The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Stipend and job for science students
- Govt plans package to lure young talent to research

New Delhi. Jan. 12: India’s science policy makers have often blamed the lure of the lucre and shortcuts to jobs for drawing young talent away from the sciences. Now they want to reverse the trend with just that — a bit of money and assured jobs.

The department of science and technology has proposed a Rs 5,000-a-month stipend to promising first-year college students, a sum that will eventually grow to Rs 15,000 per month, and come with an assured job in a top academic institute for five years.

The stepped-up stipends and assured research jobs will be part of a package of steps the department wants to implement over the next five years to tackle the shortage of talent in science and engineering research.

Science and technology minister Kapil Sibal today said the programme is aimed at attracting talent early into the sciences — a hand-holding and safety net mechanism to draw and retain young people in research.

The department has also proposed a Rs 5,000 innovation scholarship to each of one million schoolchildren between the ages of 10 and 17 to be paid over the next five years. “We want school students to think creatively. Nothing more than that,” said science and technology secretary T. Ramasami. “The exam business in this country has killed creativity.”

The first of the school scholarships may be offered during the 2007-08 academic year, Ramasami said. Under the assured career plan, 2,000 first-year B.Sc. students will be handpicked to receive Rs 5,000 per month as stipend that will rise to Rs 7,500 during M.Sc. and Rs 8,000 during PhD studies.

Those who complete PhD will be appointed assistant professors in non-tenure positions in top IIT-class institutions for five years.

Officials expect that among 2,000, only about 500 will stay through the programme.

Scientists have argued that the long period of study and uncertainty about jobs even at the end of a PhD have been deterrents to research careers in India.

“A science student could be 26 or 28 at the time of completing a PhD, an age at which peers who’ve switched to software or management are happily employed,” a senior fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences told The Telegraph.

University scientists have welcomed the proposal, but cautioned that a question mark hangs over how well it is implemented. “We must be able to provide quick jobs to high-quality PhDs,” said Subhash Lakhotia of Banaras Hindu University.

“Today, some of our PhDs want to work in India, but our present system does not allow them to do this,” Lakhotia said. “Frankly, the present system doesn’t care whether they get jobs or not.”

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