ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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P Shiv Shankar

P Shiv Shankar

Holes in the Boiler WOULD a steam engine be able to pull a train if there were holes in its boiler so that any steam generated escaped outside? Such is the effect of the practice of Indians with academic ambitions scientific, technical and other going abroad for higher study and research. A report (India Today, September 15, p 49) describes the "collapse of academic life" in, for example, Bihar where many teachers have not been paid for the past 14 years; yet another report (The Times of India, Bombay, August 9, p 13) describes many Biharis willing and able to spend several lakhs of rupees each to be able to study in "the land of Nobel Prize winners" and often being swindled in the process. What if these resources of money and motivation were available to Indian universities, as they rightfully should be, instead of being siphoned off abroad? To take another example, almost a decade (of choosing among foreign vendors) in time and billions in dollars were spent on the Bofors gun. What if this time and these billions (mostly in rupees) had been spent on developing and manufacturing Indian guns? Of course, there will be no kickbacks and Swiss bank accounts for the decisionmakers then and this reason for the way things were done can be repeated for dozens of defence (and non -defence) projects. There is also the problem of indigenous development projects, such as the Arjun tank, dragging on and on for years without results. The reason is that everyone knows in the back of their minds that the whole thing or parts can or will be imported and there are no serious consequences for nonperformance in such life and death matters as there rightfully should be. If the people responsible for defence equipment knew they could not buy abroad and yet must produce (or do without or be fired or even shot), they will produce and come up with new solutions (the tank, to take an example, was after all a solution to a problem in World War I). By now we know that much of innovation and invention can itself be made routine. In the Gulf war thought of as a triumph of hi-tech weaponry in a carefully planned and rehearsed operation, the US used bulldozers to bury alive thousands of Iraqi troops forced into their trenches by machine gun fire a low tech tactic that would have never occurred to Indians trained to slavishly ape the white man.

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