President Pranab Mukherjee has said that it is “unfortunate” that India Inc has not invested in a significant manner in research and innovation despite major economic development in the country.
“Many of them are doing it now, but better late than never,” Mukherjee said at Lakshmipat Singhania IIM Lucknow leadership awards ceremony held in the capital.
He said he would like to see the private sector play a major role in supporting the country’s education sector as it has done in the healthcare system.
The government’s policies, developmental paradigms and delivery mechanisms need to be more broad-based and effective to bridge vast income disparities that exist in India, he said.
Mukherjee added that India cannot occupy its rightful place in the high table of the international community if the country’s education system is not converted into one of the best in the world, stating that other BRICS nations including South Africa, Brazil and China, were way ahead in the sector.
“What we require most is emphasis on research and education, faculty development, faculty exchange, student exchange programmes,” Mukherjee said.
He felt that even though India has 757 universities and 38,600 colleges at present, only a few of them — including 2-3 IITs and the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru — find a place among the top 200 rated universities and institutions of the world.
He outlined that India has come a long way from an underdeveloped nation to being the third largest economy in the world in terms of purchasing power parity and also among the fastest growing major economies in the world.
“Yet the greatest challenges facing our policymakers and national leaders even today is to ensure that the fruits of economic development are equally distributed resulting in reduction in income disparities. Growth has to be truly inclusive for it to be meaningful,” Mukherjee said.
The President stressed the need of making critical reforms in India’s education system as the country is at a critical juncture having a younger population than any other country.
“By the year 2020, the average age of an Indian will be only 29 years, compared to that of 40 years in the US, 46 years in Japan and 47 years in Europe. Two-thirds of the Indians will be in the working age group. This demographic dividend can prove to be a boon for our economic aspects,” Mukherjee said.
However, he cautioned that if we are not able to gainfully employ the youth by giving them proper skill training, the social consequences can be terrible and instead of having demographic dividend, we may have to face demographic disaster.
“It is in this context that we need to focus on education, entrepreneurship and skilling, the three major priorities of the government,” Mukherjee said.