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India solely occupied with politics: Former IISc director

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Kolkata:  Former director of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Padmanabhan Balaram on Saturday criticized the country’s sole preoccupation with politics and its fading culture of learning and scholarship.

The Padma Bhushan awardee was addressing students at Presidency University’s third annual convocation, which has been on the boil with a section of students keeping Vice Chancellor Anuradha Lohia in confinement since Friday demanding her resignation. In apparent reference to student protests, Balaram said: “We read (in newspapers every day) one Indian leader or the other bemoaning the fact that not a single university or institute in India is ranked among st the best in the world.

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“It is a question which I have faced for almost a decade as the director of India’s most visible institution in science and engineering (IISc).” “We must ask what is it that preoccupies our country today. Our country primarily is preoccupied with only one subject and that is politics.

“There is no other subject that attracts attention. It is a subject that occupies centre stage. “Where is learning?,” the renowned biochemist questioned. Exhorting students to respect the institution they study in and the teachers who guide them, Balaram said India’s university teachers were accorded very little respect. “How much respect do our university teachers get today? Very little from our surroundings and very little from our students,” he said. “We must bring scholarship back to our institutions,” he stressed.

(IANS)

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Why Indian universities don’t figure among world’s best

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By Harshmeet Singh

In the recently released Times Higher Education world university rankings, the Indian Institute of Science Bangalore managed to get into the top 100 with a 99th place finish. As expected, it was covered extensively by the Indian media. But just a solitary institute in the top 100 is far from ideal for a country like India. Though Indians have managed to reach top positions at some of the biggest companies across the world, Indian Universities have failed to make their mark at the world stage. Who is at fault then?

To begin with, let us stop blaming our institutes blindly. Most of these rankings are designed in such a way that our institutes don’t perform too well on the selected parameters. For instance, the number of undergraduates in the campus is a major parameter due to which Indian institutes such as IIMs and ISB fail to get high scores. Additionally, the diverse nationalities of the students joining the institute are also considered while ranking the institutes. Indian Universities, due to various restraints, do not admit many students from out of India, which further hurts their rankings.

Another parameter used in these rankings is the research funding received by the institute. In this regard too, the Indian institutes don’t fare too well. Ratan Tata himself has donated large amounts to the Cornell University and the Harvard Business School on more than one occasion. Such rituals of giving back to your alma mater are hard to find in India. In the US, even companies such as Google and Fedex are known to donate generously to top Universities to fund their research efforts.

The factor which makes up for the biggest scoring parameter is the volume of research coming out of the institute. Most of the Indian institutes offer restricted courses, which mean lesser number of students and comparatively lesser research. Until recently, IITs only offered courses in Engineering. It is only now that they have also started offering MBA courses, which would increase their worth on the world stage.

A world class institute requires a heavy financial backing for its operations. While the institutes in USA and Europe receive generous donations and grants from their alumni, such culture is non existence in India. Many individuals also put their alma mater as the heir of their property after they die – a scenario which is unthinkable in India.

The total endowments with Harvard are $32 billion! In comparison, India’s budget for the entire education sector for 2015-16 is close to $10.5 billion!

Oxford came into being in the year 1167! While Harvard was formed in the year 1636. On the other hand, the first IIT was formed only in 1951. In all aspects, it would be extremely harsh on the IITs to compete with institutes of such stature at such an early stage. The infrastructure and robust alumni network that these institutions boast of require centuries.

While our institutions may not stand very tall on the parameters used by these rankings, they are doing a fairly good job in churning out talents that are running the best companies in the world. So the next time you see such rankings and don’t find an Indian institute, don’t be disappointed. There is much more to it that what meets the eye.

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ISRO’s Mars Orbiter survives 15-day blackout in Martian atmosphere

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Bengaluru: India’s maiden Mars Orbiter Mission survived a 15-days long solar eclipse (June 8-22) and emitted signals back to earth, the space agency chief said on Friday.

“Our Orbiter spacecraft has survived the blackout in the Martian atmosphere when sun came in between the red planet and the earth and was cut off from us. Coming out of the eclipse phase, it is communicating signals,” Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman A.S. Kiran Kumar told reporters here.

The 1,340 kg spacecraft was under solar conjunction from June 8 when it went behind the sun and away from the earth due to solar eclipse, which occurs once in 26 months over the red planet.

“The Orbiter’s communication signals that were disrupted by the sun’s corona (outer atmosphere) during the fortnight-long eclipse got activated and its five payloads (scientific instruments) resumed activities after being on autonomous mode,” Kiran Kumar said on the margins of a a global conference on “Science for Society” by alumni of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc).

Noting the spacecraft had withstood a crucial phase of nine months after reaching the Martian orbit, he said that the Orbiter would continue to spin around the red planet for years as it had saved enough fuel since its November 5, 2013 launch from Sriharikota spaceport.

“Though the Orbiter’s initial lifespan was intended to last six months after entering the Martian orbit (on September 24, 2014), it has been extended since March and is likely to survive many years as it is hardly using any fuel,” he said.

Lauding the scientists for the mission’s success, he said that from the Orbiter’s launch till its insertion after a 10-month voyage through the inter-planetary space, the mission did not encounter any untoward incident or deviation, which otherwise would have consumed precious fuel though provision was made for such occurrence.

Noting that the mission’s objective of exploration would continue till the spacecraft survives, Kumar said that the Orbiter had completed about 100 revolutions around the planet and its five experiments had transmitted enormous data to the space agency’s deep space network near here.

“As a bonus of its extended life, we will collect more data and information on the seasons on Mars and its images. Our payloads have found out many things during the last six-nine months, which are being validated,” he added.

The Orbiter’s Mars Colour Camera had transmitted about 400 images of the red planet till date to the space agency’s telemetry tracking and command network (Istrac) in the city, while its spectrometer, Lyman Alpha photometer, thermal infrared imaging spectrometer and methane sensor have relayed data of their findings.

India created history by becoming the first country to have a craft enter the Martian orbit in maiden attempt after a nine-month voyage through the inter-planetary space.

It also became the first Asian country to have entered Mars’ sphere of influence (gravity) in maiden attempt, as a similar mission by China failed to succeed in 2011.

The Rs.450 crore ($70 mn) Mars mission was launched November 5, 2013 on board a polar rocket. It had 855 kg fuel but consumed about 800 kg since then for its orbit-raising exercises undertaken during its nine-month long journey and on entering the Martian sphere.

Scientists at the mission control centre here monitor its orbital movement and check health of its instruments round-the- clock.

Orbiter takes 3.2 earth days or 72 hours, 51 minutes and 51 seconds to go around Mars once while orbiting at a distance of 500km nearest and over 80,000km farthest from its surface. (IANS)

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MSME sector to follow Make in India policy

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By Newsgram Staff Writer

Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises has come up with an action plan to facilitate aims of the Make in India policy, Giriraj Singh told Lok Sabha.

The action plan involves extending guarantees to the entrepreneurs of particular states with financial support from state governments, along with women entrepreneurs and youth among SC/ ST and NE Regions.

The ministry is also trying to bridge the gap between Research Institutions and Industries through signing of MOUs with IISc and CSIR. 18 existing Technology Centres (TCs) is to be supported by cluster network Mangers and a National Portal.

The schemes will be funded as a whole without an exclusive amount earmarked for the Make in India policy.

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