From Our Correspondent
NEW DELHI : On November 16 the Central
government announced its decision to confer, Bharat
Ratna, India's highest civilian award on eminent
scientist Prof C.N.R.Rao.
The 79-year-old scientist is an international
authority on solid state and materials chemistry and
has published over 1,400 research papers and 45
books. Prof. Rao`s contributions have been
recognized by most major scientific academies around
the world through conferment of memberships and
fellowships. He has been honoured with several
national and international awards.
Prof. Rao has been influential in formulating
the country’s science policies over many years. He
was a member of the Scientific Advisory Council to
Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Subsequently, he
headed the Scientific Advisory Councils to four
Prime Ministers: Rajiv Gandhi, H.D. Deve Gowda, I.K.
Gujral and, most recently, Manmohan Singh.
Prof. Rao promoted initiatives in
high-temperature superconductivity and more recently
in nano sciences, which provided funding for Indian
scientists to carry out frontline research in these
fields. At his urging, five Indian Institutes of
Science Education and Research have been set up to
capture promising students at the undergraduate
stage and provide them high-quality science training
in a research environment.
After taking his doctorate from Purdue
University in the U.S. and working as research
associate at the University of California, Berkeley,
he returned to India in 1959 and joined the Indian
Institute of Science (IISc) in Bangalore.
He then moved to IIT Kanpur, but returned to
IISc in 1976. There he set up the Materials Science
Centre and the Solid State and Structural Chemistry
Unit. “This was a momentous initiative” that allowed
him and his colleagues to keep pace with all the
developments in the new chemistry of materials,
remarked P. Rama Rao, himself a materials scientist
who has known Prof. Rao for over 50 years.
Prof. Rao was director of IISc from 1984 to
1994. During that period, he expanded and
transformed the institute in many ways, according to
P. Balaram, its current director.
Prof. Rao was the founder president of the
Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific
Research (JNCASR) in Bangalore. He is a National
Research Professor and also the Linus Pauling
Research Professor at the JNCASR.
“I think basic sciences are finally getting
their due recognition”. That is how CNR Rao reacted
when asked by journalists here about his being
conferred the Bharat Ratna.
Rao, who never was very happy with Bangalore’s
emergence as the IT capital of India and the IT
services industry becoming the most sought-after
career choice of engineering graduates, said he
heard the news of Bharat Ratna at the
Thruvananthapuram airport. He was there to board a
flight to return home to Bangalore.
“I spoke to the Prime Minister and thanked him.
I credit my family and students for the award,” Prof
Rao told journalists on his arrival in Bangalore. He
expressed satisfaction at being conferred the Bharat
Ratna at the same time as Sachin Tendulkar.
Funding for science was “marginal,” at an
average just “20 per cent” of what was needed for
specific projects, and “it never comes on time,” he
told journalists at his residence at the Indian
Institute of Science here on November 17.
For a brief moment, Professor Rao lost his cool
and criticised politicians for having given “so
little.” “But for the money that science receives,
India, I suppose, is doing well,” he said.
India’s ranking in innovation was poor, at 66
among 140 countries. “I think India has to learn to
use the latest results of science and technology for
innovation,” he said. The government appeared to be
giving more importance to sport. “The future of
India is secure if it invests in basic science and
science education. Only countries that have advanced
scientifically have made progress, while those who
neglected it are not known.” Investment in science
should be raised from 1 per cent of the GDP to 6 per
cent if India had to keep pace with China and South
Korea, whose high investments in science was
reflected in innovation.