Empty stalls, poor student attendance mark science fest

Teachers of several schools and colleges told DH they were not aware of the IISF, 2019. (DH photo)

Empty stalls in exhibition halls, poor attendance of local students, presence of senior BJP politicians and chanting of Jai Sriram slogans mark the fifth edition of the India International Science Festival being held here.

The ruling BJP’s ongoing feud with the TMC government in West Bengal has led to a situation in which hardly anyone from the Mamata Banerjee administration dropped at any of the half-a-dozen IISF venues in the eastern metropolis.

Teachers of several schools and colleges told DH they were not aware of the IISF, 2019. Few others admitted that while they knew of the event but they are not sure whether their students attended it. A media conclave on science communication was bereft of local mass communication students.

The bulk of the school students who attended the show was arranged by the organisers for the four Guinness world record attempts to be made during the IISF, leaving only a handful to participate in the discourses that were meant to expose the students to the romances of science.

The captive audience in most of the sessions are those who came from outside Kolkata on the recommendations of the MPs. Each MP can recommend the names of five students and a teacher whose travel and accommodation expenses are taken care of by the organisers.

Out of the three Guinness records tried till Thursday, two were successful while a third one failed. The two successful ones are the world’s biggest astrophysics lesson and assembly of spectroscopes with 1598 students and successful assembly of radio kits by 268 students. The one that failed was related to the largest electronic lesson involving 950 students.

The saffron-hued science festival that began a year after Narendra Modi-led BJP government came to power had a budget of Rs 25 crore.

The two lead agencies organising the show are Vigyan Prasar under the Department of Science and Technology and Vijnana Bharati, a non-governmental organisation (earlier known as Swadeshi Science Movement) that claims to implement modern technology and ancient sciences.

“One of the sessions that I attended had just about 20-25 people and hardly anyone knows the people who came as overseas scientists,” a senior Indian biologist associated with one of the topmost Indian institutes told DH.

“The organisation of the events could have been much better with the involvement of local students,” said a physicist who spoke at the IISF.

Kailash Vijayvargia, BJP national general secretary and in charge of West Bengal was chief guest at one of the IISF events. Union Science and Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, the Minister of State for Babul Supriyo and West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar attended the show.

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