Osmania University will host the 105th edition of the Indian Science Congress during January 3-7, 2018. It is expected that around 20 Nobel laureates will attend the event. It is such a huge achievement for country where the researchers are looked upon as “the guys who couldn’t get the job.” A conference at IIT Delhi, this year, received 39 proposals related to the cow, things like cleaning up the Ganga using cow urine. Prime Minister Modi, once in his speech, refused to believe that climate is changing and stated that we humans are now becoming weaker, that’s why we are “seemed to be affected.”
On Earth Day, i.e., on 22nd April, the world witnessed “March for Science.” India was not a lotus and Indian science community too organized the rally in India. The global march was triggered by the hostility shown by United States President Donald Trump to climate science, threatening the world’s efforts to mitigate climate change, along with fund cuts to the fundamental research, and what scientists called a rising trend of anti-intellectualism. On 9th August, scientists, research fellows, and university students from various cities took part in the rally known as “India March for Science.” In both the rallies, the common demand was to allocate at least 3% of GDP to scientific and technological research and 10% towards education. Currently, the funding is 0.85% of the GDP. Other demands were to stop propagation of unscientific, obscurantist ideas and religious intolerance, in conformance with Article 51A of the Constitution, ensure that education system imparts ideas that are supported by scientific evidence and Enact policies that are based on scientific evidence.
In 2014, the very year he was elected Prime Minister, Narendra Modi told doctors at Reliance Foundation Hospital in Mumbai, “We all read about Karna in the Mahabharata. If we think a little more, we realize that the Mahabharata says Karna was not born from his mother’s womb. This means that genetic science was present at that time. That is why Karna could be born outside his mother’s womb.”
“We worship Lord Ganesha. There must have been some plastic surgeon at that time who got an elephant’s head on the body of a human being and began the practice of plastic surgery.”
In Indian society, the children who take up science are seen as the top students, an instrument of jealousy for the parents whose wards couldn’t end up in science stream. Non-science takers are ridiculed. These science students are later pressured to take up engineering or medical sciences. Again, the basic science students are looked upon as failure and disappointment. They are expected to take up Bank PO, CDSE, SSC, etc. exams to make up for the ‘disastrous choice.’ Society affiliated courses get narrowed by increasing education level. Now, these engineering and medical students are expected to get placements and earn after their first degree. Most of the students, who have inclination towards research, wither seek education from West or give up the dream as it won’t fetch money. People going for masters in their fields in India are tagged losers. It doesn’t matter that they have qualified GATE or JAM. The only master’s degree ‘valid’ after engineering is MBA. The acceptance ratio becomes negligible for JRFs. So, the society, which thinks that the job ‘to take the human race ahead’ is seen as disappointment, how can that society will progress!
Recently, while looking for PhD options in the world, I stumbled upon this website – http://www.phdstipends.com/. This website deals with the data of PhD stipends throughout the world. They have a living wage ratio (LW ratio), which normalizes each gross pay entry to the local living wage. Many top research institutes had ratios between 0.6-2.0. I searched India and found only TIFR is given. The LW ratio was not given and the website posted the comment that the wage received is enough to survive in the country when converted to Indian Currency. The stipend received by Junior Research Fellows (JRFs) in Indian universities is 25k per month. It further increases to 28k after 2 years as they are promoted to Senior Research Fellow (SRF) position. Even that meagre stipend too is subjected to delays for months! Apart from low stipend, the duration is based on the mercy of the guide. It could take 3 years and it could take more than 6 years too. Even for faculties, the Research Initiation Funding is 10 Lakhs. Last year, Rohith Vemula hung himself. In his suicide note, he asked to transfer his pending fellowship of 7 months to his family. Now, you can see the funding shortage in research in India.
During Diwali vacation, on the way to Gorakhpur from Varanasi, in train, I observed 3 science faculties of Gorakhpur University. One was quite senior and other two were his junior colleagues. Hardly any word I could hear related to science. All I could hear was office politics on recruitment of faculties, lobbying by seniors for the recruitment and faculties who left for good. One of them even suggested his senior professor that research should not be the parameter for promotion! I felt like rolling on the floor laughing. The senior faculty saved some grace as he told that if this hollow proposal of his gets accepted then faculties won’t indulge in any research.
In September, UGC was asked by HRD Ministry to select 20 Institutes – 10 government and 10 private – which would be granted the status of ‘Institute of Eminence.’ The selected institutes would lay out roadmap to feature in top 100 Universities in the World. The government will release 1000cr. fund to them yearly and they would be allowed to have relaxation on curriculum and other government regulations.
One of the major reason why we do not consider research important is the fact that we import technology from the West. This leads to increase in products’ cost and thus, give rise to inflation. To come up with a new technology requires decades of research on molecules and their properties in various media, years of research to find the right combination and several more years to make it efficient. We Indians won’t understand this as we are busy in living the dream of Ram Mandir and Ram Rajya.