The ever-so-busy Bharat Ratna C N R Rao, who has been tied up with numerous events since winning the Bharat Ratna, took some time out to sit down with journalists in Bangalore for the first time after being conferred the highest honour in India.
Always an optimist, he believes research in the sciences should catch up adding the lucrative remuneration was adequate to attract bright minds into research.
He had some words of advice to those who see the United States as El Dorado.
The US, he said, is no longer a land of opportunities, while India on the other hand had ample opportunities and fields for research.
"Nowadays, salaries are also attractive in research. Salaries of Rs 1.2 lakh to Rs 1.5 lakh are the norm for research scientists today. India is third in terms of remuneration for scientists when calculated in terms of purchasing power parity and buying power," he said.
He cites the case of nanotechnology where India was at the No. 10 spot globally but has risen to No 3 at present with the efforts of researchers. He said, "there is today only the need to improve research institutions which are riddled with politics."
It's the opportunities available to students that is resulting in the lack of interest in the study of sciences, lamented Rao.
"We need to change our mindsets," he added, speaking of the need for students to look at sciences as a career. The lack of interest in sciences is very stark with regards to Bangalore, he said. "In the last 15 years, I have not had anyone from Bangalore among my research students," he lamented. He said, he has had students from Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Bengal, Kerala among other places, but none from Bangalore.
If anything, he sees the job opportunities available in the city that's responsible for the situation. He called for a change in the mindsets of the people. The youth often listen to their parents take to fields that give them instant monetary benefits. A case in point he cited today was that of IT. "If all youth go to IT, then what will other fields do," asked Rao, "where will they get people?".
Though not a fan of IT services sector, he said Indians lead in computer science. Yet, India is backward when it comes to innovation, he said. India is today 66 global innovation ranking, he added.
"The average Indian is as smart as anybody else. In computer science. Indians are better, and in nanotechnology too we are good," he said.
Science has been getting more attention in Karnataka than in other states, he said. Karnataka's Vision Group for Science and Technology has been doing a good job in giving attention to science in the state, he said of the vision group he is heading..
Meanwhile, Rao has become the first Indian scientist to be elected as honorary foreign member of Chinese Academy of Science (CAS). He was elected by CAS at its General Assembly held on November 4, a release said, adding that the academy had bestowed on him the prestigious Award for International Scientific Cooperation in January 2012.