The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has suggested the postponement of the prestigious 105th Indian Science Congress (ISC) that is to be hosted by Osmania University (OU) in Hyderabad from 3-7 January 2018, thanks to the helplessness of the K. Chandrasekhar Rao government in controlling the raging students’ unrest on campus. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to inaugurate the Congress. This is the first time that the ISC in its 105 years of history has been postponed barely a fortnight before it is scheduled to commence and it is also the first time that the PM, since Independence, had to skip the first public function in a calendar year. Since Jawaharlal Nehru, all Prime Ministers made it to inaugurate the ISC, usually held in the first week of every January.

The OU has proposed to conduct the PM’s inaugural address at the Hyderabad International Convention Centre (HICC) and then hold the remaining technical sessions on campus. However, both the ISC and the PMO were not impressed with the proposal and the communication reached them too late. The PMO was concerned about the state’s helplessness on the PM’s security.

The OU campus is on the boil for the past couple of months due to students’ protest against non-filling of job vacancies by the KCR government and a post-graduate student’s suicide on the same issue. The Special Protection Group (SPG) which looks after the PM’s security and the state intelligence wings have noted that the situation on the campus is conducive for the PM and CM’s visit here. 

The abrupt postponement of the Science Congress has not only dented the image of the century old Osmania University and Telangana government, but also that of India as at least 20 Nobel Laureates and 1,000 top science personalities from 40 countries have confirmed their presence and finalised their travel plans to Hyderabad. The ISC website, simply said “further action will be intimated” later.

The ISC Association that organises the event would be meeting at Kolkata on 27 December to decide the next venue and dates. Though efforts are being made to host the event in March in Hyderabad, sources in the association told The Sunday Guardian that it is just impossible to conduct it within the next four to five months as the venue is likely to shift to some other city.

Since the postponement announcement came at 4 pm on 21 December, the University of Hyderabad here came forward to host the Congress, but the security agencies might turn down as its campus, too, is in the reach of OU students who threatened to disturb the PM’s speech even it is held at the HICC. So, the 105th ISC may finally move to Madras University, sources said.

The cancellation of ISC has triggered a blame game among the OU authorities, state government and the student community, while a mood of disappointment and gloom enveloped the faculty and scientific community. Of the total 13,000 registered delegates, around 3,000 are science and technology scholars from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

After talking to a host of officials involved with the ISC, it appears that there were not enough efforts on the part of the state government to bring under control the situation on OU campus to host the mega Congress that has become a signature science event of India across the world. Also, there was not enough coordination between the state and the Centre on this conference attended by many Nobel Laureates.

In fact, the venue of an edition of Science Congress is decided at the conclusion of the previous edition and arrangements begin within three to four months. The 104h Science Congress was held at Tirupati in January this year and the OU was picked up as the venue for the 105th edition as the university celebrated its centenary in April 2017.

But the Chief Minister hasn’t shown enough interest in hosting the event after he could not deliver his speech at the OU centenary celebrations in the presence of then President Pranab Mukherjee on 26 April 2017. Angered with his failure to fill up government jobs, one of the main promises he made during the statehood stir, OU students have threatened to obstruct him, if he spoke.

Since then, not many meetings were held by the CM with the OU authorities. OU Vice-Chancellor Prof S. Ramachandram and other officials recently met the Chief Minister and discussed the arrangements for the ISC, but the latter hasn’t shown much interest in the event as the students were not willing to cooperate. “What can we do, if the students are not interested?” the CM is learnt to have remarked in helplessness.

VC Prof S. Ramachandran told this newspaper on Friday that he still hoped that the event would be held here sometime later. He admitted that the students’ unrest on  campus has tarnished the image of the university which has celebrated its centenary and got an A grade from the National Accreditation Committee.

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