India's institutions below par: CNR Rao

Raging debate

India's institutions below par: CNR Rao

CNR Rao, Ch­airman of the Scientific Advisory Council to the Prime Minister, said here on Tuesday that none of the country’s premier institutions, including Indian Institutes of Science (IISc) and Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), “can match the best in the world.”

Rao’s remark comes just days after a statement by Un­ion Minister Jairam Ra­m­esh that “IIMs and IITs are not world class” triggered a national debate.

The eminent scientist was asked whether he agreed with Ramesh. Rao replied: “ Ram­esh is a bachha (child). I would not like to comment on that. But the way forward for us is to work hard together and ut­ilise the available resources, both financial and otherwise, wisely.”

Speaking at the inaugural session of a one-day se­minar on nanotechnology he­re, the scientist noted that the research in the country “is sa­dly losing quality” even as the facilities to do research were increasing. That is one of the reasons why India’s instituti­o­ns are not in a better position.

This, he said, was true even with institutes like the IISc, where he was once part of the faculty.

“Name ‘just’ 10 Indians who the world recognises as good scientists today. I cannot,” he remarked.

He pointed out that China, which does 13 per cent of the world’s research—second only to the US which does about 18 per cent—will overtake America. “The Chinese will in the next 20 years become the best in all fields but we (India) will linger around the fifth place,” Rao predicted. “Why can’t we be the number one?”

Lack of finances

Rao explained that India has been a victim of lack of finances for years as it was in a very nascent stage as a nation when modern technology and research were taking shape. However, this is the time for “all of us to work hard” and create technologies that can shape the new world for the industry to take interests in the products.

Nanotechnology is one such field that we can take the lead. We completely missed out on the semi-conductor revolution which countries like Taiwan, Malaysia and China took advantage of. So what we need is to create cottage industries out of nanotechnology so that we can leverage the achievements and make best use of ‘our’ technology,” he added.
Rao also noted that many universities in the country “over specialise” their students even before they are ready with the basics, and make them “unemployable.”

Citing an instance at Oxford University, Rao said: “When there was a proposal to set up a department for bio-technology, the entire faculty overwhelmingly turned it down. But what do we do here? Offer bachelor degree certificates for bio-technology.

Bio-technology is an applied science. It is something we do, not something that is taught, at least not before knowing the pure sciences.”
Higher Education Minister V S Acharya, when posed with a similar question, said:

“Bio-technology is not the same anymore. It is a more matured ‘subject’ now. Besides, we only have it as one of the subjects at the bachelor’s level.”

Rao added:  “We must be really careful in utilising our resources. I have grown the hard way and I know what not having reosurces could mean.”

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