Thursday, September 10, 2015

Murthy Vs. Rao

Is there one invention from India that has become a household name in the globe? 
Is there one technology that has transformed the productivity of global corporations? 
Is there one idea that has led to an earth-shaking invention to delight global citizens?

These were some of the questions posed by Narayana Murthy at an IISc convocation ceremony in July 2015. As expected, it provoked loud yelps of protest from India's scientific community, including the big daddy of them all, Prof. CNR Rao, who countered it by just tossing the question back to Murthy - What has the industry contributed to S&T in India?

CNRR's rhetorical response does not, of course, answer any of the questions posed by Murthy. So a one can come to the concusion that the short answer to NM's questions is "Sorry, none at all."

Perhaps a part of the answer to Murthy's questions lies in the way scientists like CNRR are reacting to his convocation speech. A touchiness that comes from being insecure, a misplaced sense of self-importance, and an attitude that would do the proverbial ostritch very proud indeed!

Oddly enough, less than a week after Murthy's speech at IISc, CNRR stated (20 July) almost the same thing in different words. “The IISc. is characterised by very mediocre research", he said,  "mainly because they have a lot of facilities.” I guess the man who had a traffic circle outside IISc named after himself decided to change tack because he thought the institution was being criticised by an outsider who was a capitalist, and a bourgeois to boot.

Fortunately NM has refused to be drawn into a debate with CNRR. His simple response was, "He is a great scientist...So when he says something, all of us should listen to him with respect”.

Anybody who has read the full text of NMs speech would realize that his target audience was a whole generation of young scientists who who were going to seek greener pastures in the West. Even if  a few of them return home with one technology, one invention or one idea, it would still be a great outcome for India.



* Copy of the speech delivered by NM -
* CNR Rao's response -
* CNRR on IISc -

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