KICS Sharing Session – 42

Science and Society: A Contemporary Perspective
Speaker: Prof. Deepak Kumar

Date and Time: October 6, 2018, 4:00 – 6:00 PM
Venue: CWS Conference Hall, 12-13-438, Street No. 1, Tarnaka, Secunderabad - 500017 

This talk proposes to explore the dynamics of the science-society relationship in the context of contemporary India. As a background, it will begin with some focus on what had happened during the colonial times, especially the period of transition from dependence to independence. Modern science no doubt had come as part of the colonial baggage and was gradually accepted by the growing middle class. But this was not done without certain valid contestations. These debates informed and influenced the Indian national movement. It had outstanding participants like Gandhi, Tagore, Saha, Visvesvaraya, Raman and Nehru. Their ideas gradually led to a kind of development discourse which remains valid even today. 

What were the contours of this discourse? The inner tensions were amply reflected in the planning process which independent India had enthusiastically accepted. Science and technology had become almost synonymous with modernisation and development. What were its strength and weaknesses? Notwithstanding certain fault lines, the foundations of a new India were laid. New institutions were created, new sub-disciplines emerged and the role of scientists like S.S. Bhatnagar, P. Mahalanobis, Homi Bhabha, Vikram Sarabhai, B. P. Pal deserve notice at par with politicians and reformers of the time. The year 1967 marks a watershed, and as the political fortunes fluctuated, educational institutions began to decline. The successive governments responded by creating new institutions. The revolutionary changes in information and other technologies brought some prosperity as well as fresh challenges.  The talk will end with a tentative assessment of these changes by the end of the twentieth century, the consequences of which are too close to be properly assessed.


Prof. Deepak Kumar has worked and published on different aspects of science, society and government links in the context of colonial India during the last four decades. On retirement from Jawaharlal Nehru University (New Delhi), he is currently an Honorary Professor at the University of Hyderabad. His publications include Science and the Raj: A Study of British India (OUP, 2006) and The Trishanku Nation: Memory, Self and Society in Contemporary India (OUP, 2016).


Sharing session is one of the regular activities of Knowledge In Civil Society (KICS) trust. These are organised around contemporary themes relevant to KICS work as an exercise of learning from each other. The objective is to deepen our shared understanding of the theme and to appreciate the key cross linkages, especially in the realm of Science, Technology & Society. You can find a list of previous sharing sessions here.