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[BANGALORE] Eminent Indian science and technology experts have called on the country's premier research institutes to redirect their work towards addressing national development problems and the basic needs of the poor.

Key research issues should include clean water, food and sanitation, as well as global warming, said the country's National Knowledge Commission chairman Sam Pitroda.

He was speaking at a centenary conference of the Bangalore-based Indian Institute of Science (IISc), one of India's top science research and teaching institutes, this week (15 December).

Pitroda said that Indian scientists tend to be based in major cities, with the result that people living in smaller districts and rural areas have little access to technological advances. He suggested that India appoint at least one senior scientist to work as a chief scientific officer in each of India's 600 districts, to give the poor greater access to technology.

S. Ramadorai, chief executive officer and managing director of global software company Tata Consultancy Services Limited, said that the country needs a national agenda to put its best scientific talent and cutting edge science to addressing national development problems such as basic healthcare, water purification and clean power generation.

"Developing societies worldwide depend on [science] innovation as an effective solution to the problems they face," he said.

As the global research focus shifts to Asia "India is on the brink of a wonderful opportunity to be a global scientific power", but this can be realised only if it progresses on its developmental challenges, he said.

Arcot Ramachandran, chairman of The Energy Resources Institute (TERI) in Delhi and visiting professor at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore, said there is a compelling need to reconcile the demands of  environmental sustainability, economic growth and social progress not only in the country's political community, but also among scientists and technologists.

Many national and global issues are interlinked, he said, and science and technology should be reoriented to meet these common challenges.

Ramachandran added that science and technology should bridge the gap between policymakers and multiple stakeholders in exploring alternative ways for sustainable development.