How far can a great country like India move forward on the foundation of superstitions, and that too while being caught in severe crises? When absurd beliefs, which were limited to the peripheries of society, start appearing in mainstream and get upper hand even in legislative houses and judiciary - and what more even in the scientific sphere - it is imperative that corrective forces come up from the society itself. It is one such initiative that has come in the form of an open letter by over 400 scientists sent to the head of a central government agency. The idea of lighting cowdung lamps in the upcoming Dipavali in households, is a grand scheme initiated by Vallabhbhai Kathiria, the Chairman of 'Rashtriya Kamadhenu Aayog', a body launched last year with the objective of research and promotion of products from cow. But the issue is not just promoting cowdung, but rather the ideas given by Kathiria on the occasion of the grand programme of the declaration of 'Kamadhenu Dipavali'. He said that chips made from cowdung will offer protection to human beings from radiation, and if that is fitted in cell phones the risk of radio transmission will be averted. Not stopping there, he went to the extent of claiming that the prevention of radiation with cowdung has been 'scientifically proven'. And this was what amazed the scientists. It is not a trivial matter when some one in a responsible position claims something is 'scientifically proven'. Therefore, over 400 scientists working in over 20 premier research institutions like IIT-Bombay, Tata Institute and IISER have asked Kathiria to provide proof of his claims.
When and where were the experiments regarding the things said to have been 'proven', conducted? Who were the researchers and in which scientific journals were the research findings published? Were they peer-reviewed? What are the details about the experiments and how much of funds from the public exchequer were spent on it? These are the questions raised in this regard. Let us hope that Kathiria will be able to prove the claims of this cowdung chip - named 'Gausatva Kavach' – using the opportunity given by the scientific world. In all probability, he won't be able to do that.
Although Kathiria says it was proven scientifically, he has himself admitted that this property of cow dung was not certified by any government laboratory. As the scientists pointed out, if Kathiria has misinformed the people by saying something not scientifically proven, he is liable for two grave faults: one, he has violated the injunction in the constitution to promote scientific temperament and two, he used public funds to spread fake news. It should really alarm true patriots that forces of ignorance, who challenge science, scientific temperament and logic have got entrenched in almost all spheres of the ruling machinery. This has been particularly evident ever since Modi government took office in 2014. Modi himself gave a lead to this trend by declaring that very year that cosmetic surgery was in vogue in India thousands of years ago. This was followed by a ruling party leader Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank claiming that astrology was superior to science and India had conducted nuclear test one lakh years ago. Now he is the Minister of Education. Bits of wisdom soon followed such as that India had developed a radar system far superior to what is currently used and we had inter-planetary flights. At an annual conference of Indian Science Congress, some proved their patriotism by declaring that the discoveries of Isaac Newton and Einstein were wrong and that gravitational force has to be called 'Modi wave'. Any one is free to believe and proclaim that pollination was prevalent millennia ago in India, that a bridge was built with Lanka using world class engineering and that knowledge about dinosaurs was present in that era, but they should not be called scientific fact. Then there are others like: ministers who prescribe cowdung therapy even for cancer and Covid, Pragya Singh who had been subjected to three surgeries for breast cancer and when it was cured argued that the cure came from Panchagavya, the researcher in Junagad University that who made a theory that there is gold in cow's urine, the Rajasthan education minister who revealed that cow is an animal that inhales and exhales oxygen – all of these are liable to provide proof for their claims. Instead, if they keep uttering absurdities, that would amount to deceiving the people. The challenge India, and the world too, face today is the ill-informed reach pivotal positions of leadership. And if even the knowledge about ignorance is missing, that will guarantee total downfall. To prevent this catastrophe[he, those with knowledge and scientific perspective should enter the scene and act. More accent needs to be given to the acquisition of knowledge and research. Viewed from this angle, the intervention made by the leading figures of the scientific sphere is welcome. Before ignorance destroys everything, let there be flames of knowledge that can ward off darkness.