Science popularization was not a totally new concept to the people of West Bengal in 1986 when Paschim Banga Vigyam Mancha (PBVM) started function. The doyens of our renaissance were involved in this social reform work even in early nineteenth century. The only difference is that PBVM initiated an organized People's Science Movement.
More than three decade has passed since its inception and now no one will deny that PBVM is a name in this field of science popularization not in West Bengal but also in India.
PBVM is the largest people science organization in India with membership exceeding 3.42 lakhs. In the twenty two Districts of West Bengal, most of the Blocks of the State, in the research Institutes and Universities have their respective units/committees of Paschim Banga Vigyan Mancha. Millions of people of West Bengal are very much familiar with the name PBVM because of its sustained various type of activities which relates with all walks of life.
PBVM has been awarded National Award for best effort in Science Popularization in India during the period 1985-89, by the Department. of Science and Technology, Govt. of India.
During the period of 30's and 40's of the previous century, India witnessed growing of freedom struggle. Science education (in strictly modern sense of the term) started in India even in colonial days. For that reason institutes for science research as well as eminent scientists could be found in India in the colonial days. Universities of Calcutta, Bombay and Madras were founded in the mid of Nineteenth century. Some important scientific institutes and research centers like Indian Association for Cultivation of science, Asiatic Society (both of Calcutta) sprang up in our country during colonial days, even in Nineteenth century. Eminent scientists like Jagadish Chandra Bose, Prafulla Chandra Roy, C. V. Raman, Ramanujan, Meghnad Saha, Satyendranath Bose, P. C. Mahalanobis, K. S. Krishnan, H. J. Bhabha, M. Visweshsariya etc. All are a few of them who conducted their works in close association with Indian freedom struggle. To imbibe Indian people with modern and progressive thoughts, a lot of efforts were undertaken as a part of freedom struggle. A lot of streams were there which together formed this effort. To fight against the age old superstitions, bigotry, obscurantism with the help of science was such a stream which was observed in many parts of our country during freedom struggle. These efforts may be termed as Peoples' science movement in an embryonic form.
Apart from the effort of making the Indian education system scientific and democratic, serious efforts for making people aware of science, incubating scientific temper among the people, taking benefits of science and technology to the people in general and poor in particular, were very much there in India. But, peoples' science movement as is known today was not there. Peoples' science movement, where a number of people engaged in all types of activities for taking science and its benefits to the people, is not very old in our country. Peoples' science movement with well defined objective was first initiated in the state of Kerala. As far as our Country is concerned, PSM emerged for the first time (in term of statewide movement with clear-cut program) by the formation of Kerala Sasthra Sahitya Parishad (KSSP). It was during 60's - KSSP was founded in the year 1962. Subsequently a number of organizations with the objective of PSM were formed in various states. To name a few, Karnataka Rajya Vigyan Parishad (KRVP), Andhra Pradesh Vigyan Vedika, Tamil Nadu Science forum, Eklavya (MP), Madhya Pradesh Vigyan Sabha (MPVS), Haryana Vigyan Mancha, Assam Science Society, Delhi Science Forum (DSF), etc.
Paschimbanga Vigyan Mancha (PBVM) is at present one of the largest PSM organisations of our country. Its membership strength has already crossed 3 lack 42 thousand mark. PBVM has got its units in 22 districts of West Bengal. PBVM is working through lowest level units in rural and urban areas. With the help of innumerable units throughout the state PBVM is maintaining links with thousands of science activists who are working with commitment to take science and technology to the people.
Though Paschim Banga Vigyan Mancha was formed on 29th November, 1986, but this formation of PBVM should be looked upon as the culmination of a process which was initiated in this part of the country a long ago, even in pre-independence days. Before independence, at the time of united Bengal, local endeavors of some educated people could be found to make people aware of science, though without any clear program and statewide co-ordination. Notwithstanding these weaknesses, these small efforts in many pockets of Bengal created the basis and heritage which made the formation of PBVM possible. It is to be admitted that if the long tradition and rich experiences of institutions like Bangiya Bijnan Parishad and a good number of science clubs were not there, the emergence of PBVM would not have been possible.
Experience of Paschimbanga Vigyan Mancha has been very encouraging. All sections of our population, Scientists & Technologists, Professors and Teachers, Professionals and Doctors, students, workers, farmers, activists of social movements have come forward at the call of PBVM to develop a strong PSM in the state of West Bengal.
Since its inception, PBVM has taken up a large number of activities and time based program linked with the objectives of creating, spreading scientific outlook, taking benefits of technology and science to the people who are yet to have it even in this age of unprecedented development of Science & Technology. Starting from publication of science books in simple language, issues like conducting children science activities, environment, health for all, self-reliant development in agriculture, energy question, technology up-gradation for the artisans, low cost housing, samata activities to bring in women within the orbit of peoples' science movement have been taken up by PBVM. According to the prevailing conditions in their places district units of PBVM fix up the priorities for their program. In West Bengal, even in districts there is no dearth of resource persons, only problem is to dovetail them with the program where they suit most. Earlier district units of PBVM had weaknesses in this proper and planned deployment of quality elements for the furtherance of peoples' science movement, but now they have been able to overcome this particular weakness. A lot of things and issues are there, to be taken up by PBVM as PSM in West Bengal for the cause of development of scientific awareness among the people. In West Bengal, there is a unique scope and possibility of continuing the science campaign programs with the activities of local self govt. agencies like, Panchayats and Municipalities. These continuations should be attempted to take peoples' science movement to the grass root level more & more.