• New Delhi
  • 10 February 2014
  • Features
  • By Rahul Koul

Mute to Biotech Agenda!

Political parties in India hardly seem to be aware about the importance of scientific endeavours in health and technology for nation building. No surprises when BioSpectrum found out that only few were forthcoming to talk about their agenda for this

mute

With elections round the corner, all the political parties have geared up for campaigns and electioneering to woo their voters. However, apart from the popular and ideological issues, the focus on science is limited and health or life sciences is even far too negligible. The reason most apparently is that it may not fetch enough votes on ground. Blame it on the lack of awareness on such issues or the absence of a strong voice, the other issues have overshadowed the importance.

We tried to contact political parties for their comments and learnt the hard way that science is not as important as other issues. Busy with drafting their respective manifestos, the party bigwigs chose not to answer our calls, mails and even tweets. However, finally we
managed to speak to lower rung leaders in few key parties. Closer look at the political parties manifesto in 2009 and we come to know that the health, energy and agriculture are very important to them but not the means. There is a contradiction in how the policies they adopt
will then be able to fulfil the promises they made. Till now no party has released its party manifesto 2014 officially as their respective election committees are working on the final drafts. A Delhi based political analyst told BioSpectrum that though the times have changed
for good but the ways of electioneering continue to be the same. The issues such as this will take much longer time. A closer look at the party manifestos also confirms that as well.

Dr P M Murali, president Association of Biotechnology Led Enterprises (ABLE) too agrees with the analysis. He says, "I think people understand health. There is always something in their manifesto. But lot do not understand research that goes into this sector. So I would say that this is more ignorance than indifference."

"If IT (information technology) is India today then BT (biotechnology) is bharat tomorrow," was the famous quote from the former prime minister and Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) leader, Atal Bihari Vajpayee. In its 2009 manifesto, the party talks about leveraging technologies
such as information technology, biotechnology Quoting the same, "Indian advancements in astronomy, mathematics, chemistry, physics and biological sciences have been documented and recognised all over the world. Contributions in the field of medicine and surgery are also well known. Ayurveda and Yoga are the best gifts from India to the world in creating a healthy civilisation. There will be special emphasis on developing renewal energy sources, especially solar energy, wind energy and run-on-the-river technology, and bio-fuel." A BJP spokesperson mentioned that the party feels that no genetically modified seed must be allowed for cultivation without full scientific data on long-term effects on soil, production and biological impact on consumers.

The Congress party representative handed over its 2009 manifesto that talks more on the health schemes such as the National Rural Health Mission to improve the quality and accessibility of primary health care. There is requirement for increased funding in healthcare and agriculture. Apart from that the preservation of bio-resources to ensure their sustainable use and promotion of agricultural technologies. Many politicians from the party who have supported the BRAI bill include former science and technology minister, Mr Prithvi Raj Chavan. Also, Mr Manish Tewari, former spokesperson, ruling party, had told BioSpectrum, "Let the scientific matters be decided by the scientists and not get caught in the administrative and political non-decisiveness."

 

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