Indian Science Congress postponed

M Somasekhar Hyderabad | Updated on January 09, 2018

Osmania University, the host, cited disturbances on campus for its inability to hold the event

In a twin jolt, the 105th Indian Science Congress session slated to be opened by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 3, 2018, at Osmania University stands postponed.

The postponement comes as a jolt for the University celebrating its centenary, as it will be a failure and lost opportunity to hold such a prestigious event. For the Indian Science Congress Association (ISCA), the main organisers, this is a setback, as its exceptionally rare that such a thing has happened.

Traditionally, the Science Congress is the first big event in the Prime Minister's calendar, where expectations of a policy announcement and directions for scientific research are indicated. The dates have been January 3-7 all along.

The General President of the 105th Congress Session at Hyderabad, Achyuta K Samanta, who is also the Head of the Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology, Odisha said “the Vice-Chancellor of the host Osmania University had expressed in writing his inability to assure holding the event in view of the prevailing, continuos disturbances on campus”.

There was confusion about finalising the venue for the inaugural — the campus or the HICC in the Cyberabad area. With just two weeks left and the task of holding a mammoth meeting with an expected 20,000 participants not firmed up, a decision to postpone was taken Samanta told BusinessLine.

The ISCA Executive Committee will now meet on December 27 in Kolkata to take stock of the developments and decide on the future course, he said. Incidentally, one of the few occasions when dates have been postponed in recent times was the 101st session in Jammu, which was held during Feb 3-7, 2014, predominantly because of the cold climate in January.

Osmania University, one of the oldest universities in the country, which has hosted the Congress on three earlier occasions, has been in the thick of action with a suicide, protests over jobs, reservations and even the rights of adivasis and lambdas in recent weeks.

However, the University organising committee has maintained that they were firming up schedules to hold the sessions in the campus and finalise the inaugural venue when this unexpected decision was taken. A detailed review meeting was also held on Wednesday. The ISCA teams have also been working closely over the past two months and Samanta said he came over a dozen times to firm up plans.

Indications of a postponement have been rife since Wednesday evening in Delhi with the Department of Science and Technology, the main funding body for the Congress, withdrawing participation by asking officials to cancel tickets. Further, the Telangana State security officials who were monitoring the on-campus developments, also did not paint an optimistic picture.

It is common knowledge that the university students resent Chief Minister, K Chandrasekhara Rao’s visit and the prospects of protest were high with his presence at the inaugural with PM. Even at the centenary celebrations launch by then President Pranab Mukherjee, it was a last minute understanding which kept the students silent. After the brief one hour event, some protests were witnessed as soon as the CM left the venue.

According to the ISCA executives, the Congress Session can still be held at a fresh venue before March 31. Though the normal practice is to decide the host a year in advance, Osmania University was chosen because of the milestone it is celebrating this year.

The theme of the Science Congress is 'Reaching the unreached through Science & Technology'. Nine Nobel laureates, including Ada Yonath (Israel), Hiroshi Amano (Japan), Erwin Neher (Germany), Rolf Zinkernagel (Switzerland), John Walker (UK),. Richard Robert (USA), Jean Marie Lehn (France), Hartmut Michel (Germany), and Gerd Binnig (Germany), were expected to take part in the Congress.

Published on December 21, 2017

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