Bangalore: Most people know Karnataka, in particular Bangalore, as the IT hub. But, this is not the only thing they should know.
Karnataka has emerged as the science capital of India over the past five decades.
Let us not forget that the very first institute for major scientific research in India was established here during the days of the Maharaja.
Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV offered land free to the then Government of India and Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata set up the Indian Institute of Science. Since then, many institutions have come up. Today, we have the Raman Research Institute, the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR) and a variety of national laboratories. In addition, there are a number of private firms and R&D companies, both Indian and international.
The biggest R&D private company has been established by General Electric with more than 3,000 people working in it.
All these put together, Bangalore is certainly a major science city of the country.
There is much more that the Karnataka Government can do for science in the years to come. Of course, they gave free land to start JNCASR. They are giving incentives for institutions to get established. But the Government should go out of its way to attract talented scientists and engineers to Bangalore and other parts of Karnataka by establishing new institutions and providing the infrastructure.
They have to attract both public and private sector efforts.
If you notice, most investment comes from outside and has nothing to do with the Karnataka Government. This interest from outsiders can at least be used for the State's gain.
The Indian Government, for instance, is likely to establish new IITs in the near future. I am hoping that at least one of the IITs would come to Karnataka.
The Government has to worry about growth of science and technology in other parts of the State such as Mysore or cities in north Karnataka.
All these parts need science-based institutions. If IIT comes Karnataka's way, it could be established away from Bangalore. I should say to Karnataka Government's credit that it did establish a number of educational institutions outside Bangalore. But, we have to do much more to improve the quality of these institutions, particularly in science and technology, so that they are equipped to do high-level research. At a more basic level, we have to provide better science education programmes in schools and have attractive science museums.
Our scientists and engineers have done very well over the years. But most of them have gone to institutions that are not under the Karnataka Government. There is much we can get out of the citizens of Karnataka to improve science and technology, and thereby secure the State's economic and industrial future.
Karnataka should have a targeted, well-orchestrated plan in this direction over the next 20 years that will attract talent and forge new kinds of economic activity.
Bangalore is the IT capital. But too much of IT is also bad. In fact, too much of anything is bad because the future of Karnataka depends on a balanced growth. Growth should be inclusive IT of course, but also biotechnology, nanotechnology and various other aspects of science and technology as well as humanities, theatre, art, philosophy, music... Otherwise it will be a terrible place to live in!
What Karnataka, and Bangalore in particular, needs really is a planning directorate, a permanent body for the State as a kind of a think tank. We can't afford to let things happen in a haphazard way and just be witness to it all. The people of Karnataka should get the best out of life, not only through science and technology, but also through every sphere of creative activity and innovation.
As told to Bageshree S.
(Prof. C.N.R. Rao is one of the world's foremost solid state and material chemists. Born in Bangalore, Prof. Rao is currently the National Research Professor of India and also Linus Pauling Professor and Honorary President of the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research in Bangalore. He has served as Director of the Indian Institute of Science and is a recipient of several national and international awards).