Brain in the Drain

Thursday, 22 October 2020



Brain in the Drain

Tridib Borah | August 23, 2018 18:58 hrs

During Emergency, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, in one of the meetings with her bureaucrats asked how the “brain drain” from India could be stopped. An outspoken IAS officer blurted out, “Madam it’s always better to have brain drain than to have the brain in the drain.” The silence that followed was deafening. The meeting was dismissed. And the officer must have landed himself in a drain.

The statement made in utter nonchalance and disregard to consequences, spelt out the bitter truth at the highest level. More than four decades have elapsed and the Statistics reveal a constant rise in brain drain since then till date. The Nadelas, the Pichais or the Nooyis have proved that the drained brains have indeed reached the pinnacle of their callings. The part of the statement “brain in the drain” which derogates our country is perhaps the bitterest.

We have collectively failed to uplift the image in so many years. The smart bureaucrat himself is no exception in making the truth bitterer. One would like to imagine what would the above three globally-acclaimed Indians achieved had they had not moved to the greener pastures. At best, they would have become CEOs of the country’s top companies and indeed their present global fame would have remained elusive. 

One pertinent question that pervades into most minds is why the same people who failed to deliver in India become stalwarts abroad in their fields.  The best answer circulating in the social media is – they take away the “deserved” and we get the “reserved”. Looking beyond the humor one would be inclined to accept this as a valid reason for the “drain” image of our country. Quality happens to occupy a back seat in every scheme of things; so much so that the Prime Minister of the country had to be told that intellectuals living in India are rotting in drains. Perhaps no country would witness a ninety fiver running from pillar to post for good education and a student notching 59% walking the red carpet into the best of educational institutions. The governance has changed many hands in the country yet the policy to accept the “reserved” over the “deserved” hasn’t changed. One can appreciate the need to elevate the deprived and the down trodden; but no civilized country would adopt a policy in this century to do this by compromising on quality.  

It was in September 2013, I had the opportunity to attend the Japan Education Fair in Bangalore, where Professor Kaori Yomonouchi of Tokyo University delivered the keynote address. The Japanese professor enthralled the gathering by relating the connection of Japan with India from the period of Gautam Buddha. He informed that Japan today has the highest number of Nobel Laureates in Asia. But the first Asian to win the Nobel Prize was Rabindra Nath Tagore in 1913. And the first Scientist in Asia to clinch this coveted award was C V Raman in 1930. He declared that the breakthroughs in molecular Chemistry in Japan would not have been possible without the aid of Raman spectroscopy, to the resounding applause from the august gathering in the auditorium.  “But after that”, he added “Surprisingly not many Indians in India have been able to carry the flag forward”.  It was indeed a speech which reminded many of us in the audience of India’s glorious past when neither the brain drained nor the brain was in the drain.

A deeper insight into the woes will reveal that the best of present brains are at par with those that brought glory to India in the past. But to bloom and flourish the brains of present day India need extra territorial environs. All is perhaps not lost. People in India have started cleaning the Ganges to the local drains off the plastic bags and bottles. There are also some encouraging signs from the developed nations by way of clogging the drains which were free ways for modern Indian brains to drain.

Lastly, we can hope that a few more eccentric leaders come to rule the western world and reverse the drain of brains back to India. A collective effort can surely ensure ways not to retain again these brains in the drains.

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