Written by Deepak Girme
Vidnyan Bodh Vahini
MANS believes that people behave irrationally and are superstitious, because of their ignorance. The reason for this is simple; they do not have proper education. It was believed that with the teaching of science in schools and colleges, people will be enlightened and will have a scientific temper or a scientific, rational and logical view of leading their lives. However this has not happened because the education policy makers in our country have sabotaged our educational system and the vested interests amongst these so called education experts, have seen to it, that our people remain mired in the bog of obscurantism and backward thinking. The so-called tall Pundits in our country are in fact tall only because they are amongst the dwarf masses.
Denial of the right to education based on the cast system has handicapped the majority of the population. They were preached into believing that it was a sin to learn to read or write. For ages the majority of Indians have suffered at the hands of these people. It is not wrong to say that such people and their narrow self-seeking interests are the main cause of the miserable condition that the majority of we Indians are in today. In the past 400 years, the Renaissance transformed the way of thinking in Europe contributing new inventions in science and technology, and changed the world. We Indians have contributed nearly nothing substantial to this modern way of life. If this scenario continues we will be amongst the most backward countries in the world. A Country is known by the majority of people, staying in this part of the world and not a few affluent people monopolizing religion, education, land holdings, trade and even the authority of the state. The ignorant masses should not be and cannot be just wished away or be ignored any longer, for they are the country.
According to the Constitution of India,-- it is the duty of every citizen of India to promote scientific temper, a spirit of inquiry and humanism.
MANS believes that it should do its duty as laid out in the Constitution of India. MANS is already doing a lot of work to promote scientific temper and scientific attitude amongst the people of Maharashtra. But ANS feels that it will be able to do much more in this direction if they had better facilities and tools to help them in this endeavour.
After a study of this problem of mass ignorance, it was decided that instead of constructing a permanent educational center, it would be better to start with a mobile unit, that could reach the remote areas where the most uneducated and economically deprived people live. Thus was born the idea of a mobile science van or Vidnyan Bodh Vahini. The expenditure on the special purpose vehicle was borne by Rotary Club in US and its counterpart in Jalgaon.
This mobile van, ‘a science classroom on wheels’, reaches young students and old people living in slums, villages and hamlets located in remote areas.
The Van is equipped with the following:
* Library containing books and posters on superstition eradication, elementary science, environment, health etc.
* Audio and video CDs DVDs on science, anti-superstition views, etc.
* Audio equipment like CD player, amplifier, loudspeaker, microphone
* Video equipment like,video CD/DVD player, video projector, screen etc.
A tour program of ´Vidnyan Bodh Vahini´ is planned well in advance by contacting the interested schools, villages. MANS activists visit the places as per plan. Live demos, and poster exhibitions and hands on experience of telescope, film shows, lecture-cum -miracle demo etc are the main programs through which MANS spreads its message about anti-superstition and tries to inculcate Scientfic Temper or Attitude amongst the people.
Written by Administrator
To some extent the urban population has become knowledgeable thanks to media, though they too are victims of different kinds of high-tech superstitions. However it has become pertinent to make rural population in general and rural children in particular aware of basic scientific principles which will prevent extravagant expenditure on superstitions. The rural population, which is a mix of Scheduled Casts and Scheduled Tribes and women, needs additional efforts from all concerned to impart knowledge in science and tecnology.
After realising this fact, ANS has made special efforts to concentrate on rural areas to eradicate prevailing superstitions through lectures, demonstrations and other peaceful means without hurting their sensitivities. The knowledgeable few in the villages welcome the efforts of ANS and encourages to conduct the activities in spite of their poverty and religious and traditional life style. Barring a few cities and townships, Maharashtra is still a backward state as far as scientific temperaments are concerned. The tribal districts still believe in witch craft and human sacrifice. Village women are targeted for any calamity and have to pay the price. All these things are preventable and may not need huge funds but sincere and continuous efforts of dedicated voluntary organisations.
During the implementation of Vidnyan Bodh Vahini program, it was experienced that mere a single telescope is not able to serve the purpose of sky-gazing which is very essential to eradicate superstitions like astrology, apprehension about zodiac signs, auspicious timings based on planetary movements, fatalism etc. The preliminary knowledge of origin and nature of universe, cosmology, astronomy etc is a foundation to scientific attitude. As such a need was felt to have some sort of planetarium which can reach comparatively larger audience. ANS activists contacted IUCAA and were glad to borrow their equipment for a smaller duration to assess its efficacy. A pilot program was conducted in Aurangabad. The demonstration was very successful and students were very enthusiastic about the whole show.
As such ANS has planned a program of Nabhangan Darshan (Sky Show) show for next two years by carrying the portable planetarium in the vehicle made available to ANS and reach at least 200 students of 8th and 9th class per day. The project proposal has been made to acquire portable planetarium developed by National council of Science Museum (NCSM), Kolkata and demonstrate the star and planet details through planetarium.
It has been planned to carry the inflatable planetarium to a nodal school in that area which is located centrally of a village cluster. The nodal school will contact the neighbouring schools to depute students to attend the exhibition. The demo will be conducted in batches of 30 minutes for 20 students at a time from each class. Permission will be sought from education authority for releasing the students during school working hours for a specified period to attend the demo. Thus within 5 working hours 200 students can avail the opportunity to visit planetarium per day. If the strength is not adequate from that particular school, neighboring school students will be invited. The additional time available with students after/before demonstration will be utilised for poster exhibition quiz and elocution competition on which additional details about Universe are made available. The trained narrators will explain the content available inside the planetarium to these students. The demo will cover various aspects of astronomy, cosmology, planet positions, star positions, and their relevance to day-to-day life.
Written by Administrator
Though the effect of science and technology is experienced in every day life of each and every person, there appears to be a very big gap between scientifically literate and the common person on the road on acquiring scientific attitude and awareness. Even in the elite and highly educated group, it is doubtful how many of them have scientific attitude in correct sense. Though the constitution stipulates the spread of scientific attitude and temperament as one of the foremost duties of every citizen in India, the pace at which this duty is being fulfilled is at snail’s speed and sometimes in reverse direction due to vested interests at certain levels. While planning to inculcate scientific attitude in the society, which will certainly eradicate superstitions, it became necessary to concentrate our efforts among school going children who generally acquire the traditions and rituals followed blindly by their parents. If it is possible to inculcate scientific awareness at that tender age by some means, the young will be aware of the importance of scientific attitude throughout their life. Formal education as planned by our educationists for primary and secondary education is just not sufficient to inculcate scientific attitude. As such Maharashtra Andhasraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (ANS) planned to educate students informally by appealing to the interested students to study superstitions and scientific reasoning behind the so-called miracles.
We have realized that just delivering lectures and performing demonstrations would not be adequate enough specially when audience is full of students. It was also learnt that the assimilation of knowledge is generally through listening to the lectures, self study, discussions with teachers and friends and appearing for examination to evaluate comprehension. To implement the scheme effectively, it became necessary that teachers should be the nodal point. As such a curriculum was formulated to include various related topics and for various age groups and accordingly programs were planned to train teachers so that they in turn can teach the subjects related to scientific attitude during extra hours and on holidays. Teachers were also entrusted the task of conducting the examination to assess assimilating abilities of students and successful candidates were awarded certificates.
The course has been divided into three levels:
Vaidnanik Janiva Parichay (Introduction to Awareness of Science) for students studying in fourth to seventh class. This is an introductory course, which enables students to get acquainted with fundamentals of superstitions and of scientific temper.
Vaidnanik Janiva Shodh (Search of Awareness in Science)is for students studying in eighth to tenth class. During this course, in-depth study of various subjects will be completed.
Satya Shodh Prabodh (Awareness and Search of Truth) is for college going students. It includes the study of theoratical topics like rationalism, secularism, mental disorders etc.
The syllabus has been arranged in such a way that it can be covered in about 10 periods of 30 minute each. If a special camp is arranged the syllabus can be completed within a day. Generally 20 minutes are spent on explanation of the topic assigned and 10 minute for question - answer and discussions. The subjects covered during these courses are as under:
• Scientific Attitude
• Faith and Blind faith
• Mental disorder and possible remedies
• Astronomy and Astrology
• Study of snakes and remedies on snakebites
• Scientific explanations about miracles, poltergeist and hypnotism
• Exposure of God men, Babas Matajis etc.
• Poltergeist (Bhanamati)
• Works of social reformers
For example the subject ‘scientific attitude’ includes following topics:
• Necessity of the removal of blind belief
• The distinguishing factors between scientific literacy and scientific attitude
• Methodology to check evidence
• Scientific thinking that includes freedom, fearlessness and humbleness
• Dangers of glorification of great persons.
• The origins and meaning of prevailing customs, traditions and rituals.
• Moral values and scientific attitude.
We arranges teachers training camps with the due permission of concerned educational officer in all district place and major towns. Teachers can avail the opportunity and attendance of training camp is considered as working day for teachers. MANS activists and experts in the field will outline the methodology of conducting the course and examinations, use of course material etc. Teachers participate in post lecture discussions and clarifications are sought. In fact ANS has compiled the questions that are generally being asked by the audience, which is also applicable to students also. These training camps benefit teachers and in fact some of them serve as activists and/or contact persons for MANS. We have trained more than 50,000 teachers and more than 500,000 students have undergone various courses.
We have observed marked change in the students attending the course. A question like “mention three superstitions followed in house” may trigger their inquisitiveness. Children are never passive in this regard. After realization they go out of their way to protest and are not afraid of expressing their displeasure frankly and openly. This in turn influences parents to take corrective measures. As the saying goes “ there are no problematic children but there are problematic parents’. ANS can cite hundred of examples where children protested against illogical and unscientific behavior of their parents; thanks to the courses undergone by students. During the euphoria of milk drinking by Ganesh on 21 Sept. 95, it was the students in Maharashtra who protested vehemently about the whole episode. Similar protest was observed even during the eclipse. The girls who had attended the course start protesting against rituals, which encourage gender discrimination. It is not only students who are benefited by this course but also the teachers who conduct them. Age-old practice of observing fast, believing in astrological predictions, expensive, outdated and irrelevant ceremonies were abandoned by most of the teachers.
To sum up we have oticed the following changes:
• Influence of Babas, Matas etc is reduced
• Children started showing keen interest in measures of reform
• Participation of students in exposing witchcraft, haunting and casting of spells
• Girls are becoming bold enough to question rituals of gender inequality
• Course material is used as a reference guide during discussions with staunch believers of superstitions
• Students advice their juniors and friends to undergo the course
• Students show keen interest in the activities and events happening in the surroundings
• Students want more material to enhance their knowledge
• Training one child in a family is equivalent to training the full family and its neighbourhood.
MANS has followed the principle of “Science and Technology at your doorsteps” rather than making students come to a centralized urban place as has been done in many of the `not so successful’ projects. This is one example, which has a potential to replicate all over India instead of confining to Marathi speaking area. In fact MANS is ready to extend its assistance to any dedicated team from other states that is prepared to come forward and work hard to conduct such program. This will hasten the process of inculcating scientific attitude among millions of our students.
Written by Administrator
“It is Science alone that can solve the problems of hunger and poverty, in-sanitation and illiteracy, of superstition and deadening customs and tradition, of vast resources running waste, of a rich country inhabited by the starving people. Who indeed could afford to ignore Science today? At every turn we have to seek its aid. The future belongs to Science and to those who make Friends with Science.”
- Jawaharlal Nehru
Almost half a century over these memorable words were spoken by the Nation's visionary first Prime Minister, truth is that of this "Rich Country" is still inhabited, if not by "starving people" - thanks to the Green Revolution - but by people shackled by the bands of " Superstitions and deadening custom and tradition" especially in the living core of this great sub-continent spread over more than 700 000 villages and habitats.Unless these shackles are broken, Nehru's vision of progress through making friendship with science, Science will still remain as a toy for the elite and exploiting tool for a few.
Spread of scientific temper in society is much more than the spread of science or technology.
Scientific temper is neither a knowledge about information or facts though it promotes knowledge, nor is it rationalism although it promotes rational thinking.
It is something more.
Scientific temper is an attitude of mind which calls for a particular outlook and pattern of behaviour.
It is of universal applicability and has to permeate through our society as the dominant value system powerfully influencing the way we think and approach our problems - political, social, economic, cultural and educational.
Scientific Temper involves the acceptance, amongst others, of the following premises:
*that the method of science provides a viable method of acquiring knowledge;
*that human problems can be understood and solved in terms of knowledge gained through the application of the method of science;
*that the fullest use of the method of science in everyday life and in every aspect of human endeavour from ethics to politics and economics, is essential for ensuring human survival and progress; and
*that one should accept knowledge gained through the application of the method of science as the closest
approximation to truth at that time, and question what is incompatible with such knowledge; and that one should from time to time re-examine that basic foundation of contemporary knowledge.
The method of science, therefore, constitutes a regenerative process for collecting information and processing the collected information to create meaningful patterns leading to an ordered understanding of nature of man himself, his natural and social environment. In this sense, the method of science encompasses all aspects of communicable human knowledge and cuts across all artificial compartmentalisation like natural science, social science, applied sciences, etc.
Keeping this in view MANS undertakes many programs to promote scientific attitude especially among the rural population MANS has a vision to promote scientific attitude in all sections of the society.
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