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Monday, January 2, 2012

Venkataraman Ramakrishnan – an Inspirer

As a country, politically and scientifically, we have not much to be proud of,looking forward to 2012. But i think, the news of knighthood to Venkataraman Ramakrishnan captured every ones attention. Most of us didn’t even know this man and the fact that he got Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2009. Knighthood is given to distinguished personalities for their contribution to important spheres. Here an Indian scientist is awarded with that honour for his contribution to science (Chemistry). It’s definitely  a joyful and inspiring moment for every Indian.
Sir Venkataraman Ramakrishnan was born in Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu in 1952. His parents were also well educated. He was moved to Vadodara at the age of three. There, his father was working as the Head of the department of Biochemistry at the Maharaja Sayajirao (M.S.) University of Baroda. His mother was a Ph.D. holder in Psychology. After school Sir Venkataraman’s  education were in U.S.A. He left India at the age of 19. He started his research career in Chemistry and Biology in U.S.A. Then from U.S.A he moved to U.K, but that was mainly because of his research needs. In America he was in Utah University and the Bio-Chemistry laboratory facilities there he found inadequate. So he moved to MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge. It was there he cracked the complex functions and  structures of Ribosome, which made him worthy of 2009 Nobel prize for Chemistry along with Thomas .E. Steitz and Ada. E. Yonath. (courtsey of Nobelprize.org)
Now what it means to India that an Indian citizen has been awarded with the highest honour given to an individual in U.K. In truth our government doesn’t care, we still don’t fully understand the importance and benefit of being called “a developing country” in scientific field. When some Indian origin is awarded all we do is, we just hit him with praises and as usual the same hollow repetition of “Mera Bharat Mahan” then after that we just let it go. We still need to learn to celebrate the excellence. In our country development or being modern has a very showy and physical manifestation. We never really understood the necessity of being scientific. Our development is purely based on monetary system, more revenue, more money, more gross product then we are a developed nation. Of course money is a necessity when you need to fund big research projects, but focusing only on monetary is not  a good and right way of progress. In India from Government to youngsters everyone is keen following American model. But unfortunately good things hardly appear shiny to our eyes.  American Govt. spent just on NASA every year, about US $18-20 billion and National Science Foundation has an annual budget of around US $5-7 billion and private funding for such research purposes are also must be taken account of. Government statistics say India spend 0.8% of its GDP for research and development and the truth is we are spending more than other developed countries in proportion with our GDP. But is it enough or if it is, then why can’t we see any visible development, our country has been like this for years. We are scientifically stagnant. Yes i know people would argue with me saying, then what about our development in defence technology. Yes that is because our defence budget is around US $ 30-35 billion i.e. about 1.8% of our GDP. It is not only Government’s responsibility in fact Govt. could not spend lavishly since there are other more critical spheres must be taken care of. So our corporate must have a social and national responsibility. They must also understand their responsibility towards the country. Country’s development means their development.
It high time our  mentalities should be changed. Current generation of India must show a little more intelligence when they opt a career, than just picking up anything mom and dad said. We need professionals who love to do what they are doing instead of who are forced to do it as the had no other option. We can’t afford to outsource brains like his to other country. We must have adequate infrastructure and facilities to accommodate the thought and needs of such great brains. It is kind of a tradition that you are only accepted here in India if and only if you are accepted in western world. We are not ready to sacrifice and provide facilities for such initiation but we are all ready to praise him/her when he/she receive recognition outside. We need those who can think, we are in short of such personalities. We need visionaries. Freethinking are the wheels on which science rolls. Take a look what Sir Venkataraman Ramakrishanan’s opines,
“My impression is that Indian Universities are underfunded. This is something that the government and scientific community in India need to look into if they want an improvement in the field.”