The President says there is no dearth of talent, but universities lack academic atmosphere

Calling upon universities in the country to be the “breeding ground of creative pursuits” and lead in the registrations of patents, President Pranab Mukherjee said here on Thursday that while the “USA and China file lakhs of patent applications every year, Indian companies and laboratories cannot file more than a few thousand.”

Delivering the Sir Asutosh Mookerjee Memorial Lecture to mark the eminent academician’s 150th birth anniversary celebrations in the city, Mr. Mukherjee said that there was “no dearth of talent in the country” but the problem is that universities cannot provide them necessary academic atmosphere.

The lecture was organised jointly by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and the Asutosh Mookerjee Memorial Institute.

The President, referring to scholars who graduated from Indian universities like Amartya Sen and Hargovind Khurana, pointed out that they obtained the Nobel prize by doing their research in universities abroad “because we could not provide necessary academic atmosphere to these talented scholars”.

Mr. Mukherjee, who quoted Sir Asutosh Mookerjee several times in his speech, said “this is what he (Mr. Mookerjee) lamented as isolation and stagnation” in academics.

Reiterating his concerns that despite having a huge set-up of higher education with more than 20 million students enrolled in the country, no Indian university or institution “finds place among the top 200 world-class universities graded by international agencies”.

“It makes me very sad and I almost repeat like a parrot in every academic congregation....,” the President said.

Mr. Mukherjee said that there was a need for “transformational ideas” to steer the country’s educational institutions from the “muddy waters of mediocrity”. He also called upon older universities to make a definitive move towards engaging their alumni in their activities.

“Students of universities should be encouraged to have a passion towards their alma matter,” he said, adding that “academic autonomy of the universities should be preserved at all cost”.

Urging the academic institutions to take a message from the life of Sir Asutosh Mookerjee, the President pointed out that as the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Calcutta he shaped its future and defended its autonomy.

Mr. Mukherjee described Sir Asutosh Mookerjee – an eminent academician, jurist and mathematician –as an “integrated person” and a wonderful example of an “interdisciplinary scholar”.