Y.S. Rajan, one of the early pioneers of the Indian space programme, started his career in the Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad in 1964. From 1968 to 1988, he held many important Positions in ISRO including Scientific Secretary, ISRO; and Director, Earth Observation Systems. He has also worked at NASA. He had made extensive contributions to Indiaâ€™s first three major space projects- Aryabhatta Satellite, Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE) and SLV-3 and other later projects like INSAT, IRS, PSLV. He also led Indian delegations to the United Nations. During 1988-1996, he worked as an Adviser, Department of Science & Technology, Government of India; and first Executive Director, TIFAC (1988-2002). He was Senior Adviser (Technology) of CII (1996-2000). He was also Scientific Secretary to Government of India and Scientific Adviser to the President of India from March 2000 to October 2002. Presently he is Vice-Chancellor and Chairman, Board of Governors, Punjab Technical University (PTU) as well as Scientific Adviser to the Chief Minister of Punjab, with rank of the Minister of State.
Mr Y S Rajan has authored the book â€œChoosing Career Pathsâ€. The thought of writing a book arose when working in close association with President A.P.J Abdul Kalam to translate his Vision 2020 for a Developed India into Reality, what struck him was the high rate of unemployment among the youth. With millions more waiting in the wings, he felt it was a situation that needed to be addressed. The book is an attempt to open the eyes of not just job hunters, but also of students and parents, to the reality of the Indian job front.
Through extensive data the author charts out what career options are available, how to apply for a job, appear for an interview and what to do at the workplace. The author believes, for â€œcoldâ€ intellectual as well as emotional reasons, that empowering each Indian with right skills and knowledge (to enable him/her to add value addition) is crucial for national development. If people are poor, it is because they have not been empowered with the right skills, which can provide value addition in the competitive world of market economics. The quest for choosing a career path should begin at the schooling stage itself. The youth must be made aware of the multiple options available to them and guided in the right direction, as job is as basic a necessity of life. Gone are the days of "conventional" degrees that once fetched jobs! Today, there is a wide variety of "educational choices". Many foreign institutions have stepped in. These offer multiple market-driven courses, of course at a price, which many can ill-afford. There are also multiple choices for career options.
Yet, the job requirements are different for different classes of the youth of different strata of society â€” high, middle and lower middle. Thus, in this small world, the big challenge is of providing employment opportunities to those who after classes X and XII are forced by economic necessities and family needs to opt for diploma or certificate courses, as they cannot afford to enroll in regular university degree courses. This calls for a joint effort at every conceivable level in society to reorient mind-set as well as to restructure the system or at least make the best use of the existing system in the interests of the youth.
Institutions of learning, schools to universities cannot turn a deaf ear or a blind eye to this emerging scenario. All shall have to develop forward and backward linkages and also drill into the young minds that education is only an "enabling tool" for choosing career paths, not a "guarantee" to employment!
Rajan has also expressed his views strongly on the linkages between technology, business and human resources. In the past, all of these acted in separate, often watertight compartments. The linkages were sparse between R&D groups and academia, but very little between them and business groups. This was most unlike the case in developed countries, especially the USA. Rajan goes on to say that when industry seeks technology from indigenous sources, they get very little response, or else offers that mean little. Even when practical ideas are put forward, industry has a hard time getting useful inputs from organizations such as national laboratories or research organizations.
Academia, says Rajan, acts only as a supplier of bright young boys and girls after degrees are secured. Industries find that they need practical orientation, because the whole education system, even the best of them, can only impart theoretical knowledge and very little experience in the school of life. The situation is now changing in India with organizations like the IITs linking up with industry, but the pace of change is slow and needs a big heave up by the bootstraps.
On the dynamics of higher technical education in the Indian context, Rajan states that the traditional academic planners at the level of government or apex agencies, tend to chase elusive models of projections for growth and then matching other activities to their projections. These are general based on vestiges of thinking on centralized systems of the past, which have either failed substantially or are no longer relevant, measured either in terms of spurring economic growth or in terms of providing social equity. Even in the eighties, to support the IT boom, the government funded institutions that were unable to meet the demands of the rapidly growing IT industry. In the end, it was the â€œmushroomingâ€ of private sector colleges, which entered into the non-formal sector of education which met the quantitative demand for the IT sector â€“ not always with the requisite quality.
Rajan believes that it is not enough to address the matter of educational systems only from the point of view of academic institutions or that of business enterprises. 17 million new children are born in India every year and as such, at every age bracket, such a number of children exist. All of them have the right to be empowered with the appropriate productive skills â€“ and not just garner literacy and numeracy, which might leave them in the lurch in a modern economy. Says Rajan, in the present day, only about 1% of eligible children are able to get into the upper layers in terms of earnings they can get in the present competitive scenario. The average for developed countries is 20%. Hence India needs to expand the whole system 20 fold or else in the future, we will be condemning 99% of this mass as unfit for the modern competitive world. The social issue, says Rajan, cannot be ducked by asking â€œwhere are the jobs?â€. We cannot ask our future generations to stay put as literate hibernates till the age of 16 till the economy makes a demand on them. Education and skill needs to be imparted constantly â€“ not possible by any slot-machine technology â€“ because it requires a gestation period and a time frame for a person to come out with reasonable skills and a knowledge base.
(Read more about the above at www.putjal.org/technology.html and www.putjal.org/dynamics.html)