What is common between cricket and India’s nuclear programme? The first is an example of the growing influence of young Indians who do not originally come from the large metropolitan cities; the second could soon be a similar example.
The case of cricket is fairly well known. Boys from Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai would dominate the national team till recently. No longer. Mahendra Singh Dhoni is a fine example of this. He comes from Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand. S. Sreesanth was born in Kothamangalam in Kerala. There are many other examples of cricketers from small-town India who have stormed into the national team.
Their examples prove that the problem is not a lack of talent in small towns and villages, but the lack of opportunities. That is why the recent news that the department of atomic energy (DAE) has decided to hunt for potential nuclear scientists in rural and semi-urban areas of the country is so interesting. DAE secretary Anil Kakodkar said in New Delhi this week that youngsters outside the metros are less likely to go abroad to study and take jobs. They are also less likely to change jobs every few years.
The Indian atomic energy programme is at an inflexion point because of the civilian nuclear deal between India and the US. The government programmes to build scientific capabilities in the first two decades after independence was dependent on people who were involved at every level. Many of these scientists were identified and nurtured by the likes of Homi Bhabha and Vikram Sarabhai.
There are now fears that next-generation research could be hindered by the lack of scientists—as well as other issues such as research grants and institutional independence, of course. Kakodkar seems to suggest that rural India may be a good place to go talent scouting. A PTI report quotes him as saying that there is no difference in the “inherent intellectual capacity” of young urban and rural Indians.
Even Indian companies could, in the future, learn a trick or two from DAE on how to identify eager and talented youngsters from rural and semi-urban parts of India.
Should official agencies and private companies seek rural talent? Tell us at firstname.lastname@example.org