Congratulations, but……could Mr. Ramakrishnan have done it here?

Venkatraman ‘‘Venky’’ Ramakrishnan, an Indian-born structural biologist has shared this year’s Nobel Prize for chemistry with two others. Ramakrishnan – who is currently affiliated to the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK – shares the honour with Thomas Steitz of Yale University and Ada Yonath of Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.
Ramakrishnan, who hails from Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu, took his graduate degree from MS University in Vadodara before exploring better prospects abroad. An accomplished scientist, he is also one of the rare few to have maintained close ties with Indian institutes of research and learning even after many years on foreign shores.
By any standards, this is an achievement that deserves a hearty round of applause.

Predictably, the Indian media has gone to town with this happy story. But even as we rightly celebrate Ramakrishnan’s moment of glory, it is imperative that we place his success in perspective. Let’s get this straight: this is an individual achievement, Ramakrishnan’s. His is another classic case of Indians achieving spectacular success when unshackled from the system here that often stymies merit.

Make a quick mental list of Indian success stories, which are at par or above global standards of excellence, in the recent past – in the sciences or even in the humanities. You are bound to notice that many of those who feature on this list are those who have left India’s shores, and flourished elsewhere. Be it Ramakrishnan, Subramanian Chandrasekhar or Amartya Sen, talented individuals have done very well for themselves when they have had access to an environment that provides ample opportunities, nourishes excellence and has mostly banished a stifling bureaucracy.

Indians are no less talented than people elsewhere in the world. But they are often boxed in by a system that is overstretched, riven by petty politics and is plain indifferent to merit. Beating the system here is a project for brave hearts. When excellence is not incentivised, it is only natural that those who seek to rise above limitations – and don’t want to navigate systemic pitfalls and loopholes at every step – seek greener pastures. We often complain about the brain drain while ourselves having created the conditions for it. If India is to earn its place in the league of advanced nations, it must focus on creating an environment that promotes learning as well as entrepreneurship at every level. It’s not impossible but this task requires a vision and drive that don’t appear currently to be in sufficient supply among our leaders.

6 thoughts on “Congratulations, but……could Mr. Ramakrishnan have done it here?

  1. Before we comment on whether MR.(R.S.C’n) OR Mr.A.Sen could have done it lets what we have on offer to such talent


    Science and technology infrastructure are Within the central government, there is a TOP-DOWN APPARATUS and a plethora of ministries, departments, lower-level agencies etc

    The Ministry of Science and Technology was established in 1971.

    The ministry, through its subordinate Department of Science and Technology, also coordinates intragovernmental and international cooperation and provides funding for domestic institutions and research programs

    The National Council on Science and Technology in India is at the apex of the science and technology infrastructure and is chaired by the prime minister.

    the infrastructure has SEVEN major components

    1: GOV. Org’s that provide hands-on research and development(e.g:CSIR)
    2: OrgS working biotech, nonconven’ energy sources, ocean development,
    3: State gov. R&D agencies,involved with agriculture,health ETC
    4:The four other major components
    a:university system,
    b:private research
    c:public-sector R&D establishments and industries.

    government-sponsored research are transferred to public- and private-sector industries through the National Research and Development Corporation


    1. you cannot expect a researcher to do his job alone, u definitely need peers.
      only infrastructure is not enough psychology is also important. may be these things are provided now, but still we spend very less amount on R&D n India must increase this fund.



    In percent of GDP
    Japan, 3 % South Korea and Taiwan 2 %. India, 0.8 % China (0.7 percent).
    India’s share of GDP expenditure on research and development has increased slightly: in 1975 it stood at 0.5 percent, in 1980 at 0.6 percent, and in 1985 at 0.8, where it has become static

    limited role of universities in the R&D.
    India 15 percent of the total investment Japan’s 80 percent & 50 percent in the United States.

    limited job prospects at home, many of the brightest physicians, scientists, and engineers have been attracted by opportunities abroad, particularly in Western nations.

    The laboratory in Cambridge where Nobel laureate Venkatraman Ramakrishnan has conducted path-breaking research is a veritable Nobel factory with 14 scientists getting the prestigious prize.

    Ramakrishnan is the 14th Nobel Prize winner at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology.

    Previous Nobel winners at the laboratory are: Fred Sanger (1958), Max Perutz (1962), John Kendrew (1962), Francis Crick (1962), Jim Watson (1962), Fred Sanger (1980), Aaron Klug (1982), Georges Kohler (1984), Cesar Milstein (1984), John Walker (1997), Sydney Brenner (2002), John Sulston (2002) and Rober Horwitz (2002).

    Of the 13 Nobel winners at the laboratory, Fred Sanger was awarded the prestigious prize for Chemistry twice, the first time in 1958 and the second in 1980.


  3. ya but we can learn from them, see how much we are wasting in delayed projects and mismanagement every year we dont learn from mistakes coz we dont have enough research, perhaps they give reports which politicians dont impose.
    remember the lecture just after brainwaves? now you can relate his feeling, his intense emotions.
    as he said, current system is designed to make us slaves, n if u want to be master u must move to foreign countries.
    we have, had this capacity, just revise our past. we can do it.
    for that we must improve standard of education system.


  4. in his recent interview mr. ramkrishan explicitly mentioned that just because india lacked the equipments and environment he moved to US. and although he is citizen of america, he feel proud to be of indian origin.
    he also said that gov. must encourage n support Indian researchers. there is no need to go to US, UK as now india also have most of the equipments.


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