Research in India – The Unheeded Realm

By Ayesha Borker

Edited By Namrata Caleb, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist

The latest trend amongst students in India is to pursue their Master’s degree abroad. USA, Germany or Canada- All are popular destinations to take forward ones career and be ‘masters’ in ones desired field. Some extra probing or digging of information and you’d know, this degree involves in-depth study of the particular stream or field the student selects. Be it Robotics, Embedded Systems or Material Science- the course is designed in such a manner that you emerge experts at the end of it.

You may think this is extremely advanced as compared to the engineering courses widely famous in India. But one needs to think again. Most Universities abroad offer PhD courses too, which last for a period of three to five years. These universities are dedicated towards ground-breaking research and embarking on a journey to discover the unknown or the untried. This takes the love for science one notch higher.  It has to be understood that Engineering and Research are two distinct entities within themselves. While engineering may primarily involve implementing the known, research is expanding boundaries, delving into the improbable and putting in effort towards making it possible. Research can be seen as an industry within itself and unfortunately it is in a very bad shape in India.

At this junction, many would argue that India too offers many Masters and PhD programmes. The reality is that while we may not have a dearth of institutions, we certainly have a dearth of quality institutions engaged in quality research.  We also lack scope and prospects in the field of research. While USA or Canada invest heavily in research institutes and provide a substantial amount of funding, India on the other hand depicts a sorry picture. Indians are majorly conditioned to chase lucrative careers with quick money or growth prospects. Research predominantly relies on genuine interest but is definitely not a ‘dry’ field. In the West, many professors or research scholars are on consulting panels of R&D departments. Apart from that they find stimulating environments within their universities and sufficient funding to pursue their research. With such facilities at disposal, research becomes an enticing option, adding a whole new domain of professionals to the society.

In India, on the other hand, we have very few institutes that offer good research opportunities. Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Indian Institute of Science or the Harish Chandra Research Institute belong to the select few. Sadly, our education system is designed in such a way that majority display satisfaction the moment they land a job. Indians are heavily directed towards a mentality of service rather than one of invention or self-reliance.

Statistics show that research scholars are only 0.02% of India’s total population. This information was shared by the nation’s HRD Minister Smriti Irani in Lok Sabha recently. She proclaimed that India has a very poor investment in R&D and wished to change the pitiable scenario. She also stated that the government is taking several steps to provide funding, infrastructure, attractive fellowships and national awards. While these steps are welcome, it is only time that will show whether we can tap our vast source of human knowledge into the research strata and strive towards becoming self-sufficient.  Our government believes that setting up new IITs would help in solving our problems but the question is how many IIT-ians actually end up taking research work? The reality is most leave the country for better prospects. With the claim of being the nation’s best institutes in their kitty, the validity of the same becomes questionable if they fail to produce any substantial input to the homeland and are only contributors to Brain Drain.

For a country that claims to be the world’s next super power, it is extremely unfortunate that our research facilities are not in place. If India wants to a significant force on the world map, it has to strive to become the hub of exploration. With the kind of intellectual prowess we possess there is no doubt regarding the heights we could reach if only scientific research is resurrected with full potency and dynamism. The last Nobel Laureate in Science for India was C.V. Raman and it was back in 1930. It’s time we add another name to that list.

Ayesha has completed her engineering and is currently working.She has a very logical bent of mind and keeps an interest in a variety of topics. She has a passion for writing poems and maintains a blog too(/ loves creating things, coming up with ideas to build things from scratch ! She loves humour and is up to hear any joke ! Life is too short to be taken seriously !