Bangalore was always a highly intellectual city. Though people called it a garden city, there was more science here than anywhere else in India. Nowadays, nobody talks about it. They only call it an IT city. When it all started, I thought it was a good thing because so many people were getting jobs. Over the years, it has created a large upper-middle-class population who crowd the malls. There is nothing wrong in that, but what is really serious is the influence this has had on Bangalore's intellectual content.
It is wonderful to have a lot of young people getting big salaries, provided they don't take away the essential lifeblood of other professions. Bright people at a very young age, before they are even 20, think of IT as an option because they can make quick money. Lots of intelligent people are doing jobs that are much below their intellectual capabilities. They are like coolies who are working for wages and not producing great intellectual material.
Can an India of the future afford a highly skewed growth like this? All the humours should be balanced—we must also have good poets, good economists, fine historians, quality scientists and top-class engineers. An nri recently asked me, if India is so great in IT, how come it produces only 25 PhDs in computer science per year? That's a very good question.
Right in the beginning, the IT industry should have planned their campuses in towns like Ramanagaram (40-odd km from Bangalore). They should have created IT satellite towns, but they all wanted land inside the city. They not only took away that land, they also complain about not getting enough. They say they want better roads, but why should we create them?
IT people have a responsibility that they are yet to fulfil. If they're making so much money, why shouldn't they create an outstanding private university equivalent to Stanford or Harvard? Had they done something like that they would have compensated for the other problems they have created. If IT people are making money, what do I get out of it, unless I am employed in Infosys with Narayana Murthy? The trouble is, we have given them a lot, but have got nothing in return.
Our society has created a bunch of icons and role models who are distorting not just the future of this city but of all India, and of our sense of values. Our people have lost respect for scholarship. Money and commerce has taken over. If IT is going to take away our basic values, then you can burn Bangalore and burn IT.
(As told to Sugata Srinivasaraju) C.N.R. Rao, a world-renowned solid state and materials chemist, is chairman, Science Advisory Council to the Prime Minister