The story of research in India, at its universities, its overly protected and vastly expensive and largely inefficient public sector, especially in the defense sector enterprises, is a story so dismal as to leave one gasping in horror. There are very few exception, notably in the space and nuclear science areas that the country can claim some credit, though even here, whatever achievements the nation has showcased, are derived second hand, painstakingly copied or bought from third countries. There is hardly any original invention, or work that the country’s scientists can lay claim to as their own in leading the rest of the world’s scientific community. India’s patent filing is amongst the lowest in major countries.
Research in the private sector too is rather limited and most of that also is being now done on Indian shores by foreign multi-national players. Indian corporates are not known to invest much in research even though there is some movement in that direction. It is a sad and dangerous scenario; one that leads to continuous dependency on foreign third parties for our national development and security. Our leadership is constantly on the trot in world capitals with their begging bowls seeking technologies in which the country should be actively competing with the best.
The greatest dichotomy and indeed, tragedy, is that Indians constitute a significant percentage of the scientific work force at foreign universities and corporates; in the U.S., U.K, and elsewhere and in leading institutions there including at NASA, Silicon Valley and leading companies across the world. They gain their first education in India and proceed overseas to universities and on to become cutting edge in research and professional areas.
The core reason of why this state of affairs exists, indeed persists, is the political and bureaucratic strait jackets that are in place in India, like in every other area of our country’s life, in research and development of technologies. Politicians and Bureaucrats rule this vital area and sit on its narrative to the determent of the country.
It is such a sorry state of affairs that the country has not managed to develop cutting edge research, pretty much in the entire range of areas of vital strategic interest and where the world is galloping ahead day by day. It is because of this that the nation is unable to produce even a world class jet engine or build ships with any speed, its own submarines, aircraft, heavy machinery, progress in medical science and so on and on. We are dependent on almost every technology from someone else.
The country’s leadership has demonstrated an unwillingness or inability to frame policies, or provide adequate research budgets, to fire up a sector so essential and strategic in the country’s internal and external strength narrative. India is weak, and seen to be as such across the world, regardless of the bluster and bluff of its politicians. This has to change immediately.