Good brains drained away!

By ZRG | Last Updated: Feb 28, 2013, 12:10 PM IST

Ankita Chakrabarty/ Zee Research Group/ Delhi

Anand Bandyopadhya (name changed), a 29–year-old PhD holder from the University of Texas has no plans to return to India. The reasons aren’t hard to fathom: a handsomely paying job in a great professional environment. But, Bandyopadhya, isn’t alone who has decided to stay back in the US.

In fact, he is just one among 94.8 percent of Indians who study abroad to earn doctorates in science, engineering, and health and don’t return home according to a research study released in October 2012 by Wan-Ying Chang and Lynn M. Milan of the National Science Foundation. The study, if anything, is latest evidence that ‘brain drain’ isn’t stemming, something over which our policymakers must ponder on the occasion of ‘National Science Day’.

In 2010, India with an estimated stock of 11.4 million emigrants was only second to Mexico (11.9 million) as a source of immigrants, according to a research paper, ‘Indian Human Resources Mobility: Brain drain versus Brain gain’ published in 2012. India and the Philippines supply most foreign-trained doctors and nurses to the English-speaking countries within The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Citing lack of growth opportunities in the country, Dr. Sudeshna Mitra, assistant professor at IIT Kharagpur points, “It is true that a lot of improvement has been made at the infrastructure level over the past ten years but if we compare it with the developed countries of the world, it is still not up to the mark, hence it will be really difficult on our part to stop ambitious people leaving the country.”

Brain-drain works both within and outside the country. Dr. Arvind Agrawal, professor at Department of Sociology, Central University of Himachal Pradesh, says, “There are two kinds of brain drain going on in the country. The first is the internal and the second is the external. As far as the internal brain drain is concerned, it is mostly confined to the states. A state like Rajasthan which has to its credit a list of many good schools but lacks good English medium colleges, hence students after completing their school education move out to big cities and ultimately get settled there.”

Both internal and external brain-drain point to lack of opportunities.

“External brain drain is defined as one when students move out of the country for higher education and settle there permanently,” further explains Dr. Agrawal.As per the Thomson Reuters Report 2012, India’s share in global research output is about 3.5 per cent. India’s largest global share of publications was in the field of Chemistry (6.5 percent) followed by Materials Science (6.4 percent), Agricultural Sciences (6.2 percent), Pharmacology & Toxicology (6.1 percent) while the relative share in the field of Physics and Engineering was 4.6 percent and 4.2 percent respectively. One of the most affected sectors is genetic engineering and biotechnology which copes with shortages of junior staff, as approximately 90 percent of post-graduates in this field go to the US after completion of their studies in India.

The quality of a nation’s higher education vests in the research and development, which in India’s case also is an area of concern and a major factor for brain drain. Concurring with the above, S. R. Ahlawat, professor at Department of Sociology, M.D University, says, “We have not been able to provide the right kind of research environment in which the students can really contribute to enhance their knowledge.”

India with 68,000 students in 2009 accounted for the largest number of foreign students in the area of Science and Engineering in United States, followed by China with 54 000 students according to the ‘Indian Human Resources Mobility: Brain drain versus Brain gain’ research paper.

“Developed countries provide good environment and easy accessibility to quality of life which provokes people to get settled there permanently,” warns Ahlawat at M.D University.

Indian Universities have by and large failed to figure in the list of top 200 educational institutions of the world according to the QS World University Rankings for 2012. The Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) rankings — the most reputed global rankings of institutes for higher education had featured IIT-Bombay in 2010 which was ranked 187, but dropped to 227 in 2012.

Highlighting the solutions to overcome the scenario, Dr. Agrawal at Central University of Himachal Pradesh, says, “Most of the state universities are run on political interference which acts as a hindrance in the growth of these institutions, hence it is a high time that there should be a semblance of order and growth and the prime focus should be to promote basic and fundamental research to save the quality.”