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PM push for reverse brain drain
- Call to attract young talent

Chidambaram (Tamil Nadu), Jan. 3: Brain drain, a recurrent theme in the Prime Minister’s speeches, cropped up again today among the “most critical concerns” he listed in his address to the Indian Science Congress.

“The global Indian diaspora is a vast pool of knowledge that we must tap, especially in the sciences. We must try and attract the best and brightest of our scientists abroad to return home and participate in the adventure of building a knowledge-based economy here,” Manmohan Singh said.

The need for “reversing the brain drain” figured alongside energy security, management of water resources and the impact of climate change on food security — the country’s critical concerns, Singh said.

Many bright Indian scientists working abroad in advanced fields of research wish to come home, for varying periods of time. “We must fully exploit the potential of this reverse brain drain,” he said.

“Our visa regime, our employment procedures and remuneration systems, especially in universities and in government institutions, must change and respond to facilitate this,” he said.

Singh echoed what he had said at the platinum jubilee celebrations of the National Academy of Sciences in Mumbai in October, when he spoke of reversing the brain drain in science. Brain drain was also the focus of the Prime Minister’s address to military scientists back in 2005.

His government was committed to stepping up the annual expenditure on science and technology from less than 1 per cent of GDP now to 2 per cent, Singh said.

The university system needs to be upgraded to once again become the “hub of good quality science”, he told the audience in the temple town of Chidambaram.

The time has come for a “new thrust and renewed investment in basic sciences”, Singh added. “The teaching of science and mathematics in our schools ought to be made sufficiently interesting.”

Stressing the need to make science research “an attractive career option”, Singh said more and better students should be attracted. “This will not happen unless younger scientists are groomed to take over top positions,” he said.

“Only when students see prospects of early reward and recognition, will they be induced to tread the often lonely and toilsome trail of advanced research.”

Science and technology minister Kapil Sibal announced a scheme for the Early Attraction of Talent for Science (SEATS) at the plus-two level in schools that will assure careers in science for at least 500 students a year.

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