Current Science is also the only general purpose science journal that carries discussions about government policies regarding science education and research. It has some of the top scientists in India on its editorial board, and it is published by the Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore. Because of these reasons, people sit up and take notice when its editorial takes up an important issue involving science and technology in India.
Since 1998, Prof. Balaram wrote (pretty much) all the editorials. In July, he became the Director of IISc, and his farewell editorial [pdf] in June marked the end of an era.
Since then, Current Science has been publishing guest editorials by various people; I read a couple of them earlier, and since they were of indifferent quality, I stopped. So, I was surprised when a colleague asked me to read the editorial [pdf] in the latest issue. He did warn me about its contents, I too warn you: it's utterly bad. Its badness starts right from the title: "Where have all the young ones gone? The coolieization of India". It's written by Gangan Prathap, the Scientist-in-Charge at the CSIR Centre for Mathematical Modelling and Computer Simulations (C-MMACS), Bangalore.
Why would I want you to read this rant of an editorial? Because it shows that we have in India high-ranking people who decry the country's recent progress in the services sector, and IT sector in particular. They see it as a very bad thing. They see it as recruiting bright people and making them do some mundane work, and bingo! they are coolies. They also see it as stealing bright people away from 'more fruitful' activities like working for 'real' engineering companies like L&T, developing indigenous technologies, teaching and doing science (!), and yes, working for CSIR labs.
The editorial quotes extensively from a recent interview by A.K. Naik, the CEO on L&T. Now, this guy -- I mean, Naik -- seems to think that India owes his company a steady supply of bright engineers at 'reasonable' salaries. It doesn't occur to Naik that if he is really interested in bright engineers, why can't he pay them better salaries and provide them with better working environments? I am not talking about air-conditioned rooms here, I am talking about empowering employees, and about giving them challenging work.
I can go on and on; but let me just make two more points about Prathap's editorial. One is that it is downright insulting to refer to Indian's work in any industry -- be it IT or BPO or Auto or Accounting or Janitorial or Urban Sanitation -- as coolie's work. It betrays a mindset that disrespects 'dignity of labour'. Second, this article has serious inconsistencies. For example, early in the article, Prathap says all IT employees are doing low-level jobs. Later, he says, "The capital stock internationally (read the West) is getting increasingly more sophisticated and the West is not producing enough highly skilled workers to keep it functioning." What the hell does it mean? Surely, our engineers cannot be doing low-level work if they are keeping the sophisticated 'capital stock' of the West functioning.
Finally, why is Current Science peddling such nonsense as its editorial?