December 5, 2011 11:47:00 am
The news that Indian science education is going through a huge transformation for the better warms the cockles of ones heart. Science doctorates went up from around 5000 at the beginning of the Tenth Plan to more than 9000 in the Eleventh Plan. The upsurge goes to funding of newer institutions,of a networking kind but also building around clusters at the beginning of the last decade. It was in the second half of the nineties that the core ideas,catching them young,creating interest in science at the school level and keeping it up,institutions integrating teaching and research,institutions putting in team effort for solving scientific problems and institutions cutting across status and narrow disciplinary walls was being pushed forward by a number of scientists and out of the box science administrators. It clicked and the UPA government funded the better of these ideas.
Interestingly the unsung heroes were not very well known to the media scientists and science administrators. I remember as Science Minister writing to all our Ambassadors on fresh ideas implemented in the country in which they were serving. When I got the replies we were implementing many of them. But China had a scheme called 8/92. Theirs is a pictorial language and the words stood for August 1992 when they implemented a scheme where more than a score of young Chinese scientists after a national search process were given a five-year stipend with top level salaries and whats more were given a handsome laboratory equipment grant and funds to go abroad for a year out of five years on Chinese money. This was the origin of our Suvarna Jayanti Fellowship Scheme later improved and replicated. But at that time,I was criticized by one of our top scientists for denying these funds to senior scientists.
A number of men and women come to mind who pushed these ideas. They were not media savvy and did not get called to meetings and embassy and chamber of commerce get togethers. One of them was Ramamurthy,Science Secretary of India,until the middle of the last decade. A science professor from the Saha Institute at Kolkota,I remember him always worried over essentials,why are high school children not taking to science,what about young scientists who want to do group research,why cant a masters or doctoral student in new materials also do a course in quantitative economics and why are university scientist not applying for the Suvarna Jayanti Fellowships. Great leaders lead from the back.
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