| Bangalore attack suspect Abdul Rehman
Hyderabad, Jan. 4: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke of the unshakeable resolve of knowledge workers, but last week’s terror attack in Bangalore has cast its shadow on the science congress here.
Of the expected 6,000 delegates, only 4,000 have so far registered for the five-day meet that began yesterday.
“Over 2,000 delegates did not turn up, mostly due to the bad environment caused by the Bangalore incident,” said Professor I.V. Subba Rao, the president of the Indian Science Congress.
Of the six to seven Nobel laureates expected to take part, only two turned up ' Amartya Sen and Professor R.R. Erst of Switzerland. Dr Wangari Maathai of Kenya stayed away even after confirming. Subba Rao said hardly 20 of the 85 top scientists expected from 25 countries had come.
Several top scientists spoke out against the December 28 attack on Bangalore’s Indian Institute of Science that killed a professor and wounded four others.
“I have never seen such cold-blooded killing as at Bangalore,” said P. Bhargava. Conferences and conventions are not threats to just politicians but also pose a “high risk” to scientists nowadays, added the former director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad.
Some delegates said the theme of the current congress ' ‘rural development, science and technology’ ' could also be a reason for the reduced turnout.
M.S. Swaminathan, who heads the National Commission on Farmers, agreed. “The earlier conferences were on space technology and biotechnology and attracted many young scientists,” he said.
If terror and the topic played their part, the tight security contributed its bit to the mix-up that nearly led to Sen’s abrupt exit yesterday after the inaugural speech by the Prime Minister.
Subba Rao said the original programme was to last three and a half hours but was cut short to two at the request of Manmohan Singh’s security contingent.
Even as Sen strode towards the dais after Singh’s address, one person took the microphone and began giving the vote of thanks. A stunned Sen turned to leave before Subba Rao rushed up to him and apologised. Sen did relent but cut short his lecture.
Subba Rao said several sessions had to be postponed today because the SPG was sanitising the venue for President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s visit tomorrow.
“But for the Bangalore incident, the scientists would have been left to themselves,” he added.