Saturday, January 23, 2010


It is well known that India is one of the few countries in the world that does not respect the skills, knowledge base and capabilities of its scientists. Probably the administrative specialists system, inherited from the erstwhile British masters, still an omnipotent force in every area of concern to the common man, is responsible for sidelining the technical cadres even in area of scientific endeavors, requiring specialized knowledge and experience. It might be true that the members of the administrative cadre have superior skills when it comes to running various activities requiring organizational and management skill but how they can fit into an environment that needs scientific knowledge and experience. Imagine what would have happened if Space Research Organization or Atomic Energy Commission or Council of Scientific Research, Agricultural Research Council or Dept of Biotechnology is headed by an administrator with no basic or practical qualification. Probably the country would not have possessed the nuclear bombs or missiles and rockets that launch satellites or the industrial development or the green revolution achieved by the nation.

Look at the recent fiasco involving the UN Intergovernmental panel on Climate Change (IPCC), chaired by no less a person than one of the Nobel Laurates from India who also heads the Tata Institute of Energy Research in the country. The Panel with great fanfare claimed that most of the Himalayan glaciers would vanish by the year 2035 to dramatize the impact of green house gas emissions on the planet in not too distant a future. Apparently the IPCC deliberately or mistakenly changed the date from 2350, as originally reported by a Russian hydrographer earlier. That limited real time data exist on glacier melting in Himalayas based on studies with 20 glaciers out of 9500 glaciers that exist in Himalayas is a known fact. Such a claim led to demands from countries like the US on India to eliminate millions of wood fired stoves used by the rural population to prevent the sooth drifting to Himalayas and melting the glaciers! Why such a thing happens too frequently? The most plausible reason is that India has a history of deputing its bureaucrats with limited knowledge to international bodies to represent the country in such highly technical bodies and meetings. Deputing an under secretary of GOI for a meeting of Codex Commission dealing with food safety, is nothing but a farce perpetrated on the country which happens too frequently in this country. What about the much touted Food Standards and Safety Agency of GOI? It is unfortunate that GOI could not find a decent qualified technical person to head this important body and in stead pick up a retired administrator for the task.

Read the recent report recently carried by many news papers concerning the constitution of an "expert panel" by the National Planning Commission (NPC), vested with responsibility of evolving a strategy for transforming the country to a low carbon economy. Guess who are the "expert" members of this group. The convener is an administrator from Haryana cadre who is supposed to set the agenda, coordinate the meetings and consolidate the final strategy report. The qualification of the members of this 29-member committee does not inspire any confidence that any thing constructive will come out of this "circus" orchestrated spending enormous amount from the exchequer. The commitment by the GOI to reduce carbon emission by 25-40 % within a decade at the Copenhagen climate summit, though not mandatory, needs to be honored to protect the country's credibility as an ethical nation.

Scientific community in the country has also not covered itself with glory through its attitudes, behavior and past track record. There is supposed to be a Scientific Advisory Council of GOI mandated to advice the government on all matters concerning science in the country. No one is aware of its past track record in terms of accomplishments during the last few years, except being an ornamental body d├ęcorating PMO set up at Delhi. It looks like scientist administrators, moving over to Delhi, leaving their original moorings and environment, are worse than the administrators in promoting science in the country, most of them indulging in self glorification and enjoying power and perks that come with the position they manage to get through efforts other than technical or scientific.

Prime Minister of the country was lamenting during his address at the recent science Congress meeting at Thiruvananthapuram that the present system of recognition and remuneration to the scientists are not sufficient to motivate them for innovation but scientists themselves know that they cannot hope for a better deal from the government, especially after the massive pay hike implemented last year. There are still plenty of good working scientists in the country who need to be motivated by dynamic leaders with high quality accomplishments and self less dedication and commitment besides freeing them from the inflexible bureaucratic procedures with which they have been saddled. It is time Indian science become quality conscious and not obsessed with quantity or numbers.


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