'Some intolerance is there in society. Fortunately, a majority of Indians are tolerant.'
Eminent scientist and Bharat Ratna awardee Professor C N R Rao, below, left, speaks to Pallava Bagla/PTI on the prime minister's science policy, religion, intolerance and Mother Teresa's sainthood.
Do you think Prime Minister Narendra Modi has a good vision for science?
He is definitely a man with vision. There is no question that he wants to do something. We hope he will use good advice and all the wonderful ideas he has. He is obviously a doer when you listen to him. There is nothing wrong in what he says.
What he says is perfect. Except that, we have to do many of those things.
You have been the advisor to several prime ministers. The Scientific Advisory Council to the prime minister is currently defunct. Do you think the prime minister is getting the right scientific advice?
Well, I do hope our prime minister will find the right people for the right advice because no one person or no one ministry can handle the large problems of either science or society.
Using science, we have to solve pressing problems of poverty while competing with the rest of the world. One also has to do frontier blue-sky research.
If all these things India has to do, then PM Modi needs to know what the priorities are, how do we proceed and what do we work on.
I do hope he will get the right advice and get some kind of a group of people to advise him, I do hope and pray that he will do that.
How can the prime minister help support more science?
Modi should help good institutions with minimum funds that will not denude them from the basic effort that is going on. Small amounts of funds -- Rs 10 crore to Rs 20 crore (Rs 100 million to Rs 200 million) were cut off in the past.
Modi should also fund simple small science in a big way, such as for diseases, for new energy technologies and new advanced materials.
Selective but major funding is required. In my own life most of the good funding I had was from somewhere else where, not from India. It is very unfair that India has not done that.
Modi should employ mission mode for some areas. Long ago we had mission mode for technology solutions, like better quality seeds, safe drinking water, like mission for eradicating illiteracy, like getting rid of malaria.
Mission mode projects are what Modi should start. India needs 5, 6 major missions that will help the poor people of India and society as a whole.
What can you tell us that will make young people embrace science?
Science is the foundation of all societies -- particularly India where we have so many problems to solve and so much to look forward too.
I think without science and higher education as a base I do not see how India can become a leader in the world.
India has to use science.
You are a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. There is this recent issue of Mother Teresa being made into a saint. How do you justify miracles and science and what do you tell the Pope about it?
The Pontifical Academy has nothing to do with the Pope in this way. The Pope deals with the church and the church has made her a saint. The Pontifical Academy does not deal with saints.
Do you believe in miracles?
No, I do not believe in miracles. One in thing general I will tell you, in India there is confusion between religion, faith, superstition and science. Faith everybody should have, one thing or the other, like in science you must have faith in the laws of physics.
Faith is something everybody should have. If somebody has faith in philosophy or God, I have nothing against it. However, it should not give rise to superstition. Even Einstein said nobody could be without faith.
Religion also you can have, any religion, but do not mix it up with other things in life. Faith has nothing to do with believing in things that cannot happen against the laws of physics.
So you are saying religion and science should not be mixed up?
No, they should not be mixed up. India is a study in contrasts, find your own balance. If you go to any extreme and become a radical and become against everything, they also (become) terribly intolerant. One needs a balance in dealing with these things.
So do you think India is becoming intolerant?
No, India is not becoming intolerant. (Some) intolerance is there in society. Fortunately, a majority of Indians are tolerant.
IMAGE: Prime Minister at the Indian Science Congress, 2015.