Saturday, October 21, 2006


Bharat Jan Gyan Vigyan Jatha

Bharat Jan Gyan Vigyan Jatha
Mass Action for National Regenration
Monday 20 December 2004 by BGVS
Our Country is in the midst of a massive upsurge against illiteracy and ill health, against ignorance and indignity. Powerful waves of a people’s movement for literacy, scientific awareness and social change are lashing across the length and breadth of the country.
The Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha organised by the People’s Science Movements of India in October/November 1987, with the support of the National Council for Science and Technology Communication as well as the Bharat Gyan Vigyan Jatha, organised by Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti (BGVS) in October/November 1990 with the support of the National Literacy Mission have played crucial roles in sending this powerful message across.
Born out of people’s science movements and especially the Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad (KSSP), the jathas utilise cultural and folk media such as art, dance, theatre and music for massive communication and awareness creation. The All India Jatha organised in May 1985, in memory of the thousands killed in Bhopal could be considered as the point of departure. The true national event, however was the Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha (BJVJ).
The BJVJ consisted of 5 jathas that travelled 37 days each, covering 500 centres spread over all the major states of the country and culminated in a rally in Bhopal. It engendered the All India People’s Science Network and the NCSTC Network. PSM activists, however, soon realised that thier activities cannot bear fruit so long as two-thirds of the nation remained illiterate. Eradication of illiteracy became an important agenda of science movements.
The Bharat Gyan Vigyan Jatha, organised between the 2nd of October and 14th of November 1990, was one of the most ambitious mass mobilizational and motivational exercises the country and perhaps the whole world, had ever witnessed. It involved more than 5000 artists and several thousands of organizers apart from large number of village, block and district samithis that were formed. Inspite of the vicious atmosphere created by social and political tensions that existed during that period, the jatha succeeded in generating a new sense of optimism in the minds of thousands of social activists, intellectuals and administrators, apart from lakhs and lakhs of ordinary men and women.
The impact of the jatha soon became visible in concrete terms. About 150 districts have by now launched total literacy campaigns. Some of them have already completed the first phase of the campaign and are now moving towards thepost literacy and continuing education phase. About 40 million adult learners are presently attending the literacy classes and more than40 lakh voluntary instructors are engaged in this holy war against illiteracy and ignorance, obscurantism and backwardness.
Source :

Environment Building - Bharat Gyan Vigyan Jatha -II
9.3.1 An appropriate environment is most crucial for the success of any total literacy campaign. This input is an essential component of the overall strategy of the National Literacy Mission. The positive experience of Bharat Gyan Vigyan Jatha (BGVJ) of 1990 helped. Firstly, while the BGVJ had to content with major caste and communal events, it nevertheless placed literacy as an issue before the people. The involvement of thousands of politicians, administrators, educationalists and media persons taken together with the demand for literacy programmes generated in the villages, brought literacy on to the political agenda of the nation. The Bharat Gyan Vigyan Jatha brought together a number of diverse voluntary organisations, peoples, science movements, individuals and groups, trade unions and service associations, youth and students and women's movements and adult educators. Their networking through the Jatha made literacy work a personal and common organisational priority for thousands all over the country.
9.3.2 The impact of the Bharat Gyan Vigyan Jatha was not uniform all over the country. It was weak especially in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. In Orissa and Madhya Pradesh the impact was limited. The limited impact was due to the disturbances caused by the agitations and Political turmoils when Jathas were underway in October/November, 1990.
9.3.3 In order to make another effort to build up environment favourable to the campaign, particularly in these states a BGV-II was launched between 2nd October and 14th November, 1992.
9.3.4 The BGVs also organised a SAMATA Kalajatha between March 8 April 9, 1993 It addressed to the themes of education and
equality of women. The explicit aim was to draw women and women's organisations into the literacy campaign and to highlight the need of education the girl child. The event was marked by nearly 120 young women and men taking out eight women's kalajathas from different parts of the country and converging at Jhansi (U.P) on April 8, 1993.

The Following article has some mention about the BJVJ
Public Understanding of Research in India: Challenges and Prospects

By Dr. Manoj Patairiya[1]

Scientific literacy is necessary for the economic and healthy well being of the social fabric and every person, and for the exercise of participatory democracy. It also implies the ability to respond to the technical issues that pervade and influence our daily lives. It does not mean detailed knowledge of scientific principles, phenomena or technologies, however, it rather points out to the comprehension of what might be called the scientific approach, or the scientific way of conduct or the method of science. Public understanding of research keeps people aware about the latest in the field of research and development and helps them lead a life with better understanding of newer advancements. Developmental change emerges within specific economic, social, and ideological contexts, and in turn reshapes the thinking and working of institutions as well as individuals. The last two decades have been characterized by the rapid development of new scientific and technological advancements across a wide range of fields. Access to these advancements is distributed unevenly within the country. Even people in far flung areas often lack access not only to leading edge technologies, but also modern scientific knowledge. Participatory model of public understanding of research can help in this direction.
India has a rich tradition of communication, especially when it comes to masses. Folk arts, like Nautanki, Ramlila, folk songs and folk dances are immensely effective as the means of mass communication. India has a great tradition and a treasure of scientific heritage. Various classical scientific works were carried out in Indian subcontinent, in the fields of mathematics, astronomy, medicine, material science, etc. during ancient, medieval and modern periods, which still form a huge treasure of our scientific and cultural heritage. However, a remarkable gap between scientific knowledge and the common man remained during the entire span of time. These scientific texts were generally written in technical and classical forms and not in common man’s language. With the passage of time, despite many political and social ups and downs, scientific knowledge and more precisely custodians of that knowledge mostly remained centered around the corridors of power. After Independence, science popularization was being taken up at various levels. The Scientific Policy Resolution of March 4, 1958 has been a guiding factor for development of science and technology in the country. With a view to integrate, coordinate, catalyze and support the efforts of science communication and science popularization in the country, the Government of India established the National Council for Science and Technology Communication (NCSTC) in 1982 as an apex body.

We have been using various means and modes for science communication, as follows:

(a) Print Media: Such as newspapers, magazines, wallpapers, books, posters, folders, booklets.
(b) Audio/Visual Media: Mainly radio and TV, besides, films, slide shows, bioscope.
(c) Folk Media: It has been a common observation, that through folk media, it is possible to achieve penetration to the segments where other media have limitations. Puppet shows, street plays skits, stage performances, folk songs and folk dances, nautanki and other traditional means of communication belong to this category. This media is cost effective, entertaining and offers two-way communication.
(d) Interactive Media: Science exhibitions, science fairs, seminars, workshops, lectures, scientific tours, conferences, vigyan jathas, etc. The advantage here being man-to-man and two-way communication.
(e) Digital Media: information technology has given birth to comparatively a new media, known as digital media It includes Internet, CD-ROM, multimedia, simulations, etc. It has also made science communication simpler to handicapped segments of the society.

That apart, we are popularizing science through our 18 regional languages, to penetrate into local populace effectively. Selection of target audience has greatest significance. Our science communication efforts are aimed at various target groups, such as, common man, children, students, farmers, women, workers or specialists, etc. Various forms for presentation are being used to making science communication more interesting and enjoyable, such as science news, report, article, feature, story, play, poem, interview, discussion, lecture, documentary, docu-drama, scientoon (science +cartoon), satire, etc.

Some of the important modes and means of science communication in India are summarized below:

1. Popular S&T literature (articles/features in daily newspapers, periodicals; newsletters and specialized S&T magazines: comic strips, picture-cum-story books, wall charts etc.)
2. Exhibitions of S&T themes (temporary, permanent and mobile).
3. S&T and Natural History Museums (with permanent galleries on basic topics, on country’s heritage and on famous discoveries and inventions, among others).
4. Science Centres and Parks (participatory and interactive activities and demonstrations to learn about S&T principles, applications and to encourage development of a spirit of inquiry among children and adults).
5. Contests (quizzes, essays, scientific models, toy/kit, public speaking, debates, seminars).
6. Popular lectures on S&T subjects (for general public, for children a students at schools, colleges, universities and other institutions).
7. Tours (guided tours around botanical, zoological gardens, museums, planetaria, bird sanctuaries, etc.).
8. Planetaria (including mobile ones; sky watching with naked eyes or telescope to learn about planets, stars and other celestial objects).
9. Radio broadcasts (for general as well as specific audiences).
10. Television telecasts (for general as well as specific audiences).
11. Audio/video-programmes (tapes for special or general audiences; slide shows, bioscope).
12. Digital software, CD-ROMs, etc. (for special or general audiences).
13. Science Films (for general and specific audiences).
14. Folk forms (song and drama, street plays, puppet shows, march, festival, fairs, jathas, etc.).
15. Low cost kit/toys and other hands-on-activities (with specific training modules).
16. Non formal science education.

Following are a few examples, where major achievements were recorded :

a) A 144-part radio serial Human Evolution was jointly produced by NCSTC and All India Radio, which was broadcast weekly simultaneously from nearly 84 radio stations all over the country in 18 Indian languages. Among the listeners there were 1,00,000 children and some 10,000 schools registered as dedicated listeners. They were provided kits, posters, etc. as supplementary material. A 13-part film serial on the history of science and technology in the Indian subcontinent and its impact on the world, titled Bharat Ki Chhaap.
b) Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha-1987 and Bharat Jan Gyan Vigyan Jatha-1992 were catalyzed by NCSTC, could be considered as the biggest ever science and technology communication experiment attempted anywhere. The main themes included health, water, environment, appropriate technology, superstitions, scientific thinking and literacy. Some 2,500 government/non-government organizations were actively involved. The Jatha covered nearly 40,000 locations in about 400 districts touching almost a third of the country's population. During the course of Jatha, various modes of science communication, especially folk forms, publications, lecture-cum-demonstrations, etc. were employed for science communication among people.
c) The first ever National Children's Science Congress (NCSC), with the focal theme Know your Environment was organized by the NCSTC Network in December, 1993. The children were selected on the basis of their presentations on their scientific projects at the district level Congresses, followed by state level presentations and finally for the National Congress. The main aim of the congress was to provide open laboratory of the nature for learning with joy and to adopt the method of learning-by-doing. Participation was open to children of the age group 10 to 17 years. Till now 10 such congresses have been organized at different places in the country.
d) Scientific explanation of so called miracles is a very popular programme implemented across the country, wherein various tricks and miracles are demonstrated and explained by trained science activists to making gullible people aware about the scientific tricks/facts behind such so called miracles, so that they can be saved from cheating by the self styled god-men. One must remember, when idols started taking milk in 1995, the author demonstrated the phenomenon on television and the hoax was declined as a result.
f) In order to develop trained manpower in the area of science communication, training/ educational programmes are being offered at various levels in our country : i) Short term courses, which are of 3 to 7 day’s duration; the participants are science activists and enthusiasts, whether students of science at higher level or not; ii) Medium term courses, which are of two to four month’s duration; usually for those who wants to improve their science communication skills; and iii) Long term courses, which are of 1 to 2 year’s duration; run at different universities/institutions and offer post graduate degrees or diplomas in science communication. Besides, a correspondence course in science journalism of one-year duration is also available.

In spite of well-planed and well-structured efforts of science communication in India, there are certain challenges before us, to be met. Some of them are listed below:

a) We have yet to make a dent towards wiping out superstitions prevailing for the ages and people are still ignorant about common scientific principles of day-to-day life.
b) Illiteracy and ignorance are major challenges. The level of literacy has increased as compared to earlier times, though it has not reached the desirable level. Scientific literacy is abysmally low in the country.

c) The most significant challenge is our large population and limited resources, due to which most of our efforts come to a standstill, when it comes to masses.
d) As an average, the science coverage in India is around 3%, which we intend to enhance up to 15%, as per a resolution of Indian Science Writers’ Association.
e) The science communication has still not succeeded in attracting the media to the extent that it could appear on the front page or become a lead story, like the politics, films or sports. Mass media has its commercial compulsions, which superimpose all the science communication efforts and leave a negative impact in the minds of the audiences. Instead of including scientific information, they prefer to generate more revenue by including non-scientific, meta-scientific or occult information, etc.
f) It is rather disappointing to note that leading science magazines have ceased their publication, like Science Today, Science Age, Bulletin of Sciences, Research and Industry etc. and Indian editions of foreign science magazines, like Vigyan (Scientific American), World Scientist (La Recherche), etc. could not survive.
g) India has 18 recognized regional languages. Communication in many languages is yet another great challenge, as research information is generally available in English. The quality of scientific translation could not achieve the level of excellence.
h) The science writing is still dry and boring, and interesting styles of writing, like fiction, poetry, satires, skits, discussions, etc. have not found adequate space and time in the media. Even most of the science writers could not contribute sufficiently such an interesting science material. Merely occasional appearance of something in the name of science fiction cannot serve the purpose.
i) The number of capable science communicators and scientific voluntary organizations is alarmingly low and hardly sufficient to cater to the large population.
j) The diverse social, cultural, geographical, economical set-up of the society is yet another challenge to be faced by science communicators.
k) Misleading scientific information, a continuous decay of creativity in presentation, distortion in translation, inconsistency in organizing the contents, lapses in the use of language, and many more deviations can be seen on media frequently.
l) There has been emerging conflict between scientists and communicators. This can be resolved by way of organizing scientists-journalists meets on regular basis.
j) It has been a common observation that most science communication efforts are centered either on children or teachers and most of the organizations are desirous to involve them in a number of activities. Other target groups may also be given equal opportunities.
k) Generally, “science communication” is considered only as “to communicating science” and no importance is given to “science and art of science communication”.
l) Science and engineering are attracting little talent nowadays for pursuing research and higher studies. This is a matter of grave concern that many of the science departments at undergraduate level are left with substantial number of vacant seats for lack of interest by the younger generation in science. This may lead to a crisis in the area of science and technology as well as public understanding of research.

Though challenges are many, we could see some rays of hope. India has been able to take initiatives in a number of newer programmes in the area of science communication, which were not tried out elsewhere and can take lead in these innovative areas to better serve the mankind. Following are some of the prospects:

a) Following the industrial revolution in the western countries, the level of science communication activities was exponentially increased. As such, India is passing through the same stage, in the present time. As the technology advances, the need of scientific information would also increase. Accordingly, the industrial India would soon witness the high time of science communication.
b) As far as science writing and science journalism are concerned, there is ample scope for furthering such efforts in developing countries, especially in South Asian Region. A common science and technology news and features pool can be formed to facilitate writers/journalists to get/exchange information on scientific research.
c) There is a great shortage of properly trained science writers, journalists, communicators, illustrators in various parts of the world, though, a number of training programmes are conducted at various places. Therefore, more training programmes are needed, which may preferably be conducted to give more opportunity to developing countries.
d) The scientific writing in our country today is chiefly limited to describing various aspects of a particular topic, either in a descriptive manner or in praise of it. A large number of our science writers and scientific journals are from the pubic sector and hence it is difficult to expect them to be analytical or self-critical. Further most of the R&D in our country is being carried out in government laboratories and there is hardly any means for the common people to know what scientists are doing. To bring public awareness in our country in the field of research, there is a need for investigative journalism in this field. Whatever is happening in this field, good or bad, proper or improper must be brought before the people, only then science journalism in our country would flourish in its complete form.
e) Despite some encouraging trends in recent years, various ongoing science communication initiatives and programmes at the national level need to be integrated under a single accountable authority to avoid duplication of efforts by multiple agencies.
f) Most of the popular science magazines are depending upon translations, that creates a lot of distortion in the presentation. Generally, science writers tend to prepare a story or a report only siting inside the room, without interacting with scientists or covering on-the–spot reports in the laboratories.
g) Popular science writing in India is still shackled by complacency and over dependence on foreign sources. It is very difficult to get information from a scientific laboratory. The scientists in some organizations are not allowed to talk to the media about the research being carried by them or in their laboratory. This requires a science media centre including a centralized website to facilitate media persons to get research reports well in time.
h) All India Radio has started science news based on the research papers appearing in Indian research journals. Print media can follow similar practice as well.
i) Science communication must not be misunderstood merely as communication of data; it must go beyond data. The logical and rational interpretation must come up to the fore, enabling the target audiences to shape their lives, ideas and thinking, as well.

There is a need of public debates on emerging issues of scientific research which are relevant to the people and are of their immediate concern to enable them to take informed decisions to lead their life in a democratic society. There has been a common belief more recently, that only things having commercial and economic viability will sustain in today’s fast advancing world that is governed and influenced by commercial and economic factors. The issue of increasing influence of commerce on research and problems arising thereof has been the focus of science communicators recently. Things have reached the point where money is making fundamental changes in the way research is done and communicated to the public. Hence, the efforts directed towards enhancing and public understanding of research, though important, tend to face the similar fate and therefore cannot be seen in isolation. This is an issue which scientists, communicators and the public have to take seriously.

[1] Editor/ Scientist Indian Journal of Science Communication (IJSC), National Council for Science & Technology Communication (NCSTC) & Honorary Secretary Indian Science Writers' Association (ISWA)
25/3, Sector - I, Pushp Vihar, Saket, New Delhi – 110017, India , (phone) 6567373,
This paper was prepared for the workshop, “Public Understanding of Research in the Developing Countries,” held December 8-9, 2002 in Cape Town, South Africa, funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF INT 0221207) with additional support from South Africa's Foundation for Education, Science and Technology. Proceedings of the workshop can be found at

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