India should take up the challenge of improving the standard of higher education and give greater attention to research institutions to make them truly global, Lord Bhikhu Parekh, NRI Professor of Political Philosophy at the University of Westminster, has said.
"While Beijing University has emerged as one of the top 20 universities in the world, there are no Indian universities among the top 100," Lord Parekh said in London on Thursday night.
Lord Parekh was participating in a panel discussion on 'India's Sustainability Challenge' jointly organised by The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), a leading progressive think tank and UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) at the Commonwealth Club.
He said India's IITs and IIMs came 5th and 7th or so in the category of technical institutions but they were not research institutions. "IITs are training institutions and IIMs are teaching institutions. How can you sustain knowledge based economy without top research universities," he asked.
The coalition politics in India has also led to intrusion of caste politics, he said adding, "There are these great dangers and if we are not aware of them we can sleep walk into a nightmare."
He said while a small section of the society had become richer following the economic reforms, a large section still remained poor.
Speaking on the occasion, Indian High Commissioner Kamalesh Sharma said despite hurdles faced by it, Indian manufacturing sector was picking up dramatically and recorded a growth of 10 per cent per annum.
David Miliband, UK's Secretary of State, DEFRA, who is visiting India in the third week of January, said industrialised countries have to take the first step in tackling the issue of global warming.
Ritu Kumar, Director, The Energy and Resources Institute, London, said India has to develop micro-insurance scheme to help its farmers. Water would be one of the main problems India would face in the future and not enough attention has been given to it so far, she said.
In a paper presented at the conference, the IPPR described India as one of the most modern and ancient nations on earth. "Its essence and thrall are captured in that duality of identity. Today it hums with a modernity that draws culture, vitality and wisdom from its long civilisation. Its economy is growing at a rate of over eight per cent a year, propelling its massive population up the global league tables of economic might and geopolitical clout."
It said India's democracy is a proud source of comparative economic advantage as well as a unifying ideal. "But corruption is rife in Indian politics and public administration."
Concerns over corruption have been dampened in recent years because of the flourishing economy, with some concluding that corruption is an "unfortunate tax", it said. But Rob Jenkins of the Institute cautioned it would be a mistake.
"Corruption is a key reason why India's infrastructure is in such a poor state....If this is not tackled it could threaten the viability of future growth."