How many roads and avenues in this country are named after Sir J. C. Bose, Ramanujan, Satyendranath Bose, C V Raman, Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray, Amartya Sen, Hargobind Khurana, Meghnad Saha, Vikram Sarabhai, J V Narlikar, P C Mahalanobis and many other such luminaries who excelled in the field of academics? Not many, if at all there exists a few that celebrate their achievements. They are hugely outnumbered by statues and lanes that deify politicians and a few freedom fighters.
You may ask what is my point in this comparison. I would argue that such a prevalence brings out the fact that academic achievers at the highest level are largely unsung in the country. "What's the big deal?", you may ask. If society doesn't honor the best, and their work and legacy ignored, nor proper assessment, preservation and popularization of their work takes place, the benefits of having these global achievers can't be reaped by the country and its citizens. In this context, I am aware that many early films made in the fifties and sixties by legendary directors like Mrinal Sen, Tapan Sinha and others are forever lost because of lack of proper preservation.
The path towards greatness for a nation is paved with equitable distribution of resources, equal opportunities, availability of basic essentials to its citizens, justice and a unity that binds the denizens of the nation. I doubt whether we can claim to have achieved satisfactory levels in any of these criteria. What went wrong? My surmise is that since independence, we have not set yardsticks for anything in the country. While to qualify as a professional in a certain field one needs to pass a certain course that involves undergoing studies for a few years, the all powerful position of the politicians doesn't require any such degrees. You may say that politicians have to be endorsed by the people to win elections. Accepted. I would like to pose a counter question in this regard. Why do our people elect the corrupt and the criminal in such cases? I read an ET article on the eve of the government formation in 2019, that around 43 percent of the legislators of the ruling party have serious criminal charges against them. This speaks very lowly of our electorate.
As an academic, I am required to correct answer scripts of engineering students. In general, the standards of language used while answering is quite poor. I am also witness to the poor level of writing ability of many of my colleagues and higher-ups. Why have things come to such a pass? Lack of quality control. We have a system where we are passing every students, whether deserving or not. Because the good performance of a teacher is judged by the pass percentage of the students of the class in the examination. Hence no one fails thereby encouraging weaker students to continue with their shortcomings in higher standards without addressing the gap in knowledge in their previous class. I think it's imperative to introduce the failure system in schools and colleges to prevent falling standards.
I am also quite a film buff and over the years seen a lot of Indian and International classics. The Indian government has an award called Dadasaheb Phalke that supposedly celebrates the best of Indian cinema. Just look at the list of recipients in the last few years. These are all commercial artistes without any contribution to advancing the image of the country at competitive international film circuits. Moreover, a filmmaker like Gautam Ghose with a four and a half decade career and having won many international honors doesn't receive even a Padma Shri. So much for fairness of these prestigious National awards.
When the less accomplished and the lesser competent are pushed up in the higher echelon they become a catalyst to dipping standards and the Nation suffers, sooner or later, in tangible and intangible ways.