The ASRB chief has come up with possible solutions to find quality scientists to man research institutes.
Dissatisfaction among agricultural scientists over the procedures of their recruitment and career enhancement has been the bane of the National Agricultural Research System (NARS) managed by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) in the past. But that is not so anymore. Thanks to the rationalisation and revamping of this process by the Agricultural Scientists Recruitment Board (ASRB) over the past couple of years. This is reflected in the number of complaints against the selections and promotions dropping down to a trickle — to merely 0.5 to 1 per cent of the total number of selections/promotions cases. Earlier hundreds of complaints used to end up in the courts every year.
However, the dearth of good scientific talent is still haunting the ICAR and the ASRB which is responsible for sourcing the best human resources to man various positions in agricultural research set-ups. This makes it difficult to fill up all the scientific vacancies with candidates most suitable for the jobs. The two most obvious reasons for this are the inability of the state agricultural universities to produce competent alumni and the low priority among brilliant students to opt for research. Fortunately, the present ASRB Chairman, C D Mayee, himself a gifted scientist, is fully aware of this constraint and is conceiving out-of-the-box ideas to cope with it.
At present, the ASRB holds regular all-India tests, on the lines of the Indian Administrative Services (IAS) examinations, for spotting candidates for the all-India Agricultural Research Service (ARS) which caters to the needs of the ICAR institutions. Besides, it also conducts all-India National Eligibility Test (NET), which is a pre-requisite for entry to agricultural universities at the assistant professor level. But what is appalling is that of the 12,000 to 13,000 candidates who appear for these tests, no more than 1,000 to 1,500 manage to pass the examination and even less get through the interviews and finally get hired, Mayee points out. The success ratio, as indicated by the proportion of those who actually end up getting recruited, was 1:17 for the NET and, even worse, 1:31 for the ARS in 2007-08.
In as many as 20 disciplines, none qualified for the job. These included some crucial disciplines relevant to the current agricultural scene, such as food science and technology, dairy engineering, soil and water management, veterinary medicine, agricultural chemistry, microbiology and genetics. Other areas where the availability of talent was below what was required were agricultural meteorology, agricultural statistics, computer application in agriculture and environmental sciences. As a result, only around 70 per cent of the advertised vacancies for the ARS could actually be filled up last year.
Interestingly, out of 50 state and central agricultural universities and deemed universities, only 10 or so are churning out students competent enough to meet the ASRB standards to qualify for scientific jobs. These include, farm varsities of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Uttarakhand (Pantnagar), Haryana and, to a lesser extent, Kerala and Punjab.
Significantly, the record of most of the ICAR institutions enjoying deemed university status is far better in this regard. About 48 per cent of all the jobs went to the alumni of institutions like Pusa institute (Delhi), veterinary institute (Bareilly), dairy research institute (Karnal) and fisheries education institute (Mumbai). This has made it imperative for the ASRB to reach out to the available talent, rather than merely sift through what is on the offer. Among the proposals mooted by Mayee for this purpose are wooing back the agricultural scientists of Indian-origin working in farm research institutions abroad and going to university campuses to spot the best talent and groom it specifically for agricultural research.
The ASRB has already begun advertising for the agricultural scientists’ posts through the Indian embassies to access NRI scientists. “There is some response from countries like Korea, Japan, the US and Europe”, Mayee points out. Besides, he also intends to try out the methods adopted by other domestic and international scientific bodies to locate brilliant scientists. For this, a seminar has been organised in Delhi this week where agricultural human resource development experts from within the country and abroad will exchange views on ways to woo the best talent for farm research. Experts from the US, Germany, Japan and elsewhere will also participate in this.
The outcome of this meet will help generate new ideas which, if put into practice, would hopefully alleviate the talent crunch in agricultural research with consequent benefits for the entire agriculture sector.
6 months ago