Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Tuesday urged the scientific community to work towards creating synergy between basic and applied science and utilise research to "best advantage of our national effort" to better people's lives.
"I believe where there is good science, good applications follow. It is fundamental chemistry that gave us catalysts, polymers and semiconductors. It is good biology that can give us green revolution and the hepatitis vaccine," Singh said after laying the foundation stone of the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) at the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics.
The prime minister, who landed in the city on Tuesday morning and flies back to Delhi late afternoon, said: "The debate is what our priority should be - whether it should be basic or applied science. I think the answer is both. We need to have both basic and applied science and the ability to utilise them to the best advantage of our national effort."
"It will be our endeavour to promote good science and useful applications will emerge from it. Our ideas in setting up this institution (IISER) in West Bengal and two similar ones along the lines of the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore are to facilitate renewed resurgence in Indian science," he said.
Quoting copiously from Jawaharlal Nehru, Singh recalled that the first prime minister had said the future belongs to science.
"In keeping with Nehru's prophetic vision, our policy was of walking in the pursuit of excellence in world class science while at the same time underlining the role of science and technology in addressing the pressing simple and daily needs of the common man."
Stressing on the need for a new synergy between the university system and research institutions, the prime minister said, "One of the weaknesses of the Indian scientific system, which has evolved in these years, has been the increasing difference between teaching and research; universities teach sometimes indifferently, national laboratories do research.
"This dichotomy must end. Moreover, with increasing investment by industry in research, the link between teaching and research must be strengthened. We are committed to rebuilding our science base in universities..."
He exhorted states to walk on the path of private-public partnership wherever necessary to develop scientific institutions through increased funding.
"We will create exciting career opportunities for our scientists so that we can retain our talent at home. The emerging knowledge society will require graduates on a massive scale with basic training in mathematics, science and engineering disciplines.
"But our best minds are not dedicated to science. Nationwide studies have shown that less than three percent of school children want to pursue career in science. We cannot accept this and therefore must find new pathways to make scientific discipline more attractive to our children and young people."
According to the prime minister, India ranks among the 24 scientifically proficient nations but the country must be in the category of 22 scientifically advanced nations.
Earlier, he waxed eloquent about the contribution of West Bengal to the country's scientific advancement, recalling the doyens of Indian science based in the state.
Though the foundation stone is being laid at the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics at Salt Lake in Kolkata, IISER will be located in the suburb of Kalyani in Nadia district, about 40 km from here.
Singh, who arrived here around 10.40 a.m. amid a road blockade programme by the Trinamool Congress to protest rising prices of essential commodities, was received at the airport by West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi and senior Congress leaders.
He later called on veteran communist leader and former West Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu, who turned 93 last week, at his Indira Bhavan residence in Salt Lake.
After the courtesy call, he goes to the state governor's residence Raj Bhavan in central Kolkata to hold talks with the governor and the chief minister.