Dr Mrinal Kanti Das
BM Birla Heart Research Center
Cardiologist, Kolkata

Scientific innovations and India

India, a great country for millennia ruled the world for many years till the new-era science engulfed the lives of the people for the last 1500 years or so. The concept of circulation in human beings, various surgical instruments specially for orthopedics, medicaments, pranayama, and concept of holistic life, the art of levitation, concept of zero, negative and positive, and geometry were all conceived in India. Even when the western countries were surging with one after another discoveries and newer theories and applications of science, the likes of Jagadish Chandra Bose, famous for discovery of radio-signal and life in plants, Meghnad Saha famous for thermodynamic principles, Satyendra Nath Bose for Bose-Einstein theory proponent, Prafulla Chandra Ray of mercuric oxide fame, Swaminathan of green revolution fame, worked on science so deeply that they were genuinely Nobel Prize contenders, as they were real innovators as well as saviors of the humanity. It is a different story altogether that they were never considered for the much-maligned coveted prize. But what happened to India after their lives was a matter of concern. None really worthy from India came to the horizon to make a mark. It is a matter of speculation on what exactly has happened to the Indian psyche, innovative minds for offering something spectacular to the world community.Let me share some of the teething issues in this column in as much simple a way as possible.

History and geography
India had the rightful history of innovations, and also there was comprehensible heterogenicity of geography, ethnicity, and economic scenario. India has mountains on the top and the middle, seas on three sides, desert on the West, full of natural resources on the East as well as the West. But still India could not contribute to the huge business of modern science, even though many Indians living outside India are involved indirectly with many discoveries in some way or the other. India’s most important boasting point is their giant status in software technology. It really fetches much needed foreign currency. But who gets the pie for these soft technologies? These are all used on the platforms totally made by American-European-Japanese scientists. Not even one chip or micro-chip has been innovated in India. So Indian boasting does not really carry any salt.

Same is the story with all other faculties of science, arts, education, and humanities. Indians are now totally path-followers, not path-breakers. They are taught in the way the westerners think. Indians do not and cannot think with a new perspective. They are at the mercy of others to implement any project whether it is a bullet train, metro train, self-charging buses, flood control, earthquake damage control, armamentarium for warfare, an aircraft, or even a rocket. For everything, India is totally dependent on others and delivers the goods with copy-cat mentality. Same is true for medical science. Though a great number of Indian doctors are working with name and fame outside India, the country cannot name a single individual after whose name a disease is quoted. Is the lack of innovation and mind-lessness somewhat related with the hot and humid environment? Is it related with economic status of Indian people who are bogged down with earning for the family and self? Is it due to lack of social security to the intellectual people? Are the fondness for mediocrity and cronyism responsible for the inertia amongst Indians?

The answers must be found by the argumentative and analytical people of India without fear and impress upon those at the helm of running the country. The solutions will have to come from the top and not from the bottom. The people at the bottom, especially those who are blessed with brains, will always seek for the safe haven, transparency, value for their worth, and unstinted support from the regulatory authorities.

Tryst with cardiology
Being an ardent student of medicine and cardiology, there were attempts to find out something new, which might have given some hope to the research-minded medicos. But at different levels, buses were missed. Reasons were mostly embedded in the questions put just in the previous paragraph. But the spirit never died. So, using simple translational medicine concept new condition called Das & Barooah syndrome was conceptualized in the field of electrocardiology. But the buck somewhat stopped there without much publicity. When the chance came, the writer attempted with an innovative scientific program for the cardiologists of India for the first time in 71 years. Since there was no stimulus for discovery or innovations from India, neither for finding out new molecules nor the way of functioning of our body’s system, there was no question of finding late breaking trials with new drugs or devices, or some methodologies. So, the scientific program for CSI 2019 was arranged for bringing one Nobel laureate to the conference so that the intelligent young brigade could be glued to his deliberation, and be inspired to think big and out-of-the-box. Secondly, instead of late breaking trials, CSI Indian Innovation Award session, involving multi-disciplinary workers along with cardiologists was envisaged. This clicked. There was an extraordinary response from the younger and thoughtful group of investigators, who competed for the awards. Apart from this program, the whole conference had four sessions on digital technology vis-a-vis cardiac science. So, the writer at least attempted to create a history in the scientific conferences, which has been quickly appreciated and accepted by the western counterparts attending the conference.

COVID-19, cardiology and innovations 
When the sessions of digital technology and cardiac science were conceived for CSI 2019, it was never perceived that so quickly there will be the requirement of the applications of the same in healthcare. COVID-19, with all its venomlike influence on the day-to-day life of all people across the globe, offered the real opportunity to think something innovative to tackle the menace. But as usual, India could not capitalize the opportunity. There has not been a single instance, which can be attributed as a new thought process in the management of COVID-19 or post-COVID management in near future. This is really the state of inertia or apathy. Even the face masks, a simple but most important equipment in the fight against COVID-19, had to be imported in the initial part. This could have been quickly manufactured in the rural areas where COVID-19 was not prevalent, and this would have given a new lease of life to the rural economy from business perspective. The development of infrastructure in the quickest time could have tested the capacity of the Indian industrialists at the right time. They did not do it. They bought the machines from outside, fabric from outside, and did the manufacturing only in India. Even they copied the size and shape of the masks ditto like the imported ones. Why I am so much inclined to mention critically about the masks is that there could have been many simple innovations. A tri-colored mask without derogating the country; putting a transparent piece of linen over the lips so that the sign language and much needed smiles by a doctor or health worker would have soothing effect on the psyche of the patient; and making a face mask with device which will help in easy exhalation of CO2 adequately and preventing fogging over the spectacles or eye-protective gear. Similarly, in the treatment front also some new things could have been devised like minimizing discomfort during prone ventilation, etc. Education is another front where, apart from teaching via videoconferencing using Zoom platform, a foreign made platform, many other innovations could still be explored and implemented.

How to court the innovations
To make India an innovating nation, the seed of thinking will have to be sowed right from childhood. The inquisitive mind will have to be encouraged and nurtured from then and there. During the growth phase, there will have to be competitions amongst the peers. The mentors or parents cannot give all the clues to the pupils. They will have to encourage the thinking mind of their pupils. The personal biasness, nepotism, plagiarism will have to be discouraged. There will have to be incentives for innovations in the form of providing social security, monetary reward, arranging for intellectual property right, employment, and promotion to plump posts for deserving people. But for all these to happen successfully, there will have to be a paradigm shift in the thought process of the political groups forsaking their narrow ideologies, which is doubtful for India in the present context.

Outlook
A vast country like India has all the ingredients and potential for going to higher level in the arena of innovations; the political will has to be quality-embracive, have a sincere and rock-solid planning for horizontal expansion of the socio-economic status of the people who ultimately will be the pillars, fore-runners and impetus of an innovative nation.

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