TODAY -

Brain drain : A burning issue in India

Moichingmayum Mustaque Alish Aijaja & T Anas Babu *



"The only exercise some people get is jumping to conclusions, running down their friends, side stepping responsibility, and pushing their luck!"


In the present world, the problem of poor countries face is getting much worse than we thought when it comes to the brain drain. Historically the term 'brain drain' came into existence when highly train manpower in Britain started migrating to United States of America in mid-sixties. Subsequently, it became more universal with the emigration of skilled workforce from many poor countries to the rich countries. Therefore, 'drain brain’, purport a boon for developed countries, but bane for developing countries.

The later don't have the possibility to lure migrants from other countries to replace their high-skilled workers who went abroad in pursuit of a better life. As more of them leave, the economic situation gradually gets worse, forcing even more people to abandon their country. This creates a vicious downward spiral with very grim prospects, exposing devastating consequences of brain drain.

Although, economic reasons are main incentive behind one's decision to uproot one's life, there are many other motives also compounded. We are concerned more with visible brain drain, a comprehensive idea of which should include indentured labour which went to African countries in pre-Independence era and to the US and Middle East now a days.

The concept also includes those Indians settled abroad permanently in South East Asia the USA and finally, it also covers steady flow of technocrats, scientist, doctors and academicians to the west. It is the immigration of persons, highly qualified in their respective field, which is the cause of our growing concern. It should be very clear at the beginning that India suffers from brain drain and not brain exchange.

Brain exchange is a phenomenon which prevalent in the West, like the UK-USA situation, where USA has emerged a winner. Brain exchange is a healthy exercise while brain drain affects the roots of our progress. Practically all the countries of the world suffered from brain drain sometime or the other, but fortunately majority of them have found ways to stop the flow. One striking example is Japan which has controlled the drain effectively.

It is no wonder that neither of the countries on or list are among the smartest countries in the world. It is pretty much impossible to be, if best and brightest from every generation leave in search for better life in foreign lands.

Brain drain in India :

Brain drain is a great problem in many countries like 'Drain of Wealth"-a root of British exploitation propounded by Dadabhai Naoroji. Our country India suffers from internal brain drain where highly qualified engineers and doctors waste their energies working in totally different fields. Imagine IIT graduates with MBA degree at a reputed management institute and MD doctor are joining Indian Administrative Service. This resulted to decrease the numbers of professional who are expertise in their fields.

Every person graduating from IIT's or IIMs should understand that he or she is educated through tax payer's money. Out of each rupee spent on him or her, 25 paisa come from poor people whose children might never be able to get primary education. But are we able to provide decent jobs and living here? What propels them towards West or East?

Interestingly besides this, our ambitious youths are failing to compromise on their dream to occupying a seat in our best universities, since the cut-off's of admissions become close to 100%. It drives them to explore the scope of higher education in abroad where they have an edge over students from other countries in terms of skill and talent.

Meanwhile, the academically well qualified people prefer going abroad for higher research because they don't get the best chances, resources and facilities for research in India. The fact is well known in the recent year's outflow of Indian students stand second among the list of students going abroad for higher studies (UNESCO's Report-Global Education Digest, 2009).

One striking feature of visible brain drain is that we can't measure it, because we never know who'll come back to the country and after how many years. Brain drain should be measured per ability.

A plethora of causes ranging from colonial mentality to monetary gains are cited from brain drain. Some of the causes are simply called 'pull and push' force theory of brain drains. Monetary gains stand as the foremost cause of the phenomenon, a kind of pull towards influence and upward social movement. The cycle of migration is continuing from villages to towns and from towns to metropolis in search of good jobs and higher social prestige.

The most highly educated have nowhere to go except out of the country to gain more materialistic advantages. To a limited extent, the human nature of migration towards more comfort explains the brain drain. But monetary string is not always strong enough to pull all towards west; there are other reasons also.

A person who has gone to the west for studies and remained there for a good number of years find it almost impossible to reset him/her to Indian working conditions. Our organised system does not lateral entry. It does not allow mobility. It is this rigid system of entry into jobs that does not allow people to come back from abroad. In USA, universities are empowered to pay high remunerations to deserving professors but in India the system stuffs a topper of London School of Economics with a second-grade lecturer having degrees from dubious universities in one cabin.

Why a talented man be prepared to suffer such an ordeal? Normally working conditions in India are unhealthy for progress. Bureaucratic pressure frustrates technocrats with high calibre. The feeling among students of IIT's that the future is bleak in India is growing. The fame and fortune that accompanies an invention in USA is unparalleled anywhere in the world.

We also have the surplus manpower. We have more doctors than nurse and midwives. Moreover, ready availability of financial assistance from developed countries to students admixed with the ease with which one can sit in screening test such as GRE, TOEFL, SAT, etc., propel students to try their luck. The greater education facilities, degree of technological advances, better working conditions, more monetary benefits, etc., pull students towards developed countries. In this world, whichever country has more 'pull' elements are easily able to get skilled manpower from predominantly 'push' factor countries.

If there is an action there is a reaction. Our country India is suffering. Long term losses may not be visible as immediate of loss of money spent on student to educate them. More than Rs 4 lakhs are spent by the government on each IIT student during his graduation and according to a study, 80 % of the top cream students of IIT's goes out of the country to explore new opportunities in the West.

The major loss is in technological field. Till two decades back, before we made in India a super computer we were begging USA to support us some, each super computer costing a fortune. The worst part of the whole computer was that super computer in USA was mainly developed by our own scientist who emigrated there!

While we made our own prototype super computer it is not comparable with its Western counterpart in its efficiency. This is just one example in thousands how India suffers due to brain drain. The rich in India fly to London for heart operations and are pleasantly surprised to find an Indian doctor preparing to operate on them. While India still lacks in remarkable academicians in their universities, USA has hordes of Indian Academicians in their universities.

Crores of rupees are spent each year on subsidising education for technocrats every year. If they go out, it leads to triple losses. First, money spent goes waste, second, as there is always a shortage of seats in engineering colleges some talented students cannot get a seat due to these students who go out.

In other words, emigrating students also grab others opportunities. Third, in the long run brain drain proves costly for the country in the form of costly technological imports from developed countries, the import of those very items which have been manufactured by our own people there. May we be feeling acute dearth of doctors, scientists and technocrats but quality is suffering, when quantity remains the same.

These increasing trends of 'brain drain' finally persuaded government of India to take some severe actions to detain them in India itself. From 2015 onwards, the medical students going to the U.S.A. for higher studies obliged to sign a bond with the government, promising to return to India after completion of their studies. If the student doesn't fulfil the bond of obligation, the ministry can write to the U.S and permission for the students to practice in the country will denied. Though, the trend still continues to immigrate Indian skilled workforce to U.S.

A solution to brain drain could be that we should concentrate on what is left rather than brooding over the past. China and Japan are wonderful examples on how to handle brain drain. China has purchased many high-tech companies in the USA and thus got a direct access to new technology. Also, the current financial condition of our country is not fit to undertake such risk. So, if we create harmonious environment for them here, the return could be very fast and we can benefit from it.

We should get our people when we need them. Young promising students should be allowed to make money as they study at IIT or elsewhere. If students get involved with the industry, students should get a percentage of it. It should be very clearly understood that those who are successful at young age here in India seldom go abroad. Let student make money; it will propel them to work hard. Students have to face the real-life situation later on.


* Moichingmayum Mustaque Alish Aijaja & T Anas Babu wrote this article for The Sangai Express
M Mustaque Alish Aijaja is Senior Research Fellow at CAS Dept of History, AMU, Aligarh and T Anas Babu is Assistant Professor, HKRH College, Uthamapalayam, Tamil Nadu
This article was posted on July 13, 2017.


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