Friday, 25 April 2014

Research Sector in India

Research sector in India needs a boost. We have top-class research institutes, like the IIT's, ISRO, DRDO, TIFR, but research in India lags behind that of many developed and developing nations. For example, BARC, which has some of the best researchers and scientists of India, produces only 3% of the power in India. This shows how much room exists for growth and improvement in research sector. With the burgeoning requirements of power, technology, communication, transport, trade and commerce sectors, research industry is of utmost importance.

The Government needs to formulate policies towards this front. After all, what the Government can do is set up a favourable environment for research. It can divert more funds for research projects.

The technical education sector in India is in a dilapidated condition. Apart from few top institutes like IIT's, IIIT's, all other educational institutions are under-performing. It is heart-breaking to see millions of students waste their precious time every year, without any glimmer of an idea as what to do with their life. To some extent, there is no motivation and inspiration for the students from the part of the faculty and peer groups. No wonder, 90% of them end up in some IT or marketing company, only to realize a few years later that the road-side workers and hawkers get more job satisfaction than they do. But, this realization dawns upon the poor guy at a time when he has reached a point of no return.

More students should be encouraged into joining academics and research. I think this is very much relevant in the current scenario. More students writing GATE, JEST, UGC(NET) and trying to get into top-class institutes, than previous years, shows that it is proceeding in a positive direction. A concern here is that the student assistantship is very less. I have seen many students who are really interested in India, but had to back off just because of the meagre stipend or institute assistantship they get every month. For an average M. Tech student, 8000 rupees is his only monthly earning for the next two or three years. Had he joined some corporate company, his earnings would easily have had jumped to millions in a few years time. So, it is important that students should engage in research without expecting only monetary gains.

It is a common misconception that you need to be extraordinarily brilliant and intelligent to do research. Fortunately this is not the case. It's the desire and passion to do original and relevant contribution which should drive you forward. Let me quote Harsha Bhogle, the famous cricket commentator, who once spoke, "Beyond a point, ability or talent is the most useless virtue to possess. It's what you do with that talent that really counts." He goes on to illustrate the point with an example of Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kamble, who displayed extreme dichotomy in their attitude towards cricket. Both of them started their careers under the same coach and were in the same team till they parted ways. While one of them went on to become a cricket legend world has ever seen, the other fell out of the race midway at the young age of 22 years. In short, attitude and passion should be the USP of a research scholar.

A country can never aspire to be self-sufficient without the aid of cutting-edge research. All developed nations set apart a significant portion of their budget for research and related activities. Research attracts investments and as for India, it can help in eradicating brain drain, which has been paralysing our economy the past decades, while other countries reap benefits. It is fact that a more than 30% doctors, engineers and successful entrepreneurs in US are of Indian origin. Why can't we bring them back? This is a question to be debated upon. To some extend, I blame the cheap politics, bureaucracy and unfavourable attitude here towards research, which is the reason why many academicians have left India for greener pastures in the West.

My vision about India is that India should become a breeding ground, more or like a mother hen, for the top-class research scholars in the world. Let us hope that this becomes a reality very soon. Let us all strive towards it.