“No man’s genius, however shining, can raise him from obscurity unless he has industry, opportunity and also a patron to recommend him.” —PLINY, the Younger
The term ‘Brain-drain’ has recently come into vogue for describing the flight of talent from our country to another. Often, it is loosely employed to describe all migration of educated and talented persons to countries abroad in search of better careers even though their services may be badly needed in their native land, and thus, this exodus of talent, depletes a country’s intellectual resources and tells on national life.
However, the problem of ‘Brain-drain’ is not peculiar to the present age of ours. It existed even in Medieval times when great conquerors carried away not only hoards of gold and rich treasures from the vanquished countries, but they also took away men of talent and genius as a matter of right. The only difference we see today is that now the talented and educated persons migrate of their own accord, attracted by the glitter and glamour of better emoluments and amenities.
Today, the problem of Brain-drain is a product of the revolution in science and technology inspired by the Second World War and speeded up by the discovery and use of the nuclear energy. After the war, the stupendous advance made by U.S.A., U. S. S. R., Great Britain, Germany etc. in the field of scientific research began to attract men of science and talent from other Countries. This accounted in the main for the flight or defection or let us says migration of talent from the underdeveloped countries to these advanced nations.
One striking feature of this problem of Brain-drain is that it is a global phenomenon, affecting almost every country. India, too, has been facing this problem and it is discussed from time to time in a rather casual and cursory manner. It is revived with afresh momentum when some Indian repatriate in another country achieves some distinction in his field of work. It caught the headlines when Dr. Jayant Narlikar discovered his Hoyle-Narlikar Theory, when Dr. Hargobind Khurana was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1968, and also when the famous India-born U.S. astrophysicist Dr. S. Chandrashekbara came to India to deliver the Second Nehru Memorial Lecture in New Delhi. Similarly, Dr. Lars Onsager, Norway-born U. S. citizen was awarded Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1968. Cases like these provoke and set in motion ‘long drawn debates on the subject of Brain-drain. But these discussions, except for blaming these men of genius for lack of patriotic telling and sense of duty to their land of birth and for cupidity, do not yield any results because (i) such cases are only exceptions and not the general rule, (ii) the distinction and achievement these men of genius secured in their land of repatriation could not have been possible, or of much value, in their land of birth, and (iii) the loss of one single country is a colossal gain to the world at large.
Let us also analyze the reasons which prompt such people to leave the land of their birth for foreign shores. Is it merely the enchantment and glamour of life in more affluent countries, or is it the search for a more satisfying professional career. An overwhelming majority of such repatriates go abroad as students seeking academic, scientific or technological education which is sadly lacking in their own countries. More often than not, such advanced courses of training are designed to benefit the host country. Naturally, such an education has no market in their native countries, and quite obviously, they cannot be accommodated there. So they are forced to seek voluntary exile to settle in .the country of their learning.
One more factor deserves consideration. After a promising young-man has completed his training, he usually expects work which should not only bring in enough money and other emoluments but also give him sufficient professional satisfaction.
But a greater contributing factor to this problem of Brain-drain is the unimaginative handling of the issue by the most callous and unimaginative bureaucracy of the country. The research workers and men of genius are men out of the ordinary and their work is of an extraordinary nature. But bureaucracy fails to cope with such people for it lacks the intellectual equipment and sensibility needed to handle such volatile human material. Very often, this becomes the main deciding factor for the emigrant, with other factors acting as catalytic agents.
In India, the pattern of Brain-drain has caught the public eye very recently. Facts and figures are put forward to emphasize the terrible loss being caused to the country as a result of this phenomenon. The Scientific and Technical Personnel Division of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (GSIR) issued in 1962 the ‘Indians Abroad Roster’ which gives an approximate figure of 29,000 skilled scientists, engineers, doctors, teachers and technical personnel migrating to foreign countries. However, this statistics is not factually accurate, and so, this does not reflect the magnitude of the problem, the Brain-drain coming to about 3 per cent of the skilled personnel available in India. But what is really alarming is the information that the average age of migrants is between 20 and 40 years. This means that India is losing the cream of the intelligentsia at the most productive period of their life.
The Government of India set up the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, partly with a view to meeting the problem of Brain-drain. The C.S.I.R. installed in 1958 the scheme of scientists’ pool as a device for bringing back highly qualified Indian nationals from abroad. On papers this scheme has been doing some service but in actual practice the scheme has flopped owing to various simple reasons viz., a yawning discrepancy in salary and emoluments and a severe lack of research-cum- workshop facilities for the highly skilled and specialized scientists.
The problem of Brain-drain should be tackled at national and international level on a broad-based and rational pattern, for it is a global issue. On the national level, a country like India, should ameliorate the working conditions of scientists and equip the laboratories with latest technology. Internationally, the country gaining by Brain-drain must compensate the losing country by sending her scientists in return.