Professor C.N.R. Rao’s anxiety that India has not funded R&D adequately is a matter for concern (“Funding for science grossly inadequate, says C.N.R. Rao,” Nov. 18). China is ahead of many nations in science. In 2009, it overtook Japan to become the world’s second-largest investor in R&D. Last year, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh acknowledged that for the past few decades India’s relative position in the world of science has been declining and that we are being overtaken by other Asian countries.
Prof. Rao has hit the nail on the head. The plain truth is that India has still to find a place in the top-10 ranks for excellence in science, be it in innovation or the publication of research. His lament that funding for science was “marginal” at an average, just “20 per cent” of what was needed for specific projects, and that “it never comes in time,” are statements that merit serious thought. The major hurdle in the advancement of science is the attitude of the bureaucracy.
Despite all these hurdles, India can still be proud of itself as the Chandrayaan and Mangalyaan space missions reveal, and which show that our scientists still burn the midnight oil, unmindful of any handicaps. Hence, it is time the government allocated more funds for scientific research.
Scientific advancement holds the key to having an edge over other countries and facing threats of external aggression more effectively. Rather than give away the nation’s resources on populist schemes with an eye on returns in 2014, administrators must now think in terms of ensuring adequate funds for the advancement of science. If the government enables a conducive scientific atmosphere for our scientists, engineers and doctors, brain drain can be checked.
A more relevant issue of concern seems to be the absence of a cost-benefit analysis of the whole scientific research scenario. Somebody should explain how the countless number of PhDs, postdoctoral fellowships and a variety of other academic recognitions awarded to countless Indians have improved the life of the common man, who puts great hopes on scientists. People are more worried about solving their core issues like drinking water, housing, health care and education through science and technology.
It can be inferred from the rather angry outburst of Professor Rao that the government is paying only lip-service to fostering the growth of science. There must be serious introspection on how to sort out the problems of the scientific community.
Vijay D. Patil,
“Want a boost in economy? Invest in science,” said a recent New York Times headline. Professor Rao’s response to the government awarding him the Bharat Ratna was a lament that he “is unhappy with lack of funding for science.” As early as 1950, Albert Einstein warned, “The concentration of economic power and political power in [a] few hands has not only made the man of science dependent economically. It also threatens his independence from within”. The scientist “... aroused by his inner freedom and independent thinking and his work” is in danger of forfeiting his “chance of enlightening and enriching the lives of his fellow human beings.”
India lacks the political will for science communication. Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman, one of the world’s greatest theoretical physicists, wasn’t joking when he wrote, “Before I was born, my father told my mother, ‘If it’s a boy, he’s going to be a scientist’.” I may add: and not a doctor, engineer, software professional, army officer or a politician!
Col. C.V. Venugopalan (retd.),