India has not produced a single Nobel Prize winner in science since Independence because of the lack of a scientific environment in the country. Article 51A (h) of the Constitution says that it shall be the duty of every citizen “to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform.” During the earlier BJP government led by Atal Behari Vajpayee, his minister for Human Resources Development, Murli Manohar Joshi, caused the University Grants Commission to issue a directive to all universities to start a degree course in astrology and offered special grant for the purpose. Belief in astrology is unscientific and irrational but a petition challenging the directive was dismissed by the Supreme Court. There is a plethora of scientific establishments in the country, but they are considered holy cows. One dare not raise any question about them or their activities. There is a Scientific Advisory Council to the Prime Minister and a Scientific Advisory Committee to the Cabinet. What the worthies of these committees have been advising Prime Minister Narendra Modi who claimed that ancient India had jumbo aircraft that flew between continents and planets and practised plastic surgery exemplified by Ganesha having the head of an elephant grafted on human body, is not clear. Notwithstanding his personal beliefs which defy scientific knowledge and rationality, Modi has been pampering the scientific community.

Albert Einstein thought gravitational waves were too weak to detect and did not believe in black holes. However, his theory of general relativity formulated 100 years ago has been proved right now. Within 24 hours of an international team of scientists, including a few from India, working at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) in the USA announcing that it had detected gravitational waves from deep space, the Modi Cabinet sanctioned the setting up of a similar facility in India. Since 2011, a consortium of Indian research institutions has been lobbying to have a LIGO in the country. Such an observatory does not come cheap. It involves a four km long interferometer using laser split into two beams that travel back and forth down the arms made up of four-foot diameter tubes kept under a near perfect vacuum. The beams are used to monitor the distance between mirrors precisely positioned at the ends of the arms. According to Einstein&’s theory, the distance between the mirrors will change by an infinitesimal amount when a gravitational wave caused by colliding black holes passes by the detector. The project will require thousands of acres of land which no State will part with willingly as it does not bring any tangible benefit to the people. The Congress government of Manmohan Singh was loath to fritter away revenue on esoteric research projects of doubtful value to the people. Another such project is the setting up of the underground Indian Neutrino Observatory in Theni district of Tamil Nadu with a 50,000-tonne magnetised iron, bogged down in controversy. The only rational justification any scientist could offer for this white elephant is that China has two neutrino observatories!