Wednesday, March 31, 2010

India Gave Zero, Now Time to Have a Hero

India Gave Zero,
Now Time to
Have a Hero

Reports Vinod Varshney

India gave the concept of Zero in mathematics, but modern India lacks a Hero in mathematics. Things are bound to change. May be several initiatives start this year itself.

First time this year in modern India top mathematicians from all over the world will assemble in thousands. This will be a great event, according to many, symbolic of recognition of India by the world as a great mathematical power. But, according to many the claim is only symptomatic of claim-happy Indians.

Indians tom-tom about its great mathematicians namely Aryabhatt (476-550), Brahmgupta (598-668), Madhav (14th century) and Srinivas Ramanujam (20th century), but the current educational and research system in the country is patently incapable of producing even one world class mathematician in India.

Not a single Indian, working in India or abroad, so far has been able to win Fields Medal, equivalent to Nobel Prize. Though there is great expectation that during the International Congress of Mathematicians to be held in Hyderabad late August this year, at least one Indian would join the rank of Fields Medalists.

Will this Indian be the one working in India? No. Understanding among mathematical community is that one of the three well-known mathematical researchers currently in the US may be adorned with this most prestigious award.

Why India does not produce good mathematicians? Research in mathematic does not require costly equipments like $ 10 billion Large Hadron Collider. Mathematical research needs a culture of marathon hard work and recognition of excellence rather than leg-pulling. Prithivraj Chavan, the Minister of Science & Technology claims he is well aware of the problem and dropped a hint Wednesday that the Government may announce an International Center for Mathematical Research.

Chavan told media persons that not having enough number of good mathematicians was a great worry for us, but since there had not been great career opportunity for mathematicians and there had been peer pressure and parental pressure, the brightest students never took mathematics as an area of study. Confident is Prithivraj Chavan, that the INSPIRE, a Department of Science & Technology (DST) program would change all that. As a drop in the ocean the DST has planned 250 INSPIRE Scholarships for M.Sc. and 15 Fellowships for doctoral research in Mathematics.

There more disturbing things. India is dubbed an IT Super Power, but if one counts the number of Computer Science Phds it produces, it is pitiable 30-40 a year where as China produces 3000-4000. So what surprise if China can steal your defence data from government files. Dr M S Raghunathan , a renowned mathematician of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research says the number of Phds in Mathematics is definitely more but their quality is questionable.

How can India in such a situation produce world class mathematicians?