Teach them about the Indian who invented the aeroplane eight years before the Wright brothers. And tell them about the ‘Pushpak Vimaan’, a flying chariot mentioned in the Indian epic Ramayana.
For the country’s junior HRD minister Satya Pal Singh – an MPhil in Chemistry and former Mumbai Police commissioner – the best lessons for the country’s future engineers lie in ancient Indian scientific “discoveries” and “inventions”.
“Why are students not taught that before the Wright brothers, an Indian called Shivakar Babuji Talpade was the first to invent the airplane. This person invented the plane eight years before the Wright brothers. Are our students taught these things in IITs or not? They should be,” he said on Tuesday at an award ceremony for the first AICTE-ECI Chhatra Vishwakarma Award.
Singh also wants engineering students to learn about Vishwakarma, a Hindu deity, worshipped by craftsmen and engineer community.
Singh, however, is not the first BJP leader to promote ideas which experts say don’t have scientific validation. A Rajasthan minister had earlier said cows are the only animals which inhale and exhale oxygen, drawing ridicule from the scientific community.
Critics accuse the BJP-led government at the Centre of trying to push its brand of nationalism and Hindutva ideology by trying to replace science chapters with legends and mythology.
Singh, however, said India is lagging behind in research and innovation, and researchers need to be told about the country’s rich culture and civilisation that dates back to many thousands of years, he said.
Referring to another episode from the Ramayana, Singh said trees in the kingdom of Ravana – the demon king -- were not required to be watered as they contained Chandramani, a mythical elixir.
“Such ancient technology should be taught to our students,” he said.
The minister also stressed that quality should be maintained where research is concerned.
Elaborating on the issue, he said that while India produces 40,000 PhD holders every year, the quality of the research is not up to the mark and remarked that it is possible to buy research papers these days.
The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and Engineering Council of India (ECI) had invited nominations for the awards for students of AICTE-approved degree and diploma level technical institutes and universities. The awards were given away by the MoS on Tuesday.