Indian Scientists Making a Disappearing Act?

Congratulations India! The good news is that ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization) has set up a record through the successful and perfect launch of ten satellites, two of which are Indian, by the PSLV C-9. It has made a mark for itself in the international arena of space research. It is a proud and historical moment for Indian scientists.

The bad news is that, last year, the government disclosed disturbing figures about the dwindling number of scientists in ISRO, revealing that as many as 11 scientists leave ISRO every month. In a period of 3 years, the organization has lost 392 scientists, while it hired 1060. After the reverence ISRO has earned, it is disheartening to know that there are not enough people who are motivated to take it to greater heights. Worse still, this is not the case with just ISRO but also with other institutions such as the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and Defense Research Development Organisation (DRDO).

This high level of attrition has been attributed to the remunerative packages offered by the IT, communications and the corporate world. Moreover, it is hard to retain workers in the scientific field, because there is hardly any guarantee or promise of some sort of promotion of pay hike. Even the Sixth Pay Commission had been asked to offer performance based pay hikes, but in vain. Such requests have been put forward by all sectors.

Perhaps the root of the problem lies in the fact that the scientific field is a risky one as far as success or outcome is concerned. We live in a world where everyone wants results. Produce matters more than the toil and labour put behind it. In Science, research is incessant. Researchers are ever busy finding solutions to questions, the answers of which could be impossible to find within a lifetime. The government does its part to fund the researches and experiments. But interest needs to be sustained, either with growth in terms of finance or profession. Receiving neither, scientists or scientific engineers tend to leave in pursuit of occupations that seem more appealing.

India is a country of brains. If our doctors and IT professionals are in demand throughout the world, there definitely is latent talent hidden in the field of Science. It just needs to be tapped. Science requires high levels of interest, enthusiasm and a persistent quest to find the answers. Schools can play a big role in generating such thirst. An example is the project being undertaken by the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, wherein they have had a tie up with 39 schools in Ambegon tehsil to conduct regular lectures and workshops. Apart from that, there will be stress on training using the two-meter optical observatory in Girawali village. Such projects induce students to consider taking up Science after class X not just to get into medicine or engineering, but for the sake of Science itself.

It might take some time, sweat and money, but Science definitely has the potential to make it big even where business is concerned. After ISRO has demonstrated its capability to launch small satellites, its commercial arm, the Antrix Corporation is in a position to tap the market of global satellite launch missions, provided it demonstrates the capability to launch big satellites too. To add to this buzz, excitement levels in ISRO are rising as they look forward to the Chandrayaan Mission, scheduled to take place in a matter of months. Perhaps, these good times ISRO is experiencing will be incentive enough for youngsters to look towards Science and dedicate their professional lives towards it.

Sharanya Misra Sharma


[Iamge courtesy:]