In a blunt message, IT czar N R Narayana Murthy today said India has failed to generate even a single “earth-shaking” invention in the past 60 years that could become a household name globally.
Besides, none of the Prime Ministers since Jawaharlal Nehru have paid any attention to the need for impactful research from the country, Murthy said while delivering the convocation address at the prestigious Indian Institute of Science here.
“Our youngsters have not done much impactful research work despite being equal to their counterparts in intellect and energy in Western universities,” he said.
He referred to the first Prime Minister’s visit to the US in 1962, where he exhorted the about-to-finish Phds to come back to the country and play a major role in creating an India where a poorest child in the remotest village had access to decent education, healthcare, nutrition and shelter.
The result, he said, was advances in atomic energy, the space programme and other areas.
The magic of 60s should be recreated, he said.
“For that we have to recreate an environment of utmost respect for scholarship and for our Directors and faculty in the corridors of the government, among bureaucrats, politicians and in our society.
“We have to become more open minded in welcoming foreign intellectuals and students. We have to create opportunities for our students and faculty to spend time at well known universities abroad,” he added.
Almost all inventions such as cars, electric bulb, radio, television, computers, Internet, wifi, MRI, laser, robots and many other gadgets and technology happened, “thanks to the research by Western Universities”, Murthy said.
He added: “On the other hand, let us pause and ask what the contributions of Indian institutions of higher learning, particularly IISc and IITs, have been over the last sixty-plus years to make our society and the world a better place?
“Is there one invention from India that has become a household name in the globe? Is there one technology that has transformed the productivity of global corporations? Is there one idea that has lead to an earth shaking invention to delight global citizens?”
Co-founder of the country’s major IT firm Infosys said: “Folks, the reality is that there is no such contribution from India in the last 60. The only two ideas that have transformed the productivity of global corporations — The Global Delivery Model and the 24-hours workday — came from the company called Infosys.”
Listing 10 major inventions that Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US has created in the last 50 years including Global Positioning System, Bionic Prostheses and Microchip, Murthy said these happened because students and faculty “walked the untrodden path, asked the unasked questions and used their intellectual prowess to take huge leaps.
“They demonstrated unusual courage to achieve the plausibly-impossible. The story is similar at many other western institutions of higher education”.
He said there must be free flow of ideas between our intellectuals and foreign scholars. “Our younger faculty must have full freedom to pursue their line of research without hindrance.”
Pointing to the problems plaguing the country such as illiteracy, child malnutrition, poor public health service, Murthy said, “I can go on and on. The important thing is to recognise that this country has no shortage of problems to be solved urgently.”
He said: “Youngsters are our best hope, and there is no difference in the intellect, enthusiasm, energy and confidence between the young students at western universities and at IISc.
“Yet, when our students leave the portals of these institutions, there is not much impactful work they have accomplished in research here. What is worse is that there is not much impactful work they accomplish when they go into the real world here in India,” he said.
“This is an issue that the elders of our society like academicians, politicians, bureaucrats and corporate leaders must debate deeply and act urgently if we have to leave a better world for our children and grandchildren,” he added.