Awards liberate creativity from economic, social handicaps: PM

Thursday, January 6, 2011

MUMBAI - Scholarships and prizes liberate creative minds from the constrains of economic and social handicaps, besides recognising the contribution of individuals in different walks of life and creating a wider knowledge base, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said here Thursday.

“My own life stands testimony to the importance of scholarships. If I did not have access to scholarships, I would never have been able to complete my education, leave alone the opportunity to be educated at some of the world’s best institutions,” Singh said, presenting the prestigious Infosys Science Foundation Awards here Thursday evening.

Lauding the awardees for their highly impressive achievements and individual contribution to the cause of knowledge, Singh also praised Infosys for instituting the awards and appointing a distinguished jury to select the winners.

“I am particularly delighted that the Infosys Prize is given to Indians doing world class research while working and living in India. Indeed, it is now commonplace now to suggest that we today live in a knowledge-based era,” he said.

The prime minister said that in today’s world, the strength of a nation was no longer measured by the might of its armies, but from the quality of its collective knowledge, productivity of working people, creativity of its entrepreneurs and dedication of its professional work force.

“A country’s prosperity too is a function of the knowledge its people possess and acquire. Indeed, it has always been so. But, what has changed in the last few decades is the access to knowledge. We live in an era of greater equity and equality as far as the acquisition of knowledge is concerned,” Singh noted.

While feudal restrictions and pre-democratic institutions can no longer impose social barriers to the access to knowledge, one ancient barrier - the barrier of economic capacity - continues to remain, he said.

Singh pointed out that in the increasingly globalised world with the ease of modern communications, it is now possible for researchers to work in ‘multiple environments’ even as they stay stationed at one place.

Singh said that many youngsters do not prefer to leave the comforts of well-funded institutions abroad to work in India.

While the infrastructure of our universities and research institutions may not be world-class, he said, some in the private sector like Infosys to provide world-class facilities.

“But we need many such facilities all over the country,” he added.

And after accepting all the inadequacies of our facilities, if there are men and women willing to work her and produce world class research, we must salute them, Singh said.

Later, Singh felicitated winners in five categories - Mathematical Sciences, Physical Sciences, Engineering & Computer Sciences, Life Sciences and Social Sciences. The prize in each category comprised of a 24-carat gold medallion, a citation expounding the laureate’s work and Rs.50 lakh (tax-free) as prize money.

The winners, drawn from a total 201 nominations, included Prof. Chandrashekhar Khare of University of California (Mathematical Sciences), Prof. Sandip Trivedi of Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (Physical Sciences), Prof. Ashutosh Sharma of Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur (Engineering & Computer Sciences), Dr. Chetan E. Chitnis of International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (Life Sciences) and Prof. Amita Baviskar of Institute of Economic Growth (Social Sciences - Sociology).

Infosys’ chief executive officer and trustee of the Infosys Science Foundation S. Gopalakrishnan and the company co-founder K. Dinesh also spoke on the occasion.

The Infosys Science Foundation was established in February 2009 to promote world-class research in India.

The Infosys Prize is an annual award across five disciplines to recognize and reward outstanding inventions or discovery or a cumulative body of work.

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