Write a note on the People’s Science Movement.
Activities of PSMs
The PSM activities can be broadly classified into four categories:
- a) Science and Communication: Science communication is the basis for the movement in several States. It involves science teachers, working scientists and the science-qualified middle class and students. The activities include science publications, popular science lectures, street plays and school science activities. Cultural forms or communication are extensively used in the Kala Jathas. One of the sustained activities of Haryana Vigyan Manch has been its campaign against superstitions and myths. For children, in particular, science popularisation by the PSM organisations has been through children’s science festivals, children’s science projects, and quiz contests, science tours and publication of children’s science books. An annual Children’s Science Congress is held shortly before the Annual Indian Science Congress and winners in the former participate in certain special fora of the latter. Besides, innovative science teaching methods are also propagated by some of the PSM groups. Some of the well-know publications of these groups include CHAKMAK (for children), Srote and Sandarbh (for teachers) brought out by Eklavya; Thulir (in Tamil) and Jantar Mantar (in English) brought out by the Tamil Nadu Science Forum (TNSF). Many of the PSM groups have won national awards for excellence in science communication. These include the Haryana Vigyan Manch, the Pondicherry Science Forum, the TNSF, the Karnataka Rajya Vigyan Parisha, the Madhya Pradesh Vigyan Sabha, Srujanika, the Assam Science Society, the Paschim Banga Vigyan Manch and the KSSP.
- b) Policy Critiques: The forum of PSM allows scientists and professionals to critically evaluate state policies, not just science and technology and research and development policies. They should point out the inadequacies of such policies and propose alternatives. The idea behind this is to provide a critical understanding of the developmental policies, which would empower people’s organisations to intervene in decision-making. Sustained interventions in the area of science and technology policy and management are required if people-oriented science-society linkages are to emerge. PSM groups have periodically intervened in this direction through advocacy and campaigns. The PSM studies and articulated positions have played a significant role in nationally debated issues like nuclear disarmament, patent laws and intellectual property rights (IPRs), health and drug policies, energy and environment policies, reforms in the telecommunication and power sectors, panchayats and other decentralisation policies.
- c) Development interventions: This has been a major component of the PSMs initiatives through mass campaigns and discussions. By developing pilot models in literacy, health, agriculture, credit cooperatives, watershed development, local/panchayat level planning programmes, promotion of small enterprises and their networking, PSM groups have been able to intervene effectively in the decision-making process in several instances. These campaigns serve the purpose of people’s resistance to unfair policies and highlight their demand for appropriate alternatives.
- d) Technology Development: PSM groups have engaged in developing and encouraging people-centered technologies that are less capital intensive and empower a large number of people, workers, craftspersons and artisans. Some examples of such initiatives are: wireless in local loop for telecommunications, the computer and village information software, biomass as replacement for cement/concrete in civil constructions, windmills and biomass based energy systems, non-chemical inputs to boost agricultural productivity, improved small-scale mechanised looms, small-scale oil presses and other food processing units, and mechanized blacksmithy.
A people’s movement aimed at ultimately reordering our society on rational, scientific lines requires the growth of the scientific attitude among the people. A major challenge is to fight superstition, myths, obscurantism, communalism, fatalism, etc., as they are deeply entrenched in the social fabric. At the same time, a mere rejection of these forces without understanding the socioeconomic compulsions would be improper. Faced with such a dilemma in the Indian context, PSM has to steer an alternative course for progressive social transformation. It has to combine the best elements in one’s tradition and the accumulated fund of human knowledge the world over. What is to be rejected is neither “tradition” nor “modernity” but all those elements which stand in the way of human progress towards a more civilised form of social life.