Monday, June 29, 2015

An Offer to Work in India

How difficult is it for science & technology to thrive in India?

Everytime I see a news article or TV reporter gushing about the achievements of a scientist or entrepreneur of Indian origin, I am reminded of Prof. Venkatraman Ramakrishnan. In 2009, soon after he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, Prof. Ramakrishnan declared, "Nobody has approached me about an offer to work in India. However, I can categorically state that if they did so, I would refuse immediately.”!

What explains this vehemance, this deep disenchantment?

Perhaps a part of the answer lies in the way we build and run our public-funded scientific institutions. Some of them are run like personal fiefdoms with no succession plan in sight ("after me the deluge!"), and in many others dedicated individuals find themselves embroiled in a constant battle with ted-tape.  

A couple of years ago, the official press release on the prestigious Marconi Prize  awarded to Prof. Paulraj, actually stated that he was driven out of India because "bureaucratic battles began to take their toll"... This was one scientist who returned to India, in 1986 from Stanford-U, and set up two institutions - CAIR and CDAC - before being hounded out. So he just went back to USA and went on to create the MIMO standard which is at the heart of 4G mobile technology we all use today.

Our short-sightedness was also highlighted recently in a widely circulated blogpost by Dheeraj Sanghi. Having been a member of numerous selection committee's, he describes how "Participating in...committee meetings can be very depressing as they expose this myth about India being the largest producer of scientific manpower."

Add to this the daily tussle we witness between the IITs/IIMs and the hon'ble Cabinet Minister for Human Resources Development, and the disheartening picture is all too complete.


* (12 May 2015) - Dheeraj Sanghi - The Quality of Faculty --

* (Firstpost, 2014): R. Jagannnathan -
- We need to ask ourselves: why does our system kill future heroes, while the US helps raise even ordinary Indians to iconic levels
- The short point: our system is designed to keep people out, not get them in. The true value of an IIT or IIM is not the intellectual capital they produce, but their filtering expertise

* (Hindu, 2009) - Nobel Laureate bemused by deluge of goodwill --

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