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HVK Archives: An island of Malayalam lights a candle for the masses

An island of Malayalam lights a candle for the masses - The Times of India

Vidhyadhar Date ()
9 February 1997

Title : An island of Malayalam lights a candle for the masses
Author : Vidhyadhar Date
Publication : The Times of India
Date : February 9, 1997

A group of 15 to 20 Malayalam-speaking scientists from the Bhabha
Atomic Research Centre (BARC) and other research organisations meet
in Mumbai every month and translate the latest scientific
information in the world into Malayalam so that the knowledge can
be speedily and easily made available to the masses.

They belong to the Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad, a Kerala-based
organisation which recently won the Right Livelihood Award - also
called the alternative Nobel - for outstanding work in
democratising scientific knowledge and bringing about a major
social transformation in Kerala.

The time lag between information in prestigious Western journals
and its translation into Malayalam is only 15 days, a scientist
said proudly. This knowledge is then made available in Malayalam
newspapers and journals with suitable commentary.

The scientists also organise discussions on various issues. The
next meeting in Mumbai on Friday will discuss the work of noted
nuclear scientist Abdul Salam and later pay a tribute to Lord Todd,
the Nobel prize-winning scientist with a major contribution in
genetics. His death went almost unnoticed in the Indian media.
The Parishad was horn in Mumbai in the 1960s with the initiative of
BARC scientist M. P. Parameswaran, recalls A. P. Jayaraman,
scientist and chairperson of the Indian Institute of Materials

It does not accept donations and depends mainly on the sale of its
publications which do not accept advertisements, Mr Jayaraman says.

The basic assumption of the movement is that science is not a
specialised elite activity, that the common citizen is capable of
both comprehending the general principles of science and, under
appropriate circumstances, practise the principles. The Parishad
has built a mass movement by involving the people in discussions on
science and technology issues which affect their daily lives.

The Parishad has a membership of 60,000 drawn from all walks of
life, spread out in 2,000 primary units in Kerala. Its major
fields of interest and activity are education, especially school
education, environment, development, energy, health, women's
issues, communication and research and development.

One of its outstanding centres is the Integrated Rural Technology
Centre (IRTC) located in a small but beautiful campus in Mundu
village near Palakkad town. The documentation centre in the campus
has a collection of nearly 5,000 books and 208 journals, mostly
provided free by institutions and voluntary organisations
undertaking similar work abroad. A newsletter is brought out
regularly and distributed to all Parishad units.

The scientists associated with the Parishad have intervened in a
number of issues pertaining to Kerala and questioned government
policies. The power crisis has always been a major issue in Kerala
and the Parishad has strongly criticised the unscientific planning
and inefficient management of the Kerala state electricity board
through various publications.

In 1977, the Parishad organised a 37-day procession in the state to
propagate its message through direct contact with the masses.
Nearly 900 meetings were held during the procession, which covered
over 10,000 km. The themes selected for the slogans and public
meetings were science for social revolution, labour power.

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