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Centre to pull the plug on Indian Science Congress 'unless ISCA mends its ways'

After a continuous run for over a century, the Union government has decided to pull the plug on the Indian Science Congress following a rift between the Indian Science Congress Association – the principal organiser - and the Department of Science and Technology, the main funding agency.
alyan Ray
Last Updated : 03 January 2024, 15:26 IST
Last Updated : 03 January 2024, 15:26 IST

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New Delhi: After a continuous run for over a century, the Union government has decided to pull the plug on the Indian Science Congress following a rift between the Indian Science Congress Association – the principal organiser - and the Department of Science and Technology, the main funding agency.

Barring a few exceptions since Independence, Prime Ministers have traditionally inaugurated the Indian Science Congress on January 3 each year, making it the only congregation of scientists headlined by the country’s topmost political office.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi too attended most of the Congresses since 2015, with the last one being held in Nagpur in 2022.

In September, the DST announced the withdrawal of financial support to the ISCA for the 2024 event. Sources on Wednesday suggested that financial support would be unlikely in the future unless the ISCA "changes the way it functions".

The DST provides Rs 5 crore to the ISCA every year, with a sizable portion of the funds allocated to the host institution to spruce up the campus and make arrangements for the five-day event.

"The DST can think of resuming the funding if ISCA mends its ways," an official said.

The DST has alleged “financial irregularities” and a “unilateral decision” by a few ISCA office bearers, without government approval, to shift the venue of the 2024 session from Lucknow University to Lovely Professional University at Jalandhar as the reasons for dissociating with the 2024 edition of the Congress.

After the DST’s withdrawal as the main funding agency, LPU last month expressed its inability to host the show, two weeks before the commencement of the event. The university cited “unforeseen challenges,” making it unfeasible for the institution to host the event.

ISCA President Arvind Saxena said the association had decided to post an appeal on its website inviting universities to host the event, possibly in February.

“The ISCA annual event has already lost its relevance among the scientific community and lacks professional approach in the conduct of the meeting on many fronts,” the DST notice said, observing that the decision to de-associate with the Indian Science Congress was taken with the approval of the “competent authority”.

While the status of the Indian Science Congress has dwindled among the scientific community over the years, the DST's decision to withdraw support comes at a time when the Union Science Ministry promotes the India International Science Festival (IISF), in which Vijnana Bharati (Vibha), a Sangh Parivar outfit, is one of the main organisers. The IISF 2024 is scheduled to be held at Faridabad later this month.

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Published 03 January 2024, 15:26 IST

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