Despite A Steadily Increasing Growth Rate, Why Is India Still Failing Its Scientists And Engineers?

Posted on January 20, 2016 in Sci-Tech

By Akansha Singh:

An employee works inside a laboratory at Piramal's Research Centre in Mumbai August 11, 2014. Indian drugmakers are fleeing a regulatory morass at home and moving some research and development to Europe and the United States as they try to boost margins by producing high-value drugs. Companies like Piramal Enterprises Ltd, Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd and Lupin Ltd are investing millions of dollars and placing their future growth in foreign regulators' hands, as they seek to add more complex drugs to their product lines. Picture taken August 11, 2014. To match INDIA-PHARMACEUTICALS/RESEARCH/ REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui (INDIA - Tags: HEALTH BUSINESS DRUGS SOCIETY SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY) - RTR4460X
Source: REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

Between 2003 and 2013, the number of Indian scientists and engineers who migrated to the US rose from 21.6 million to 29 million, says a report prepared by the National Science Foundation. With this, India has topped the chart of immigration of its scientists and engineers to the US, when compared to other Asian countries. This alarmingly varying data of immigration is indeed a big reason for the Indian government to worry.

India’s GDP growth has been impressive over the past decade, with latest being 7.3 percent. However, this immigration, which is popularly known as ‘brain drain’ is not new to India. The question is why has this growing economy failed to retain its workforce largely over years? Despite taking pride in modern scientific research and in establishment of institutes like the IITs, India has failed to mark breakthrough work in these fields. This humungous brain drain has indeed earned India a bad name.

If we look at India’s premier institutes for science and technology, the intake of students is very less. The acceptance rate in the IIT is 2%. The case is not quite different when it comes to colleges for higher education in the field of scientific research. Where do the deserving candidates who do not get admission here go? A lot of deserving candidates, who are backed by cultural capital, settle with the decision of going abroad for a better providence and bright opportunities. This is the answer to India’s brain drain.

This clearly shows that there is a need for India to allocate more funds to the education and research sectors. Instead, the reality proves to be rather contradictory. Since the Modi government has come to power, there have been unreasonable slashes in fellowships and research budgets. Recently, the UGC Non-NET fellowships were terminated altogether, which led to widespread students’ movement across the country. Also in 2015, the CSIR fund was cut, asking it to self-finance its projects. It was directed to keep the government updated with whether the projects being undertaken are advancing government’s policies or not. Why under such an unsupportive government, would its workforce want to work at all, where prospects of their success are bleak?

Painting dazzling pictures with initiatives like ‘Make In India’ is not going to help. It might get the attention of the Indian entrepreneurs based abroad but it is definitely not going to be helpful in engaging the engineers and researchers who have travelled across.

The challenge that is posed to the Indian government is its economy. India is a mixed economy. Government’s policies have to connect with both the rural and the urban sectors. Negating one to put an emphasis on the other would prove to be unsuccessful, as India’s history already shows. Past is irretrievable but mistakes can be prevented in future. This onus lies with the present government. However, the schemes it has initiated gives impetus to entrepreneurs, having nothing great in the bag for either our farmers or our researchers.

The road to ‘Achhe Din’ will remain to be far flung till the time the government strikes a balance between the two ends of its economy.