Report on the Open House Discussions -1

Are The Congress Activities Questionable?

On 30.11.93, an open discussion took place in Hostel 8 of HT.Powai among the (IT students (I.S.) and some Congress delegates (CD.) on the issue of the justification of the Congress activities. K.Subramaniam, Department of Theoretical Physics, University of Madras gives a firsthand account of the discussion.

Question (Q). What is the justification for spending Rs.35 lakhs on this Congress?

Response (R). The money spent on the Congress is always justifiable because: a) The Congress provides a brilliant opportunity for the modem scientists and the traditional scientists to interact and explore the areas of common interest. This is because most of the modern scientists are not familiar with several traditional scientific activities. This Congress, as a matter of fact, puts the cart before the horse and the modem scientists are supposed to connect the one with the. b) In the era of 'the green peace movement to protect the environment and financial stress this is quite relevant that we pay due attention to the traditional sciences and improve them further. All the more, this Congress is committed to highlight the relevance of the traditional sciences by way of producing monographs/reports and so on. Furthermore, the Congress/conferences on 'modern sciences' are somewhat regular features, yet, the Congress on Traditional Sciences is the first of its kind in the history of congresses on Indian Science.

Q. What purpose is being served by organizing such a Congress in which we look back to the age-old traditions?

R: The very fact that such a question - why do we look back to our age old traditions - when comes into the minds of students of IIT can suggest that they have started thinking about the Congress. This can and will always suggest the IIT students are now being aware of the traditional sciences. There lies the justification for holding such a Congress. Further, the very fact that someone from IIT has shown how the waste food can be converted into a green garden will always highlight that the traditional sciences are still quite relevant to the modem context.

Q. Why do you call this Congress as CTSTI instead of Congress on Traditional Methods?

R. Science and Technology is creativity, applicability, and distribution. We have had
certain practices created at a point of time, applicable to a group of people which
have distributed and served the purpose of satisfying their needs. You may call it the
way you like it.

Q. What is the use of studying such a traditional science?

R: Well, today we find that modern technologies are not able to satisfy our needs. This also promises to be a threat in the near future. We, as the students of science should understand the science behind the technology irrespective of its modernity or traditionalist. For example, when we manufacture microchips we follow a set of thumb rules even today and the rationale behind it is yet to be worked out.

Q. Do you think that we do not understand the science behind the traditional

R: The term science should not be conceived in a narrow sense. Science tries to create models. These could be served as models for the same thing the debate is which model is more appropriate at a particular point of time and situation. To arrive at a compatible model is also a part of science and is one of the motivations behind the Congress. This Congress sets the pointer to search that compatible model.

Report on the Open House Discussions - II

Brain Storming Session on Future Directions

Late in the evening of December 01, 1993 an informal session was organized to get the participants views about the future directions of (1) the structure of the Congress and (2) the tangible effects flowing out of this Congress. Though it was meant to be a "brain storming session" this effect could not be captured during the session which started at about 9pm. largely due to the venue at which the session was held - a formal Lecture Theatre. This context of the session led various participants to go up the dais and present whatever their understanding of the improvements they thought ought to be carried on, with very little discussions on those views. One of the participants even saw the banality of the session when he rendered a song instead of airing his views.

On the whole about twenty five participants aired their views / suggestions. Most of the suggestions centered around the format of the future Congresses' - a lot many of them suggested organizing spectral themes during separate days at separate colleges / places participants in vernacular media. Prof.C.V.Seshadri's comment on this suggestion was to limit this thinking of 'separating the issues' so that the traditional sciences and technologies discourses do not fall prey to reductionism that 6 the half mark of the Western Science. There were some suggestions to reduce the number of days of the future Congresses, and then such occasions should encourage young participants by way of subsidizing the registration fee for such categories e.g. College students or NGO groups. Many participants suggested introduction of concepts and theories relating to traditional sciences and technologies in the cumcula at all levels of education, through the -production of 'capsule versions' of these and passing them over to agencies like NCERT etc. There was one suggestion that the 'researchable problems' in these areas should be assigned by the guides to Ph.D. students. Some participants suggested technological assessments of the traditional technologies, - on their socioeconomic implications and their cost effectiveness etc. This line of thinking was extended by one participant who wanted the debate on the desired forms of society' that we seek to build to be reopened in the light of new findings in traditional technologies. There was a plea that critical studies and analyses be undertaken to study the efficacy of the traditional technologies. There was a lone voice suggesting more consultations and participation with S&T related social movements and groups such as Tamilnadu Science Forum etc.

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