Over 200 scientists have questioned the use of government science resources on a planned contraption to channel the Sun’s rays on the forehead of the Ram idol at the Ayodhya temple, saying the project will not lead to any scientific discovery or new insight.
The proposed opto-mechanical system to channel sunlight on the idol’s forehead on Ram Navami every year is “technologically feasible” but is “against the spirit of the scientific process”, the scientists from academic institutions across the country have said.
Scientists from the Central Building Research Institute (CBRI), Roorkee; the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA), Bangalore; and the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune, will work on the project, people familiar with the project had told The Telegraph on Monday.
They said the opto-mechanical system would include lenses, mirrors and microcontrollers to ensure that sunlight would fall on the forehead of the Ram idol on Ram Navami every year, factoring in the Sun’s changing position and the back-and-forth movement of calendar days.
Now, more than 200 faculty members, research scholars and students have signed an “open letter” that says the “chosen approach does not advance scientific or technological understanding in any way”. They have also asked the IIA and IUCAA to clarify their roles.
The letter says installing a door or window at strategic locations such that the Sun’s rays reach the inner sanctum on a chosen date is not a novel feature. “One finds many temples as well as Buddhist caves with such windows and doors,” it says.
But the Ram Navami date is determined by the lunisolar calendar and does not coincide with a fixed date on the solar calendar. Thus, a static opening will not achieve the desired result. However, the CBRI design of an opto-mechanical system “overcomplicates the solution”, the letter says.
“There are other simpler ways to achieve the falling of Sun rays on the idol exactly on Ram Navami like some temple staff manually turning the mirror,” the letter says. “Instead, the CBRI has chosen to design a set of mirrors on a gear assembly controlled electronically to achieve the same effect.”
“This is akin to badly designed school-level science fair projects... where purpose is not solving a problem in an elegant way but to devise as complicated and as resourceheavy a solution as possible in a hope to impress the audience/judges merely by the complexity of the solution…. In popular idiom, bringing out a cannon to kill an ant,” the letter said.
The letter’s signatories include faculty from the Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education, Mumbai; the Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research in Calcutta, Pune and Thiruvananthapuram; Indian Statistical Institutes in Bangalore, Calcutta and Delhi; National Centre for Radio Astronomy, Pune; the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai; and Ashoka University, among other institutions.
They said the engagement of researchers on such a pursuit that does not lead to any scientific or technological discovery or new insight is a “waste of skilled human resources and public money…even more so in a context wherein younger science researchers are facing horrendous and demoralising delays in disbursement of their allocated research grants and fellowships”.
“Scientific institutes of excellence like IUCAA and IIA perforce work in a framework of scientific temper and spread scientific thinking which is their core value, thus upholding the Constitution,” the letter states. “It would be in the best interests for these institutes to clarify the air about their alleged role in the project. Their peers deserve to know where these institutes stand on the issue of scientific temper.”
Scientists at the CBRI and the IIA contacted by this newspaper declined to discuss the project’s details or respond to the concerns expressed in the scientists’ open letter.
A senior astronomer at the IUCAA did not respond to queries from this newspaper.
But science policy-makers familiar with the CSIR said there was nothing unusual about CSIR labs, including the CBRI, taking up commercial projects without science goals. The CBRI, for instance, had helped guide the demolition of two illegal buildings in Noida earlier this year.