Chairman of the Science Advisory Council to the Prime Minister, Prof CNR Rao, on Tuesday demanded removing of restrictions on recruitment of scientists and teachers and creation of an autonomous research foundation to take care of all aspects related to scientific research.
Warning that if the current situation continued, India's position as a potential leader in science would soon be in question, he suggested greater freedom for scientific and higher educational institutions and scientific agencies.
"Bureaucracy today is unbearable. We cannot have the Department of personnel in Delhi deciding on who is a good scientist or who is able to head an institution", he told Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at a recent meeting of the Scientific Advisory Council (SAC) in Delhi.
"Why not set up a separate parallel mechanism for scientific and higher educational institutions? Freedom of operation should extend to the working level of scientists", he said, pointing out that the "success" of Indian Institute of Science here was mainly due to the freedom enjoyed by scientists, independent of ranks.
Measures should be taken immediately as India was already facing a crunch in talented manpower (specially young leaders) in science and technology, he said
"Private sector salaries in India are so superior, there is is no need to complain about brain-drain", Rao, who has won many awards, said.
"To our young scientists we should give, in addition to a salary (whatever that may be), a handsome professional allowance, a free house with telephone, and a small grant towards attending scientific conferences and subscribing to journals, besides the required support for research", Rao said.
Rao also suggested that the retirement age for performing scientists and engineers be increased to 65 years.
In the last few years, India's performance in basic sciences has come down markedly, not only in terms of contribution to the world science, but also in terms of quality research papers which get cited more, he said.
"We are way below China, which contributes 12 per cent to world science (compared to our less than three per cent). The decreasing number of high impact papers from India (less than one per cent) is of serious concern. Even more serious is the situation of our universities, which are unable to perform and compete", he said.
However, "It is not fair to blame our universities, which have suffered from poor investment in people and infrastructure and from external interferences", he said.
What was of concern was that even India's top institutions were not performing as well, he said. "The number of Ph.Ds from IITs and other institutions is much lower than that coming out of similar institutions elsewhere. The number of research papers is alarmingly low, being less than one in many of our leading institutions".
He said India should fund at least a few institutions to see they were internationally competitive, suggesting about two to three per cent of GDP for S and T and a similar percentage for the higher education.