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Innovation in Indian Research – “Conscience Deficit”

Voicing concern over India lagging in innovation, President Pranab Mukherjee made a strong plea to step up expenditure on research which is only 0.9% of the GDP which is much below than that of China, UK and Israel. Dr. Mashelkar addresses the scientific community and asks when can we create products that are first to the World? and suggests for creation of National Innovation Foundation. Observing continuous degradation of quality of research in India, Dr. Kokode suggests for creation of generation of researchers dedicated to innovative research. These pious statements are to be seen in the light of realistic situation in India as observed by Parliamentary Committee that higher education in India suffers from poor quality of curriculum, instruction and teachers lacking passion for teaching and research. It is also important to recollect Padma Shri Professor Pramod Tandon, Chairman of 96th  Indian Science Congress lamenting that the delegates are more interested in sight seeing than attending the lectures or technical sessions. In each Indian Science Congress, delegates are seeing the same faces of the scientists in the country and there is nothing new and exciting in their lectures. The country has not produced the second line of scientists to inspire the youth. It is true indeed and is confirmed by repeated extensions of senior science research administrators in India. It is most unfortunate that personal interest rules over national interest in India. Shri. Ratan Tata rightly diagnosed the disease affecting India as “Leadership deficit”.  I like to call it ‘Conscience deficit’ and lack of concern to Nation and fellow citizens.  It is affecting every arena of activity in India, thanks to political ideology and interference, compromising independence in thinkers and educational planners thus pandering to a mediocrity as a norm in the past six decades. There were attempts to import scientists from abroad but without significant breakthrough in establishing innovative biomedical research centers of excellence. Merit as sole criteria should be supported and encouraged with constant and vigorous monitoring. In-breeding should be reduced to bear minimum.  As per Qs World University Rankings, no Indian university is seen in World’s top 200 list with MIT grabbing the top slot and Harvard at No.2 position. IIT (Delhi), comes in way down at No.222, dropping from 212 last year. Continued monitoring and more effort is needed to maintain position and get into top ranks. There is need to study the scientific environment in advanced countries in particular in top ranking Institutions in biomedicine. To be innovative or creative, one has to put the Soul into the task, which requires sincerity and commitment to the problem followed by open mind, curiosity, inquisitiveness, intuition and imagination without ego and attachment. There will be very few fortunate who reach the goal. Even treading this path, one gets immense satisfaction of exploration making positive contribution. It is a real task for research funding managers to spot and cultivate committed researchers. We have too many self centered and leg pulling mosquitoes which affect the growth in self reliance of our country. National interest  over self interest should prevail to make life meaningful. We lack role models in innovative research in biomedicine. We have plenty of communicable diseases of developing country along with increasing burden of non communicable or lifestyle diseases with economic progress and development. Research on nutrition, environment, commerce and fast life factors contributing to non communicable diseases and aggressive lifestyle intervention should be top research priority before globalization engulfs our country. With ancient wisdom and tradition, we must be able to demonstrate the need for nature friendly lifestyle against self destructive consumerism.


The countries which were destroyed in Second World War have raised from the dust and have become models of hard work and growth. In spite of number of growth and self reliance models in the developed countries in front of us, the politicians, bureaucrats and the intellectuals too have failed the country in the six decades after independence in allowing villages deserted along with growing slums in cities with miserable and inhuman living conditions. Basic needs and priorities are not worked out giving rise to very poor and very rich populations with decreasing middle class, which had been moral strength of the country. It is not sufficient to state Vasudeva Kutumbakam as our philosophy but practice it and should become a role model to the World. 

Our country has great potential as shown with the successful test fire of intercontinental ballistic missile Agni-5, an important mile stone achieved by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) of India. It is important to think of future than living in glorious past. Compare Calcutta, Bombay and Madras universities which were founded in 1857, celebrating 150 years of their existence with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in USA that was founded four years later grabbing the top slot in university rankings. We have to seriously analyze the pathetic state of higher education and innovative research in a large country of more than one billion people. Delhi is not India to centralize all thinking and decision power. Decentralization of research funding agencies (South, North, East, West and Central) is essential to spot talent and nurture individuals and institutions throughout Indian subcontinent. 


September 18, 2013                                                                       Prof. B.C. Harinath