If Indian born can produce Nobel’s why not for Indians?

via Dr.N.S. Rajaram published on October 7, 2009

Again it has happened. An Indian scientist working in the U.S. and U.K. has been recognized with a Nobel Prize– a real Nobel in a real science, not a phony Nobel in a phony ‘science’ like economics or ‘peace’ (remember Yasser Arafat?).
A Nobel is not everything, I know several including Indians who have done exceptional work but have not been recognized with a Nobel Prize (ECG Sudarshan comes to mind); but it is a broad indicator of scientific excellence. Indian academics should ask themselves why is excellent work not possible in India.
As one who left India for the U.S. to do research and not because of a better life (I had excellent career prospects before I left) I can summarize it by saying that there is a pervasive intolerance of excellence in Indian academia. This is combined with a massive bureaucratization and politicization of all walks of professional life. The kind of bureucratization found here is unknown in the U.S. In my nearly 25 years as an academic (and college administrator) in the U.S., I did not once have to see a government bureaucrat.
Even when I submitted grant porposals, to funding agencies like the National Science Foundation, I dealt with administrators who were academics on assignment and not professional bureaucrats. After finishing their term, they went back to their old positions.
But more fundamentally, India is full of ‘researchers’ who are not committed to excellence, but worship position, perks and status. I have seen senior academics like former directors of IITs and IIMs hanging outside government offices looking for handouts in the form of committee appointments, grants for setting up ‘centers’, etc. After retirement, many of these hang on consuming resources that could support younger workers.
This is soon followed by a post-retirement phase of religiosity in the name of ‘spirituality’ , which they claim will allow them to combine ancient Indian wisdom with modern science. Why they didn’t do much in modern science when they had the opportunity is left to the imagination of the gullible and to the bureaucrat who controls the purse strings.
When there is no culture of excellence, how can people achieve excellence, especially young people? Worse, there is an intolerance of achievement and of people who seek excellence.



Dr. Navaratna S. Rajaram is a mathematician, computer scientist (well known in the field of Artificial Intelligence), linguist and more recently a historian of science. He has had more than twenty years experience in teaching and research at several Universities in the U.S.A. Since 1984, he has been a consultant to the NASA, Houston, U.S.A.

He resides at present in Bangalore.

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