China is trying to check brain drain but India isn’t: Nobel laureate
India-born scientist Venkatraman Ramamkrishnan had made headlines in 2009 when he was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry along with two of his peers for their research on the structure and function of the ribosome. In an exclusive interview with 101Reporters' Kashmeera Sambamurthy, the Tamil Nadu native who now holds citizenship of the US and the UK spoke about the evergreen issue of brain drain and what China is doing to check the problem while India isn't. Q: How equipped do you think India is for making path-breaking discoveries?A: I think it’s not just a question of providing equipment and things like that, it’s also a question of having good mentors and people who themselves have made path-breaking discoveries, because that is how young people learn. They learn it from people who have done very well. India has a lot of good scientists but not quite so many who are world leaders in their field. So, what India needs is more of those. And that will happen gradually if the government invests in science and technology. Q: In terms of providing an environment conducive to research, how does India fare in comparison with other countries?A: It is hard to say because I really don’t know about the infrastructure in India. But there are some places that are doing well. I would say that India has not invested as much as China, not nearly as much. And China is very rapidly catching up with the West. I don’t see that same speed of catching up in India. China is also attracting a lot of well-known Chinese scientists to return to the country. More importantly, they are also attracting international scientists, westerners who have a lab in China and they train the next generation of Chinese students. I don’t see anything like this in India.Q: If Indian scientists with overseas exposure do return to their homeland, in which ways can it catalyse advancement in research?A: When Deng Xiaoping opened China and allowed Chinese students to study abroad, he was criticised by some people who said it could result in tremendous brain drain. And he said even if one out of a hundred comes back, it will be useful for advancing Chinese science and technology. I think that’s the way to look at it. Not everybody will come back. Going from any country to any other country broadens your mindset and you learn new ways of thinking. So, these people when they come back, often will do interesting and important work. Q: What do you think is responsible for brain drain from India? A: I think people don’t just migrate for the sake of equipment. They go because there is an overall environment in which they want to work. Like they have colleagues with whom they interact. And freedom, less bureaucracy and so on. There are many reasons as to why people migrate. Another is that they go abroad to study, as I did, and then they get used to the lifestyle there, the freedom and the scientific environment and then it’s hard for them to come back. That might just be a stronger reason and that’s where probably most of the brain drain is, where they go as students and don’t come back. Q: How crucial is the role of technology in a country's overall development?A: If it weren’t for science and technology, we couldn’t even support half of today’s world population. Life expectancy has doubled in the last 100 years. In the previous centuries, 2,000 years, there was no increase in life expectancy. I think there is no question that science and technology are of critical importance.-Ends-
Putting women in driving seat of their life
Mumbai: A Mumbai-based taxi service that employs only women is helping them bring a turnaround in their life, enabling them not only financially but also elevating their standing in the society.Priyadarshini Taxi Services (PTS) was launched in Mumbai in 2008 by social activist Susieben Shah. PTS has trained mor than 250 women and is about to introduce an app, with plans to expand its base to Delhi and Bengaluru.Thirty-year-old Rashida, who only goes by her first name, got married off at 20 and entered a household that would be riddled with financial challenges. She had studied only till class 10, and to support herself and her two sons, she took up driving cabs. She mentioned that her husband, who was a cab driver was also an alcoholic and never used to work.“When I was in the seventh month during my second pregnancy, I left his house and came to stay with my parents. At my parents’ place, there used to be days when we didn’t have money for food or for travelling. I had to ask my mother and father for travelling expenses,” she said.She joined PTS’ training, and in 1.5 months, she got her car and began driving. “Sometimes we take Rs 20,000–25,000 home [per month] and if the business is good, we take more than that,” she said.The highlight of PTS is its three-month training programme, where the ladies are taught yoga, and self-defence on top of driving. The usual 10-12 hours of work requires a lot of physical and mental effort for drivers, and this programme was developed to help the drivers with the challenges they face.For Sanober Sayyed, 32, driving cabs at PTS is not her first job. Before PTS, she had a low-paying and stressful job at a call centre.“[Shah] Madam personally spoke to the people in my house, made them understand, and that’s how my journey started,” she said.She completed her SSC while working, and now she provides for her four children and family. “When I get out of the house with the taxi, and when people look at me, they now understand that this girl is born to do wonders,” she proudly said.Sanober spoke about how PTS follows the “the more effort you put in, the greater is the monetary reward” rule. She added that if anyone is unable to get enough bookings, Susieben assigns them corporate bookings.Pooja Kamle, 27, had to quit her studies after class nine and worked in the packaging department of a medicine company to support her family. She used to earn ₹10,000 per month. After a year with PTS, Pooja now earns ₹18,000 every month. She credits her parents for their support, which helped her make a shift from the packaging department to PTS.“Before stepping out of the house, I used to feel scared thinking about the kind of people I would come across. By driving the vehicle in the night, I have garnered enough confidence, due to which I am able to face the world boldly,” she asserted.She said, “They [women drivers of PTS] are living life on their own terms. That’s why every girl is happy.”Fighting harassmentBeing on the road as a woman comes with its own set of problems. To tackle this, Shah has given liberties to her staff to drop their customer in the middle of the trip if they encounter any harassment, with the assurance of no action against the driver. Rashida stated, “There was a booking of a call centre guy who was harassing us. So, madam cancelled his booking.”Shah even complained to the call centre and managed to get an apology from the man, claimed Rashida.Sanober too narrated an ordeal: “When I joined, kaali-peeli taxi drivers used to harass us a lot. Like, once, I just asked them to get my routes clear. But, they brushed me off and said, ‘If you cannot safely ferry your passengers, then stay at home.’There is not much glitz and glamour in driving cabs but Rashida—who met Bollywood diva Deepika Padukone, and captain of the Indian cricket team Virat Kohli—would disagree.While Kamle said her self-respect has multiplied since joining PTS, Sanober was able to purchase a one-BHK flat after she began driving taxi.“When we were unable to pay the rent due to bad business, ma’m never took rent from us and adjusted according to the situation. It is this attitude that has resulted in its progress where we have grown together,” stated Rashida.
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