India’s largest science event kicks off Tuesday

Bhubaneswar, Jan 2 (IANS) More than 15,000 delegates including scientists and students, talks by Nobel laureates and sessions on innovation, technology and research — all these and more are on the cards at the five-day 99th Indian Science Congress (ISC) which will be inaugurated here by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Tuesday.

The venue Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology (KIIT University) has been decked up for the event, with the organisers erecting a big entrance gate with a Konark chariot wheel atop.

The road through which the prime minister will pass on his way to the venue has been beautifully decorated with large welcome hoardings and colourful banners and posters on both sides.

‘More than 11,000 delegates have already arrived. By this evening, the number is likely to cross 15,000,’ Achyuta Samanta, chief patron of the 99th ISC and founder of KIIT University, told IANS Monday.

Odisha last played host to the event 34 years ago, when it was held at Utkal University campus here, though on a much smaller scale.

Internationally acclaimed sand artist Sudarsan Pattnaik has created a four-foot high sand sculpture of the prime minister on the beach of his home city Puri to greet him on the occasion.

The Congress party too has put up banners and hoardings at various places of the state capital to welcome Manmohan Singh.

Established on the lines of the British Conference on the Advancement of Science, the first science congress in the country was held in January 1914 at the Asiatic Society in Calcutta (now Kolkata) with 150 scientists from India and abroad.

This year’s edition will witness participation from some of the brightest minds in the science world, including Nobel laureates like Rolf M. Zinkernagel, Kurt Wuthrich and Richard R. Ernst.

The five-day event will see technical sessions, plenary sessions, vision talks, panel discussions, public lectures, a ‘Pride of India’ expo and other programmes.

The focal theme of the Congress this year is ‘Science and Technology for Inclusive Innovation – Role of Women’.

In line with this, the Congress will be headed by Geetha Bali, vice chancellor Karnataka State Women’s University, Bijapur.

Bali will be the fourth woman in the history of ISC to head the Congress. The last time was in 1999 when the meet was held in Chennai with distinguished biologist Manju Sharma presiding.

The Women’s Science Congress will be inaugurated by Indian ambassador to the US Nirupama Rao Thursday. Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit will also take part in the event.

Like the previous editions of the event, there will also be a Children’s Science Congress, where school children from different parts of India would display models and charts prepared by them.

The children’s event will be inaugurated Wednesday by former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

Besides the emphasis on women and children, the other issue in focus at the Congress would be missiles. India’s premier military weapons developer, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), will display models of the Agni, Prithvi, Nag, Akash, BrahMos and Astra missiles.

‘We expect a gathering of around 20,000 every day,’ an organiser said.

Another major attraction will be presentation of the prestigious UNESCO Kalinga Prize.

The prime minister will present the prize to eminent Mexican scientist Rene Raul Drucker for his contribution to popularising science.

The prize was established in 1951 by UNESCO with a generous grant from former Odisha chief minister late Biju Patnaik. The first Kalinga prize was awarded in 1952 to French physicist Louis de Brogile.

The KIIT and the National Institute of Science Education and Research (NISER) are jointly hosting the current ISC.