November 14, 2010
At the outset I would like to make certain things clear before I write out this article about what are largely my opinion and possibly views if I can make them while I am writing this. I also want to make clear the scope of writing this, so that it may be read in the right perspective. First of all I am an international scientist, therefore trying to write out something as national as the subject of science of one particular nation and to connect it to the conditions of its political affairs, is not an unheard business, neither is any detrimental to the great deal of reputation I have incurred for myself as a great experimental physicist and a great scientist with intercontinental experience and professional demeanor. So that’s my reputation in one sentences !!
Partly because reputation is a hidden variable and tricky like a slippery patch, may be mushy as well. I sometimes remind myself how once I skidded a long patch on a snowy Blacksburg pavement and right before falling and hurting myself seriously I found this lamppost to hold onto. That was flimsy. So part of the reputation I have incurred for myself are actually showing up on such things as noted by unexpected sources of praise I meet such as a great American Physicist and so on which is really true and there is hardly any paradox about it. But many times my reputation is obscure in much regular sense. In any case I do not think my reputation will be any downfall if I tell you a thing or two about what I really connect to, and I connect a great deal to India itself given this is where I have lived two decades of my childhood and adulthood and this is where I learned a good deal and received a good deal of training.
SO when time and circumstances has it that I have returned home and preparing one more time to leave my country, madre watan, after spending quite a good deal of eventful time offshore, I wish to note some of the changes that I see and some of the changes that I think I had seen before leaving the country a decade ago. I have been observing some in the last two years and I don’t think much has really changed on the ground except on a gross total way we have become financially more secured. So secured that any nation on planet earth that would like to make a rusty remark they would much rather make sure there is no Indian around, which is to say internet isn’t a safe place to make anti Indian rhetoric.
(a great American Physicist to have around would be fine, but that’s because this great American Physicist isn’t going to make a much of a cacophony on the spot, but would write an article about it and post it on word press )
Now the United States of America is also a great economy and sustains a great deal of rhetoric from the online world but look at the positive side, this was not possible even 6 years ago, Big Brothers were hovering everywhere. Now they are still hovering around but now the world is more of a level playing field and the usual and unusual effect of the rhetoric worked. So now you will see people more free flowing about their remarks inside the United States, even when they are not legal citizens of this or any other democratic nations.
Although I think the average Indian on the Internet will take a bit of insult if he comes across legitimate concerns of even another legitimate Indian and call a few unsavory titles on the latter if need be, don’t apply this to the ROY episode though as she is a known baiter. But this is a process, it’s a phenomena that can conserve itself, so when its done doing what it got doing in the USA, it will traverse to China and from there it will take a sneak peek to India through Khyber pass. Well that’s not exactly how it would happen on the Internet map but you figure out the details. My idea is when the rhetoric is over in one country or online community it will pass on to another and so on.
If Myanmar is opening a little up, to democracy, a decade from now they will come across some online debris and that will be a hot thing on their plate. Then India can go ahead and poke fun at the newly enlightened neighbor about that, just about the same way the United Statians did when we had a socialist set up.
Despite of our financial swelling we still have a long way to go as a free country because we have hardly produced a free thinker yet with our full knowledge and support. It will take time and by that time the utterly stooped of the kind of the great poet philosopher president scientist would have done a great deal of unwanted vision. (May be most wanted from another persons perspective, but this is my article)
On another dimension I think India will anyway produce the free thinkers and whether India recognizes or supports them or not the science in this country has come of age. It just hasn’t come up to a mark where it can be unified and utilized in a national way. So that’s the first point about the status of science in India of today. You can go to a rich city in India and find a multitude of institutions and organizations that are concerned or at least charged with science, education, research or the likes. Then you go to a remote town and you see that there are more talented people here who have no business to take up with science or education. So possibly wealth in India is accumulated to only 2 percent of the population and they are the ones that get the best scientific training and education, in India or abroad. In a similar way since the rich of the country is mostly accumulated in the cities the best educational institutes and scientific centers are also accumulated in the cities. At least from here the practices of science training and education should have disbursed to the remote towns and rural settings. Except for the Bollywood movies nowhere we see the beauty of our rural settings. That’s because we can not Not afford to have the rural culture of this country, but we have a great deal of money to spare so why not show them in dazzling colors. But when it comes to spending the money I think we make a mess. A great deal of money also goes to rural settings and gets wasted. The structures of the cities are missing from the rural setting. So let me suggest one thing, instead of having the villages decide everything about them, lets make the order flow from the top. Bombay will take care of Bhopal, Bhopal will take care of Bhubaneswar, Bhubaneswar will take care of Bolangir. Bolangir is the place I was in when I was 10 months old and that’s when I thought out this clever plan. Which is to say I am not to be blamed if nothing works in India. What will happen is we get the best of best in absolutely no time. But then the corruption of India will show up. Corruption is like this guy who always shows up where you don’t want him, so you give up and say, ok lets just have him here, but then you decide not to say hello, And then you go into a lot of embarrassment for not saying hello so you decide what the hell, Hello Mr.
I have teachers from where I come from who are the alumni of IITs and likes and they are all engaged in some sort of activities related to science and research, say teaching. They are also of the best quality as I have come across, but when it comes to finding a structure that recognizes and utilizes their potential its quite far away. Is there a database in this country that maintains the list of experts and their expertise so it can be used for future plans for science, education, and teaching.
You can remind me this country doesn’t thrive on such principles; I have come across the corrupt practices of organizations such as the AICTE and I have also come across their dignitaries, who go on government funding to places inside the country but have no worthwhile issues to take care. They come and see the laboratory and in a careless momentary self gratification remark “Establish LASER in the labs ”, well if we need LASER and you can right away see it why don’t you take a report from right there and submit it to your office, and sanction the money the next month. I can certainly write a proposal right there in a couple minutes. You just said it passively, but you didn’t know that the guy who said this to was the scientist who already worked in an international laboratory where you will never be, because you just don’t have that qualification. Neither did you know that, that guy already worked with the best of the instruments used in student labs, so its utterly clear to him, what it is that you are doing with Government funds.
And the real stories of what’s the level and depth of corruption in the private technical colleges are not a secret affair once you work there. I don’t want to go into what happens in Government academic colleges or Universities. But if I have to tell you what it is that I come across, it’s the vibe, that its worse from what it was a decade ago. These technical colleges that have come up every where including the ones that boast about inviting Nobel Laureates, to their convocation are deeply entrenched in malpractice and corruption. And, I can remind you I am a person who is originally as Indian as any other Indian from this country. So when it comes to criticizing the science and scientists of this country I fail a great deal.
The reason is while I am critical, at the same time I am deeply aware of the cultural sensitivities as well as the dearth of problems people face in upholding world class practices. My point is if we don’t have the real capacity to hold ten reasonably good quality colleges how can we have at least a 100 technical college even in one city. I think this country is just fooling itself for a long time to come.
I can not call Kalam a complete idiot which he is on issues of science but the democracy of this country and its linkage with the democratic organizations of many countries have done precisely that, it has produced a great visionary from a simple diplomate. Isn’t it ironic that we have more qualified and visionary people who could have taken up the jobs of a visionary scientist much more swiftly, may be not. But that’s an irony of this country, we may have a Harvard and Oxford alumni, but they all lack courage and conviction of character. This imbecile Kalam has plenty of that.
So he is indeed a great scientist. But he is a simple diploma (and honorary doctorates). So isn’t it an inefficient and disparaged system both at the same time. The Harvard alumnus is inefficient, the system is inefficient because it did not recognize the potential of a genius like Kalam and when it recognized, all it did is shower him with praises, power, and honorary degrees. But did the country devise any change in the academic structure, organization, and hierarchy and like it honors Tathagat Tulsi as a child prodigy and gives him a Professorship, did it bring a draft of policy and practice to be followed rigorously by research institutions and Universities. Of course after a PhD, but that primary came because his prodigy met many supporters, I am vouching for something as a systematic provision in the academic practices of the country.
Now you may be feeling that I am drifting a little here and a little there, but I really do not have a single determinant to relate how the strings of Indian democracy are pulling the fate of science in this country. The usual reasoning I gave is first of all India is quite disparaged and despite of the democracy, which it always should use towards nationalization, it produces a very sporadic system. Again if we had a great deal of visionaries, if we are to believe the history of Indian science account, then what they have essentially produced is a system, which has failed.
Which is to say we have been beating more drums of our success with science, education and national infrastructure than is actually realized, therefore we have for certain periods of time actually kept ourselves in stark depression in matters of our existence itself. Science is an index of how comfortable we are with our spiritual contentment and to take this scientists account we are so uncomfortable that we are almost giving up hopes of good science. If that is so then no matter how powerful we will be economically we can not import science from the other advanced nations because their science is in itself an index of spiritual contentment and I have felt terribly uncomfortable with their kind of science as well.
This is the only proof I can give you of what a great scientist I am.
It’s a very good thing that the western nations are themselves making huge mistakes with the way science can be propounded. They have had a better history but that’s all. (Hey I had a history of driving people crazy but I am always cool.) So when the masters of Science and democracy are making terrible blunders at science and democracy, what kind of fool can believe that they will be the ones that will save the world from faltering.
I think the way Indian organizations are teaming up with big names in science and international collaborations, they are only making themselves a part of the bandwagon, they are not creating any history with science in this country. I think that’s the upper line that’s drawn already when India and its great visionaries are not thinking of propounding science in this country. Actually I am disheartened to much extent that Indians are never thinking of big scientific labs and teams to come up in matter of a year or two using their great fortune.
The drum beating that even the westerners are doing for India at this juncture in its history is unprecedented. If we are to make any profit of it like true capitalists we should take advantage of such a situation and as a country decide, of course democratically, that we borrow in the name of science, a trillion dollar, not in the name of pure baloney. For that we can definitely resort to internationalization of our scientific community. True internationalization and globalization is yet to happen in this country as far as science is concerned. We are talking education but let me tell you a secret here of my experience, science is independent of education. If you can establish something as astounding as science itself, you have for yourself brought a great deal of education, by the virtue of science. But if you believe education will prepare for tomorrows science you are actually telling us education will prepare for the science of next century. And a century from now you will repent that you did not borrow from the bank for the science, call it the science loan theory and you lost an opportunity forever. This idea that science creates education of its own and is independent of any education that can create it from blue, is something that has no parallel.
You can have a great laboratory of international standard and its own needs will produce education of the kind that India has never seen in its 5000 years of history. This in itself creates a huge impetuous that creates a great culture of science. Who knows we discover a 100 great scientists of tomorrow from our vast pool of clever minds. We are actually an educated country when it comes to the matter of the world affairs but its sporadic. It’s not a culture. Eg we don’t keep an account of what we did yesterday and what we are doing today. What’s then the use of having a super computer at our disposal? OK super computers are used towards weather modeling, but those who are really competent in using these facilities should also be the people who invent c plus plus and create and maintain a college magazine of international quality.
When folks are talking about international salary they are really silent on what they are capable of doing. Having a degree from an American University has become as good as having a degree of an Indian college, the colleges of which I talked about above, so if there is any good name of the American Universities that there should be it is that these folks should be capable of writing like a scientist. Before you give anyone a job do you ask that person to show you his writing or analytical skills. Well he had this publication and that publication and he secured this honor or that honor. If you think the western malpractices are good enough for our country, then the principle of efficiency tells that after sometime you will be left with the same doomed system that you started with.
Because the only ones that will remain are the ones that are efficient, in the market. May be that’s the joke, they will always be in the market, and not have a job. That means you are rejecting a great number of skilled people from the base of the Indian country simply because they don’t have a tea shirt with a logo on it, that says, Obscure State University, Picklesburg. On the other hand you replace them with those that have that logo, without testing their real skills that are any usable in the industry. What happens in a country like the United States is that even when there is a malpractice or misconduct on the part of say the Professor (Pro facer) it will even out when that person has a different work place. And USA has a much more robust system at place so it will even out faster and without notice. Those who take a good note can tell you so and you will even share such notes so that information of malpractice at one place can be shared with others to prevent degradation in the system.
And this works in a beautiful way, say through a discussion forum on Chroniclers of Higher Education. Has India established such a system or has it even given it a thought. So when you make your recruitment policies, should not you, be more specific about what it is that you want in a candidate, so that you make a level playing field for all concerned rather than making a gross identification like a degree from Foreign Universities or an identification like “ at least a 2 years postdoc experience from a foreign University ”. What are you trying to do, helping them write their curriculum vitae. I think this is the present status of Indian science and scientists when we assign responsibilities to those that are some how living on the system like parasites, and there are plenty in sight. I think this is in some way a reflection of what’s an unfair practice and we can not build the scientists of tomorrow with such unfairness.