It is time to take academic things to the next level of articulation, discussion and implementation. Unfortunately even in the 21st century, India continues to talk about various facilities and problems at primary and secondary level. On the one hand, we are building our nuclear and other arsenal capabilities and have emerged as a key player in space technology globally, on the other we talk about poor quality of health and education facilities in the country. Since quality education, health and infra facilities are key to rapid and sustainable advancement of any nation, India can longer afford to give lip-service to basic facilities to build the foundation of a really vibrant India for which efforts have to be made by all stakeholders.
It was heartening to attend an international seminar on ‘BRICS and India: Recent Developments, Challenges and Opportunities’ recently organised by the University College of Kurukshetra University, Kurukshetra. As usual experts from the world of academics came out with their best possible interpretation of current socio-political and economic scenarios in BRICS nations-Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, five key pillars of world economy indeed! It is not to suggest that there was nothing great in their words and vision spelt out on the occasion, but I must emphasise the fact that if India has to use BRICS as an opportunity to earn enough money to deal with the problem of poverty and create enough jobs for employable and non-employable youths at home, then for next 15 years we need to focus on quality research in all fields of education including innovation, invention and cutting edge technological upgradation.
It was indeed a wonderful experience to see young researchers and Post-Graduate students of Economics and Commerce and other related streams presenting their papers on different aspects of BRICS with absolute confidence, for which the credit must be given to Dr Pradeep Chauhan of Department of Economics, University College, Kurukshetra University, for organising the international seminar on an entirely different topic, but so relevant in Indian context when a new world order is fast emerging on the global firmament. A large number of papers were presented in the two-day long seminar. One must wish and pray that the young scholars from across the country get boost to take their research efforts to the next level so that they can gel with their global competitors.
Global exposure leads to innovation and invention. If India today has emerged as a global player in IT sector, it is all because of global exposure of Indian technocrats. Though there is no mechanism to measure the kind of support they might have got in the process from the government, one must not dare to doubt the cutting edge knowledge of Indian technocrats, who have established themselves as entities at home and abroad too. They have built their knowledge brick by brick and have been able to reach a level where they can rub shoulders with anyone. They are indeed awesome.
What our IT men have been able to do and achieve is yet to be replicated in other fields of economic pursuits. Their remarkable feat cannot be generalised. We need to have equally vibrant manufacturing and agriculture sectors, two important pillars which can catapult India’s economic growth. For want of infrastructure, there is hardly any focus on practical exposure to millions of students who study subjects such as chemistry, biology and physics at higher secondary level. Their exposure to practical experience remains almost abysmal even when they enter colleges and university departments if exceptions are set aside. The plight of Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) is in the public domain. Severe shortage of faculty in government run engineering colleges and poorly paid teachers in private sector colleges have only worsened the academic situation.
It seems that there is hardly any governmental focus on taking teaching-whether school or college or university-to the next level. The era of burning midnight oil in science laboratories has been forcibly brought to an end, which should otherwise have been an integral part of education system. There is hardly any effective increase in the number of centres of excellence, which may undertake research works at the top level. The condition of research in social science area is equally abysmal. Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) is faced with funds crunch. It is high time that the Government of India streamlines the functioning of ICSSR, which must audit each and every existing scheme and prepare road map for future challenges and opportunities.
Without quality inputs, we cannot expect great outputs. If China is dumping Indian market with cheaper mobile phones, fragile toys and other things, we must not complaint against Chinese firms. It is happening because we do not have requisite wherewithal to give better options to the consumers. In a globalised economy, if we wish to sell our products in BRICS nations, we will have to compete with other players. It is an era of multiple options. To become a global player in a competitive manner, we need to build our foundation comprehensively.
The Central government has initiated several measures in this regard, but things will not improve drastically if we are not able to expose our students to quality education from secondary classes onward. Education is fast becoming a formality in India. It seems to be no longer a key state responsibility. Even the state governments need to chip in with their best efforts in making quality health and education facilities available for their people. Challenges and opportunities can never be exploited to the benefits of broad masses for want of skilled and healthy manpower.
It is a matter of shame for us that even in the 21st century most of us look for some clutches to realise our dreams. Our faith in our own talent is fast eroding. People are often heard saying that only merit is not enough to get into the right kind of job; one needs to have some approaches too. It is an alarm for the policy makers to save India from man-made disasters!