Monday, September 9, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Research in science: a distressing scenario

THIS refers to your valid concern for the decline of research in India during the last two decades (August 24). A letter in the prestigious journal Nature in 1996 had revealed that India’s contribution to the global scientific output declined by an alarming 32 per cent between 1981 and 1996. Instead of taking steps to rectify the situation, our science and technology establishments simply denied this. As a result, the wages of our malign neglect of science led to a stasis in the research output. The latest report of the Institute of Scientific Information, Philadelphia, based on Science Citation Index (SCI) has only confirmed what was widely known at least five years earlier.

Another recent UNESCO World Science Report says that not only the number of scientific research papers had gone down, even the number of Indian research journals included in the SCI has decreased by nearly two-thirds. Besides, India’s citation impact (the number of times a paper is cited) has also gone down drastically. The hollowness of all brouhaha over our achievements in certain areas is further exposed by the fact that even small newly industrialised countries could raise their share of scientific papers, journals and patents (in the USA) much above India during this period.

This distressing scenario is obviously due to our failure to develop a culture that could nurture scientific talent in the country. Popularity of science courses has come down to nearly one-half and even National Science Talent Scheme awardees prefer careers in other streams. In addition to the conventional brain-drain to foreign countries, equally grim drain of scientists, engineers and researchers is taking place to administrative and managerial jobs within the country. There are vast disparities in the pay scales and promotion avenues of researchers compared to civil servants, lecturers and others. An over-dose of suffocating hierarchy and over-bureaucratisation of national laboratories and university departments, are killing creativity as well as initiative. This was pointed out by even the Prime Minister in a speech in May 1998 while giving the “Jai Vigyan” slogan. “The progress of science”, he said, “is being hindered not so much by lack of money but by bureaucratisation of institutions that we have created in free India”.


The role of the corporate sector is no better as they are mostly looking for either technology import or foreign partners. The lower priced, good-quality products of multinationals are giving the Indian companies a run for their money. As a result, industries usually shy away from significant in-house R&D investments despite tax incentives. Technology development through indigenous R&D turns out to be the Achilles’ heel of Indian industries. The truth is that unless industries modernise and offer world-class R&D facilities for both basic and applied scientific research, they cannot compete internationally. Technology is not just another commodity that can be bought off-the shelf.

Technology today emerges from scientific research. India will have to produce technical knowhow through co-ordinated efforts of industries, universities and government laboratories. Isolated efforts in doing big science, irrelevant to industries or borrowed spectacular technology without our own scientific research infrastructure, will lead us nowhere. The country’s talent and resources need to be first developed, harnessed and properly used for encouraging R&D. Only then the superstructure of technology can be built on it and our research output, patents and standing in the international scientific sphere can go up.

SURJIT SINGH BHATTI, Professor, Applied Physics, GND University, Amritsar

Married to NRI

This refers to your report “Check exploitation of Punjabi girls”. Please let me tell to your readers that this problem has been there for a long time. A vast majority of Indians in the UK are coolies and work in factories as toilet cleaners and floor sweepers. These people live with their families in three bedroom houses. Majority of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi women work as cleaners at London airport.

Please also note that Indian qualifications are not recognised in any country. Quite a few of these people are already married and have sex with their “new brides” and then abandon them.

Please allow me to mention my on experience. The daughter of a friend in India got married about two years ago in Delhi. Her parents invited me to attend the marriage. The girl was employed and was earning Rs 12,000 a month. They never told me that she is being married to a person who lives in London. Six months ago when I visited the UK on a business tour I saw her picking up cups and cleaning ash-trays at the airport. When I called her she cried like a baby and told me that her husband works as janitor in a factory and she works as a cleaner at the airport. She is only 22 years old. She said: “If my papa had pushed me from the cliff I would have been much happier”. Please, parents, investigate properly, do not destroy a part of your own heart.




Reporting casualties

It is sad and disheartening to see your attitude towards the armed forces, perhaps the only organisation in the country today where there is still some semblance of nobility and patriotism, where tales of unflinching valour and soul-stirring sacrifice still abound, if only you would care to look for them! But, unfortunately they don’t make good copy!

Your reporting of casualties in the proxy war in the valley is incredibly callous and insensitive, and reads typically like “Major killed in Kupwara” or “Two jawans killed in Anantnag”. This Major and these jawans were also human beings. Each of them had a name. He also had a family waiting anxiously for him back home. Apparently, you don’t think so, since you don’t care to dignify the dead soldier with even his name anywhere in the write-up following this headline, leave alone his story.

Maybe somewhere along the way, you as one of the country’s oldest newspapers have shed some uncomfortable values, compassion and old-fashioned patriotism. Maybe you’re forgetting that while these soldiers are doing their duty, you are failing in yours.


Loan to Badal?

This refers to “SAD to sue CM for defamation” (August 26). Mr Parkash Singh Badal has publicly admitted that “he had already filed a suit against the Chief Minister after getting a loan of Rs 5 lakh from the State Bank of Patiala.” I being a banker know that there is no provision in the banking industry to give a loan for filing a defamation suit. I request the RBI, Chandigarh to swing into action against such a banker and recover the “loan”.



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