Eminent scientist C N R Rao, in an outburst of frustration, on Sunday called politicians “idiots” for giving scientists less money for research.
Prof Rao was speaking to reporters at his residence at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), a day after he was nominated for the Bharat Ratna award.
Known to be an outspoken critic of policymakers, Prof Rao charged at the government for not providing enough money for science research. He is also chairman of the Prime Minister’s Scientific Advisory Council.
“We have subcritical funding,” he said when asked about the allocation for science.
“The best money we have been given is enough for just 20 per cent of the work. We have never invested fully in anything. Why the hell have these idiots, politicians, given us so less? We have done much more for the money given.” Referring to China, he said: “In computing power, for instance, India is the worst. China is doing exascale and petascale computing. I am fighting with the government to invest money in computing.”
Maintaining his stand that India needs to allocate more for science, Prof Rao said South Korea and China were racing with each other to beat the US by investing heavily in science, technology and innovation.
“The future of India is tied up with the fact that we have not done well in basic education investment, which should be at least 6 per cent of the GDP. Our investment in science needs to increase from 1-2 per cent GDP.”
‘Global rankings unfair’
The 79-year-old scientist said global educational institutions rankings show “some unfairness” towards Indian nstitutions.
“If they do it properly, then the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay and Indian Institute of Science (IISc) will figure among the top 100-150,” Rao said.
Elaborating, he said global rankings were mostly based on totals. “For instance, the University of California, Berkeley, where I am a professor, has 45,000 students and 4,000 professors. The IISc has 2,000 students and 400 professors, which is 1/10th of UC Berkeley. They have to normalise, but they only take the total numbers. Similarly, the JNCASR has 300 students and 50 professors. There is some unfairness in the way rankings are done,” he said.
Having said that, Prof Rao said Indian researchers need to work harder to improve the impact their research works have at a global level. He warned that if the government does not invest enough in science, then China would go much farther in the race. “Starting next year, China will top the world with 16.5 per cent of world research publications, overtaking even the US. The quantity of publications of research papers from India has remained at 2-3 per cent,” he lamented.
‘Karnataka not doing well’
Prof Rao, who said he was a proud Bangalorean, lamented that there was too much focus on information technology in Karnataka. “The State is not doing well as our people are unfortunately going behind the money in IT. The sector has a whole bunch of unhappy people working,” he said and added that IT had nothing to do with science in itself.
‘Superstition is ungodly’
When asked to comment on scientific temper and the proposed anti-superstition law, Prof Rao remarked that superstitious people cannot be godly. “Scientific temper is nothing but a way of viewing life. There are people who perform aarti before constructing a building and do not focus on having good builders or plans. Some won’t travel on Tuesdays, but what has poor Tuesday done? Science and God have nothing to do with superstition. If you are superstitious, you are ungodly,” he said.
‘Cricket is madness’
Prof Rao, when asked whether Sachin Tendulkar hogged all the limelight, said the game of cricket was a different madness in India.
“It is a different area and I don’t talk about madness,” he said.
“Science is based on a calm, balanced mind working in a particular way going deep into a subject day in and day out. I am writing every day and I have written 1,500 papers and 47 books and I continue to do so. It is not a one-shot process. And I don’t mean a cricket shot,” he laughed.