, as vital as our core scientific capabilities," he added.
Talking about the new policy, Singh said the goal is to produce and nurture talent in science, to stimulate research and develop young leaders in science and to create an environment for greater private sector cooperation in research and innovation.
"The 12th plan, which was approved by the National Development Council (NDC) a few days ago, outlines a number of initiatives which will make this possible," he said.
Besides agriculture, he said the areas of equal concerns were energy security, sanitation and provision of safe drinking water. He also said that international collaboration was vital for increasingly resource-intensive modern science to progress.
The congress was inaugurated by President Pranab Mukherjee in the presence of West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, science and technology minister S Jaipal Reddy, West Bengal governor and a host of nobel laureates and scientists.