‘India can become World No. 1 in science’

By Prashant K. Nanda, IANS

New Delhi : India may never become the number one military power in the world but eminent scientist C.N.R. Rao believes that it has the potential to become number one in science and technology.

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“We will never become number one in economy or in military power but we can definitely become a superpower and world number one in science and, over all, in knowledge,” Rao, chairman of the Science Advisory Council to the prime minister, told IANS in an interview.

“Currently, 75 percent of our people live in villages but the country is yet to tap their potential. Both the public sector and the private sector should strive to tap, hone and nurture these talents.

“Excellent educational institutes do not create excellent students, they help hidden excellence to come out”,” Rao said.

The 74-year-old scientist, who is head of the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre For Advanced Scientific Research in Bangalore, was in the capital to deliver a lecture on science education in India.

Criticising some of the premier institutions of the country like the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), he said: “I don’t think these top institutes have delivered the promise. Definitely they are good but they can do better.

“Our science laboratories lack infrastructure and there is a shortage of teachers. Teachers’ training is not getting enough attention. More so, people in India have grown lazy and don’t want to work hard on academics.”

“Some years back, India’s contribution to the world scientific research papers was nearly 12 percent and in 2006 it was just 2.7 percent. China, the US and European countries are doing far better than Indians,” said the scientist who has himself published 1,200 research papers.

“India produces 4,000 Ph.D students every year but China produces 16,000 and the US has 23,000 Ph.D scholars every year,” he said.

Rao has helped develop scores of doctorate students in India and top universities of the world. During his long career of over 50 years of scientific research, he has also authored and edited 41 books.

Speaking about IT education in India, Rao said that instead of producing only “IT-coolies”, we all should think about producing more PhD scholars in computer science.

He, however, expressed optimism over the recent steps taken by the Indian government in recruiting teachers, modifying course curriculum and the University Grants Commission (UGC) giving special grants to several universities and colleges to increase research activities.

“I am involved in some programmes and know that things are improving,” he said.

When asked about the quality of PhD students he has created in India and abroad, he was very appreciative of Indians. “Oh, yes, doctorate students who worked under me in India are much better than those in California or anywhere else.”

But he lamented that India does not get enough attention in the global scientific forum. “Its not that we don’t have talent but India does not have great clout. We need to be 10 times better than others to get the same recognition.”

Taking a cue from world-renowned scientist Michael Faraday, Rao advised research scholars to “work, finish and publish” their research papers.

(Prashant Nanda can be contacted at [email protected])