TIFAC, the Past, Present & future
TIFAC DAY TALK
delivered by Y S Rajan on 10/2/09
Thank you Sangeeta.
Dear Dr Chidambaram, Dr Banerjee, Senior persons present here, my dear former colleagues from TIFAC, DST and other departments of Govt., recent new entrants to TIFAC, from many of whom would have been toddlers or in primary school when TIFAC was born, my thanks to all of you for giving me an sincere thanks to all of you for giving me an opportunity to share my thoughts on TIFAC Day. I have been given a challenging title of talk by Soumitra Biswas. So I condense my statements on all the three elements.
By and large, the broad Nehruvian vision of science, its applications and their impact, used the word â€˜Scienceâ€™ in a broader philosophical context. It encompassed science, technology, industrial use of knowledge, scientific approach to problems of life, economy, and society (also described as scientific temper by some). However, the use of the word â€˜Scienceâ€™ got into narrow channels and led to the neglect of other aspects which Nehru meant.
Thus going back to 60 years, post-independent India in actual practice, gave little attention to TECHNOLOGY per se except for the full formation of two mission agencies for Atomic Energy and Space. These agencies suitably intertwined science and technology; they also oriented most of basic research to the overall mission objectives. They also used pragmatism vis-a-vis foreign knowledge bases. Indian Agricultural research had only a few years of such hopeful orientation. Defence research had a mixed approach towards goals and hence has mixed results. CSIRâ€™s approach to science and industrial technologies, having a few shining examples, had been confusing between science and technology.
It is at this context TIFAC was born. The Technology was defined in its Socio-Economic-Political context by the later PM Rajiv Gandhi.
The Prime Minister (Shri Rajiv Gandhi) : If I may add a little bit to that because it is on the policy. What has happened in the past that we have tried to develop everything right across the board from small components to large finished units, and invariably we have logged behind what is happening in the world. Except for very few areas, we have not been able to keep up with the frontline technology. And as we go further, technology is advancing very, very rapidly and it is going to be more difficult for us to keep up this race. What happens is this. First we want to buy something. They do not sell it to us. You cannot buy it â€¦.. So, we try to develop it. The minute we develop it and we are on the verge of getting into production, they suddenly say, â€˜You can buy itâ€™. Then our own development cost is wasted. Our production costs are higher because it is a new development and they have been making it for some years. So, it frustrates our own process. We must identify certain, what we are going to call â€˜mission areasâ€™ and thrust along those areas. We want to improve the technology. When we talk of technology, I am talking on a broader concept, not only of electronics but we might want to improve, for example, the seed of rice, we might want to improve fertilizer, we might want to improve something else; and we concentrate on these â€˜mission areasâ€™ so that ten years from now, we are the most advanced country in that area irrespective of anything else. Because we will have to concentrate along these lines, we will have to reduce our efforts on some of the other lines. This is the basic change. I thought I would just explain that.
Source: Verbatim of debate in the Lok Sabha on May 15, 1985 following Starred Question No. 855
Thus, TIFAC during the earlier years had to deal with LAGGARDS, FOLLOWERS and a few of the LEADERS in terms of Institutions and Industries in India.
Without getting into various details, TIFACâ€™s role has been one of KNOWLEDGE INTERMEDIATION in institutions all over India. It spanned from a small agriculturist to a fisher woman to small industries to medium and larger ones as well as academic institutions all over India; some from abroad too. CII is another type of GLOBAL KNOWLEDGE NETWORK assiduously built up by Mr Tarun Das over decades especially speedily since 1985, in many knowledge skill intensive areas like Quality, Energy, Environment, Technology, Global Trends etc. No wonder CII and TIFAC built up several synergies as they have done with others. It is gratifying to note that many persons fondly remember their initiation to Technology Paths by TIFAC, when I travel nowadays to different parts of interior India, in totally different contexts. The key features of TIFAC were :
Daring to experiment
Entered into all areas â€“ nothing left out
Nucleated major initiatives like PFC, PSAâ€™s office, Missions etc which are doing well now.
You all know it. You are considering new dimensions and new paths under the guidance aof Dr R Chadambaram. I donâ€™t have to say much. Probably there are several healthy aspects in introspection and analyses. I would however like to remind about a Chinese proverb : â€œThose who thought too long before making any next step, will remain all their lives on one foot.â€
It is with this, in the background, I will say a few words for future. There is no doubt about the need and role of KNOWLEDGE INTERMEDIATION agencies. Many more TIFAC like agencies are required. Not only the TIFAC â€“ COREâ€™s, PFC, PICâ€™s etc but many more new knowledge/skill nucleating centres are required to help the process of India moving out of the merely â€˜follower typeâ€™ approach to R&D and industrial use of technologically know-how and become â€˜leaderâ€™ in a few select areas in terms of new global businesses, products and services. It requires different type of Knowledge Intermediation Skills and institutional mechanisms even while consolidating and expanding upon the earlier mechanisms.
Such a new phase Knowledge Intermediation would require much greater contacts at a global industrial level. See what is happening to our major Pharma companies. Ranbaxy in the recent past and news about Piramal. Is it possible to foresee them earlier to intermediate supportive actions? What about taking a lead in 4G telecom systems with some India invented technologies? Also buying of IPRâ€™s for advanced renewable technology in the global markets and build industries around them? What about mastering the sea-route-safety technologies given our strengths in satellite communications and surveillances? What about various aspects of medium and high tech Waste Recycling technologies.
And also to work on India specific problems of rural access, water availability on a large scale, massive healthcare system and all inclusive educations systems ?
â€¦â€¦many more options will be available for those who dare take creative steps and even leaps â€¦..
I wish you all a great future.
And I thank the organizers and Dr R Chidambaram for giving me an opportunity to talk on the day when TIFAC has become a major, 21 years of its existence.