The risks of success
A long procession of packed buses rumbles up the road to the Opening Session of the 93rd Indian Science Congress in Hyderabad. Security is tight. Just a few days earlier, terrorists stormed a conference at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, gunning down academics and showering the room with hand grenades, which thankfully didn't go off. One Professor was killed and four are still in hospital.
In his inaugural address, Prime Minister Manhoman Singh says the fact that science is a target for terrorism is a symbol of success for the nation's science and technology community. He pays tribute to the murdered scientist, and all Indian scientists, in a speech that goes on to call for a second Green Revolution.
The father of the first Green Revolution, MS Swaminathan, says that India now needs policies for farmers, not just for agriculture. This kind of rhetoric seems common in policymaking here, and extravaganzas like the first virtual farmers' congress are simply a new phase of the centuries-old Indian tradition of public discussion and debate. But critics say the country still has a long way to go before it will be able generate from within the kind of capacity for leadership it needs at all levels of society to thrive in the twenty-first century.
Despite scientific successes, India's rural-urban divide is terrifying. As Amartya Sen warns in his address to the Congress, India's future "cannot be one that is half California and half sub-Saharan Africa".