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Reversing brain drain into 'brain circulation'

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  26 July 2015 12:00 AM GMT

By Ratan Bhattacharjee

Once upon a time, the people from the West were dreaming of India as a wonderland of precious stones and prosperity. Many fortune-seekers from Europe felt allured by India and its fabulous wealth. But bygone are those days. Now our talented youths are allured in a reverse way, always bent upon going abroad for better education and job opportunities. By all appearance, brain drain from India appears to be largely if not entirely, economic in ture.

So, everyone considers the negative aspects of brain drain. But if we go deeper, we may feel that the surprising secret for India’s success could also be its brain drain, which we may better term as ‘brain circulation’. Almost all of India’s intertiol success stories can attribute part of their success to the skills and connections gained through working and studying abroad. So the term ‘brain drain’ is a little misleading and should not send a cold shiver down our spine.

In this age of globalization, it is tural that high-skilled immigration goes in one direction: from poor countries to the rich. There are better opportunities, more support for their work, and a higher standard of living in those wealthier tions. To reverse it has been very difficult though India now has many good universities, and job opportunities here are not so dismal.

But while it is really difficult to reverse brain drain, we can now go for ‘brain circulation’, following an explation in The Wall Street Jourl given by Jaideep Prabhu , a Professor at Cambridge Judge Business School in one of its issues. He explained how the intellectual diaspora has played a very big role in India’s success, which could not have happened without these ambassadors. Some feel today, that brain drain is one of the reasons behind the closer proximity between America and India. US President Barack Obama himself made his remarks with the soaring rhetoric: “Are we a tion that educates the world’s best and brightest in our universities only to send them home to create business in countries that compete against us, or are we a tion that encourages them to stay and create jobs here?” Here Obama is obviously concerned about the return of the talented youth from his own country and so he is discouraging reverse brain drain back to the developing countries!

Policymakers in emerging economies have long believed that allowing citizens to study and work in developed countries, results in brain drain and is thus to be discouraged. For a good many years since 1960, India has been losing its major skilled workforce that includes doctors, engineers, scientists and technicians. This has been a boon for developed tions but for India the scerio has been painful. Exploration of opportunities abroad has become the only motto of career-minded bright students from India as in other developing countries. Academically well-qualified people prefer going abroad for higher research because they do not feel that they are getting the best chances, resources and facilities for research in India.

A recent study by the Indian Institute of Magement, Bangalore (IIM-B) shows that students going for higher studies abroad has increased by 256 per cent in the last ten years . While 53,000 Indian students went abroad for higher studies in 2000, the figure shot up to 1.9 lakh in 2010. USA is the most sought after destition for students, followed by the United Kingdom. There is also a craze for going to Australia , Germany, France and other European countries for exploring study and job opportunities.

Countrywise data on number of students

going abroad for higher studies

Country Students going abroad

(per year)

Chi 4,21,000

India 1,53,300

Republic of Korea 1,05,300

Germany 77,500

Japan 54,500

Source: UNESCO’s Report- Global Education Digest, 2009


High calibre Indians go abroad and raise India’s profile outside globally. Nevertheless, we should not forget that India like Chi is very rich in human resources and currently enjoys a youth demographic bulge. Skilled people are required everywhere in our own country. So talented young people can explore overseas opportunities, but they must be given to feel comfortable to come back home.

One very good step to resist brain drain is to invite foreign universities in our own country. We can retain young talent by permitting foreign universities here and create a brand like ‘Educate in India’. The government cannot do this wholly and private sector investment is needed. It is not enough that we create a hullabaloo on brain drain without creating an infrastructure in the country itself to retain the talent from draining away abroad.

However, we may encourage ‘brain circulation’ and the talented youth after being enriched globally can feel happy to come back to serve their own country. The return of the talented tive can yield excellent results. The HRD ministry is brimming with new ideas. It is hoped that that they may enhance the quality of education and job opportunities for stopping brain drain and transform the trend to brain circulation so that the policy of ‘sabka saath sabka vikas’ can meaningfully succeed.

It is really important that the young mind should feel deep love for their own country. But that cannot solve all the problem. If one gets a post-doctoral fellowship of 50,000 dollars per year in the American universities , in the me of idealism we may not stop the young talent from being attracted to it, while in our country he or she may get this fellowship of not more than 5,000 dollars at the best. What is more , the infrastructural facilities are far better in the developed countries. Some pharmaceutical companies offer fabulous salaries to young talents and they do not have any branch here in India. The Indian diaspora can be inspired to come back again to join these companies in their country of origin.

By inviting them to make India a place for their activities, we may stop brain drain to some extent and change study destitions for the promising youth. Foreign universities of good reputation if allowed to come to India, can very much inspire the talented youth to explore opportunities abroad on a short term basis. Those who go abroad for foreign universities or for job are faced with lots of immigration and initial monetary problems, besides food, health and accommodation difficulties. Money earned is also used up that way. We may feel their pain better in Matthew Arnold’s observation: “Still after many years , in distant lands, /Still nourishing in thy bewildered brain/ That wild , unquenched, deep–sunken , old-world pain/ Say, will it never heal?”

Dr Ratan Bhattacharjee is Associate Professor and Head, PG Dept of English, Dum Dum Motijheel College, Kolkata.

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