The mega Hindu religious fair Kumbh is proving to be quite a revelation for a group of researchers and surveyors from Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
Here to conduct a survey on a cross-section of pilgrims to measure public understanding of science, scientific attitudes, knowledge, myths and superstitions, this group, which is still collecting data, says Indians don't believe in ghosts anymore and superstitions have reduced across the board, a reflection of changing India.
“Not only they have good awareness of HIV/AIDS but also there is a growing acceptance of AIDS patients,” says Gauhar Raza, chief scientist of CSIR's National Institute of Scientific Communication and Information Resources (NISCAIR), Delhi.
“Also, Indians have higher knowledge quotient on agriculture than westerners or Chinese,” insists Raza, who is leading the team of six scientists and 70 enumerators.
The survey, being conducted on sample size of 5,000 pilgrims, also establishes that Indians have less knowledge on topics like nuclear technology and biotechnology.
Interestingly, it is not for the first time that such a survey is being carried out at Kumbh. “It’s a serial survey being done since 1989,” says Raza who has been leading the survey team since 1989. “The idea behind the project is to keep assessing how Indians scientific tempers have been changing within its own population and also in comparison with the people in other countries,” Raza explains the rationale behind the exercise.
CSIR project in collaboration with Department of Science and Technology (DST) chose Kumbh as a survey site because nowhere else in the country can one find this multitude of population and cross sections. “If we have to survey this kind of cross section and in this number anywhere outside Kumbh, then perhaps we would need a lot of money, resources and efforts,” adds Raza.
The team would draw up detail database out of the survey later for presentations, research papers, and comparative study of Indians over the year as well as with populations abroad. “Last year, we presented a report drawn out of previous Kumbhs at an international conference in France. We have found that over the years, Indians have attained better knowledge of agriculture science than their western or oriental counterparts and now are at par with them in areas like cosmology, astronomy or geography,” said Raza on phone from Allahabad.