“India began late, and poverty came in the way of research in the earlier days”
Even as a debate is raging on the quality of premier higher learning institutions in the country, noted scientist and chairman of the Scientific Advisory Council to the Prime Minister C.N.R. Rao on Tuesday observed that “IITs and the Indian Institute of Science [IISc.] are not the best in the world.”
Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh had recently kicked up dust by saying that the quality of research and faculty of IITs and IIMs was not world-class. However, Professor Rao made it clear that his statement had nothing to do with Mr. Ramesh's remarks. He declined to comment on the Minister's remarks.
Addressing the inaugural session of a one-day seminar on “Frontiers of nanotechnology” organised here by the Karnataka State Higher Education Council, Professor Rao said: “The saddest thing is that not even a single research institute in India matches the best in the world, or MIT and Cambridge.”
He attributed it to the fact that other countries had a head start whereas India began late, and poverty came in the way of research in the earlier days.
Referring to the demand for sophisticated equipment for research labs, Professor Rao said in a lighter vein: “Shortage of equipment will make brains work better.” Referring to the premier IISc., he said, “The IISc. is characterised by very mediocre research mainly because they have a lot of facilities.”
He expressed concern that “we [Indians] do not work hard. Twelve hours of research a day is needed seven days a week if one wants to become a good scientist. There are hardly 10 scientists from India who are a household name in the world.”
At the same time, Professor Rao pointed out that India had the potential to do well. “India is a great country and you have all the freedom here. But a little bit of nationalism is needed among us,” he said, referring to how youth in China were proud of their country and dream of taking their country to the No.1 slot in science and technology.
“India has more brilliant people than any other country. Sixty per cent of India's population is from villages. It is these villages that have the best of brains. This is where our hope is. Those from big cities like Bangalore are more interested in money and they will not make much contribution to the future of the country's research,” he said.
Regretting that the country missed out on the semiconductor revolution earlier, Professor Rao stressed the need for not missing out on the nanotechnology revolution. “Semiconductor became a cottage industry in countries like Taiwan and Singapore. Similarly, India should make nanotechnology a cottage industry to get the full advantage from this technological revolution.”
Referring to forecast by the Chinese, he said China was set to become No. 1 in all aspects, including science and technology, in the next 20 years whereas India was expected to be in the fifth position. He wanted India to be in the top position.
Pointing out that presently 18 per cent of the world's science research was from the U.S. while 13 per cent was from China, he said the trend was set to be reversed in the next three years.