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Tuesday, August 07, 2001

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Brain drain

C. V. Aravind

THE news is alarming, to say the least. A recent survey has revealed that `brain drain' costs India around $2 billion a year. The UNDP's Human Development Report-2001 further states that it costs the country $15,000-20,000 to create a professional.

It is evident that while the cream takes the first flight out of the country, the less talented only remain to run around in search of jobs to suit their qualifications. One has only to go around the IITs and collect data about the number of alumni who h ave settled abroad, to realise the enormity of the problem.

A random survey among the under-graduate students would reveal that they too are more than eager to follow the footsteps of their predecessors. The irony, however, is that we can hardly blame the professionals who choose to shun the land of their birth - - that gave them a decent education and made them what they are -- for the prospect of emigrating is, indeed, attractive.

When a carpenter or a tailor in the Gulf countries earns almost as much as the head honcho of a PSU, it is too much to expect a professional to show patriotism by remaining in India in unfavourable conditions.

Here, nepotism is rampant, jobs are doled out only to those with `connections', and reservations ensure that a sizeable chunk of the population remains unemployed. Thus, it is tough to land a job on merit alone.

It is a sad fact that while the rest of the world recognises the merit of the professionals, we continue to place hurdles in their paths and deny them their rightful due. So who is to blame for the brain drain that is costing the exchequer? The system, n aturally.

While finding a suitable job itself is an uphill task, it is more difficult to climb the professional ladder with only merit to back one up. Granted, in some private organisations there is scope for the smart to outshine the drones and the parasites, but the situation elsewhere leaves a lot to be desired. And then comes the question of remuneration. Will we ever be able to match the payscales offered by other countries?

More than five decades after Independence, India has one of the lowest per capita incomes in the world. We just cannot afford to pay the software engineers and other technically qualified personnel competitive salaries.

The IT bubble has burst and many dotcoms are vanishing from the scene. Hefty cuts in salaries and even retrenchment have followed. This will leave the professionals with little choice other than to accept any job they get. Thus, the problem of brain drai n may worsen. This is, no doubt, a wake-up call for the powers that be. They have to act fast before it is too late.

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