Scientist and chairman of the Scientific Advisory Council to the Prime Minister, Professor C N R Rao, has slammed corporate India for “pathetic” contribution towards science and education in the country.
In comments published in the Current Science journal of the Indian Academy of Sciences, Rao said, “It would not be entirely fair of me to ask (chairman emeritus of Infosys Ltd) Narayana Murthy as to what the industry has done for the society other than making products and profit… It would be wonderful if Narayan Murthy and others collect a few billion dollars so that we can set up a university such as Stanford.”
He added that if the industry were to fund such a university, he would be “delighted to work full time to build such an institution without any remuneration”.
The trigger for the Bharat Ratna awardee’s attack on industry leaders appears to be Murthy’s recent convocation address at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, where he questioned the contribution of institutions such as IITs and IISc. Murthy had said that there has not been a single invention from India which has gone on to become a household name globally in the last 60 years.
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When contacted, Rao told The Indian Express from Bangalore that in the last 55 years he has spent in the field of education, the Indian industry has done nothing for the sector. “Globally, around 40-50 per cent of the scientific research in institutions are supported by industry and the remaining 50 per cent is supported by the government. In India, however, it is all by the government. So the industry has no business talking about education and criticising it,” he said.
In the article, Rao said that while Indian universities used to contribute significantly to research, the country has allowed them to decay, leaving a few institutions to shoulder the responsibility of good research, development and innovation.
“It is generally agreed that we have to improve the quality of education at all levels, but we should give due credit to what has been accomplished by some of our institutions such as IISc… The primary responsibility of IISc, IITs and such institutions is the education of undergraduates and postgraduates in science and engineering. In this respect, they have done as good a job as one can. These graduates have performed well in India and in leading institutions elsewhere,” he said.
When contacted, Murthy told The Indian Express that while Rao has every right to say what he wants, he has already said what he wanted to. “He is a great scientist, is much respected and has great accomplishments. So when he says something, all of us should listen to him with respect,” Murthy said.
In the article, Rao also said that while IISc and some IITs have produced leaders in academics, industry and government, it is also true that it has not been possible to work at the same level as Harvard, MIT or Berkeley for various reasons.
“Our funding has been pathetic. All the funding comes from the government and the industry has contributed little. The government has not increased its spending on education above two per cent of the GDP; for science, it is less than one per cent of the GDP. It is high time they are six per cent and two per cent of the GDP, respectively. Many of my friends from the West have felt that for the investment made, India has done pretty well,” he said.
He said that while more investment is needed to create better facilities, it is equally important to work harder under the existing conditions.
“We have to make more effort on pressing problems of society like energy, water, environment and so on. It is possible that this is what Murthy may have meant rather than implying that IISc and IITs have done nothing for society. To take up such major challenges, we would require a different type of infrastructure and funding. I hope that our industry will start contributing to such efforts,” Rao said.