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Agriculture Research

Brain drain dims achievements

Scientists' successes appreciated, but special incentives not announced yet

The government is basking in the recent successes in agriculture science at a time when all the 11 agro-research institutions in the country are plagued by brain drain.

Administrators overseeing the National Agricultural Research System (NARS) are worried at agriculture scientists' quitting jobs and going abroad. They attributed this to the government's failure to announce a long-committed special incentive package for the scientists.

Unhappy at poor pay package and other facilities at home, and attracted by greater opportunities abroad, at least 300 scientists went into self-retirement from the public research institutions under NARS over the last one decade while 30 percent more out of a 1600-strong scientists' pool are now fast approaching retirement age, show official statistics.

Officials and scientists at Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC) said such a massive brain drain has created a shortage of experienced and skilled agriculture scientists in the public sector institutions when there is a growing need for research to innovate and introduce new and improved seeds and farm technologies to combat climate-change fallout and help feed the ever growing population of the country.

BARC is the apex body of NARS under the Ministry of Agriculture and it coordinates activities of the 11 agro-research institutions. These include Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI), Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI), Bangladesh Jute Research Institute (BJRI), Bangladesh Institute of Nuclear Agriculture (BINA), Bangladesh Sugarcane Research Institute (BSRI), Soil Resources Development Institute (SRDI), Bangladesh Fisheries Research Institute (BFRI), Bangladesh Livestock Research Institute (BLRI), Bangladesh Forest Research Institute (BFRI), Bangladesh Tea Research Institute (BTRI) and Bangladesh Sericulture Research and Training Institute (BSRTI).

BARI and BRRI are the biggest losers in the brain drain phenomenon as the two institutions together lost nearly 200 scientists in recent years. They (scientists) preferred voluntary retirement and joined research institutions abroad or universities at home where better pay package and other facilities are available.

Bangladeshi scientists' back-to-back successes in plant and fungi-genomics research in recent years made the government upbeat about the country's capability in advance agro-science. On both the occasions -- jute genome decoding in 2010 and fungi genome decoding in September this year -- Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina informed the nation about the scientific feats by announcing that in parliament.

But, the agro-scientists' morale remains low due to non-implementation of the promised incentives for them, said a top NARS official, preferring anonymity.

They are frustrated by factors such as retirement at the age of 59, promotion policy based on vacant positions, lack of scope for higher studies in modern agriculture, lack of recognition for achievements and absence of pension benefits and recreation leave.

In neighbouring countries India and Nepal, agro-scientists working in public sector retire at the age of 62 and 60 years respectively compared to 58 years for other public servants. In Pakistan, scientists are given special increments in salary if and when they pursue higher education while in service.

Contacted, renowned agro-economist and former head of social science division at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) Dr Mahbub Hossain said, "Public research institutions should not deprive themselves from the services of talented agro-scientists just because they reached retirement age. Rather, they should be retained up to a certain age so that the country can benefit from their expertise."

Mahbub, now executive director of Brac that has a huge agro-research resource pool in which many are former public sector scientists, stressed that the government should come up with special incentives for the scientists to stop brain drain.

"We've repeatedly pleaded with the prime minister for incentives for agriculture scientists. But nothing has been done as yet," said Dr Nitish Chandra Debnath, who heads the Krishibid Institution, Bangladesh (KIB).

KIB is one of the oldest and largest professional organisations in the country that represents over 20,000 agriculture graduates.

"It's nothing extra that the country's agro-scientists are asking for, rather, we're asking for the minimum incentives that our counterparts in all neighbouring counties are already getting," said Nitish, also former vice chancellor of Chittagong Veterinary and Animal Science University.

He said brain drain can be stopped if scientists are given in situ promotion (promotion based on expertise and experience, and not on vacancy) as is the practice in public universities. He mentioned that many brilliant scientists in the NARS ended up working in the same positions for years.

Executive Chairman of BARC Dr Wais Kabir told this correspondent that he had forwarded two years ago a draft proposal on how the government could provide incentives to scientists.

Kabir said he thinks the country would lose its science talents if a minimum incentive package is not arranged.

Reached over the phone, Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury said the draft proposal was under active consideration but she couldn't give any timeframe when the government would announce the package.

At a reception Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina hosted on June 24, 2010 for the scientists who decoded jute genome, she said, “We will take special measures so that researchers do not face any trouble due to limitation of job tenure and limited salary.”

Ten months later, as this paper enquired in April last year about the progress to that end, the then agriculture secretary CQK Mustaq Ahmed said, “We want to give our scientists a fair deal. So, we are planning to increase benefits and facilities for them. We are doing this for the sake of the nation.”

And on November 23 last year, addressing a city programme the prime minister again said, "We'll have to think how the researchers can be given special facilities including financial support and extension of job tenure.”

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We got to hold back the agricultural scientists from leaving the country by providing them separate pay scales and other fringe benefits. The present ratio of brain drain is not sustainable, and the country would be the ultimate looser. The figures in the margin suggest a very depressing scenario and are totally unacceptable. The PM and the FM, in any case, has to set up a pay commission in the coming budget, and while so doing must make provision for separate pay scales for the scientists, state owned bank officials, the BB and the university teachers to name a few. It would be imprudent for the government to hide their heads in the sand when winds of discontent are brewing all over, especially with 35% inflation in the last 40 months.

: Reaz Hassan

Even in Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC), all most all senior semanticist have left during the last 12 years. It is fact that all most all talented scientists have left from BARC/NARS. Thus the government should take immediate steps to prevent further brain drain.

: Imtiaz

Comments

  • Concerned citizen
    Thursday, November 1, 2012 03:38 AM GMT+06:00 (100 weeks ago)

    We really should be worried by this: Agriculture is the foundation of an economy, with our large population, research and innovations in Agriculture are a must, so the economic benefits for the brains in this sector should be commensurate with their importance.

  • AJ Khan
    Thursday, November 1, 2012 06:52 AM GMT+06:00 (100 weeks ago)

    No one can be patriot on an empty stomach.

  • Mofi
    Thursday, November 1, 2012 07:10 AM GMT+06:00 (100 weeks ago)

    We are poor because we never gave due attention to researchers and scientists.

  • Monoar Hossain
    Thursday, November 1, 2012 07:34 AM GMT+06:00 (100 weeks ago)

    The news is very frustrating and awful. The same is true for other research institutions and public universities. We are always saying we have to uplift the social status of scientist researchers and teachers but no real action is taken by any govt. yet. In fact we have a bureaucrat dominated administrative system and where ministers are administered by these bureaucrats because of ministers and political party's incompetency. In such a country, no good things will happen for researcher & teacher. Bureaucrats are always against any kind of incentives to scientist and teacher.

  • Saleh Md. Shahriar
    Thursday, November 1, 2012 09:06 AM GMT+06:00 (100 weeks ago)

    We must stop the present trend of brain drain.

  • ScienceFaction
    Thursday, November 1, 2012 09:14 AM GMT+06:00 (100 weeks ago)

    All good scientists are a good commodity. They should be able to dictate good terms for themselves.

  • Md. Rakibul Hossain
    Thursday, November 1, 2012 09:17 AM GMT+06:00 (100 weeks ago)

    Bangladesh just wants labours that are willing to do sordid administrative job. It the govt. policy to prioritize the clerical jobs so researchers are going abroad.

  • Nasirullah Mridha,USA
    Thursday, November 1, 2012 10:22 AM GMT+06:00 (100 weeks ago)

    Not only in Agriculture sector each potential sector losing the sterling academic and scientists. We need to inhibit them by paying high perk and privileges. If we can lure them back by batten upon the state coffer the yield will we get in future with stupendous benefits.

  • Parvez Babul
    Thursday, November 1, 2012 10:26 AM GMT+06:00 (100 weeks ago)

    Very informative and time-appropriate news in deed! Thanks so much Reaz bhai for your evidence-based, helpful reporting.

  • Shekhar Dev
    Thursday, November 1, 2012 11:17 AM GMT+06:00 (100 weeks ago)

    Government should take proper measures about brain drain. Our agricultural scientist are very potential. So, for them, government should create a favourable atmosphere. As they have proved their potentiality by their invention. Ministry of agriculture should properly look after the organisation related agriculture.

  • Md Mustafizur Rahman
    Thursday, November 1, 2012 01:13 PM GMT+06:00 (100 weeks ago)

    Thanks the editor for publishing this report as the lead news story in today's paper. From the text of the report the reporter seems to have really identified the threat of scarcity of manpower the NARS is facing in the country. The reporter as well as the esteemed paper really deserve appreciation for coming up with such an informative report with high national importance.

  • Fakhrul
    Thursday, November 1, 2012 01:44 PM GMT+06:00 (100 weeks ago)

    We should do something for our country. Sacrifice is the most important here.

  • Tarik Zaman, Canberra, Australia
    Thursday, November 1, 2012 05:06 PM GMT+06:00 (100 weeks ago)

    Thanks to The Daily Star and Reaz Ahmad for this lead news. We understand that our resource is limited and the poor country can't pay higher salary packages. The agricultural scientists or the researchers do not want a high salary equivalent to other developed countries; what they want is recognition and some incentives.

    My friends who joined BARI or BRRI in 1990, only a handful of them became PSO while who joined the universities became professor at least 7-8 years ago. Those who joined in 1995 in admin, tax, audit and account - all got several promotions.

    May be the current govt still has the honest intention to do something, but I doubt the civil bureaucrat, particularly a govt encircled by the admin cadre, would pull any government initiative. A good and strong political commitment can break the admin cadre phobia.

    Look at the success in jute research. I understand there was less involvement of the so called talented administrator, but Motia Chowdhury allowed legal independence to the research group, and they delivered.

    Monowar Hossain has rightly pointed at the meddling of the administration cadre in every development initiated by the government. The admin cadre should also understand that it's time to look forward.

  • Dr N Chowdhury
    Thursday, November 1, 2012 05:11 PM GMT+06:00 (100 weeks ago)

    Its not only the country which is deprived from the services of those talents but also due to a huge gap in experience that is created by their departure is now filled up by the less experienced or less talented people who are quite incapable of delivering the quality services.

    This could have been avoided if there is the provision for at least some lateral entries to attract the people from outside who are more capable of delivering the services that the research organisation needs desperately.

  • Masudur Rahman
    Thursday, November 1, 2012 05:17 PM GMT+06:00 (100 weeks ago)

    People with knowledge and skill leave the country not only for economic motive. Their love for the motherland is beyond question. There are more severe impediments that force them to leave the land they love so much. Social problems, and polluted political environment and insecurity are just to name a few. The lack of efforts among the political elites to mend the gradual erosion of social values give no option for those who leave the country.

  • Hasan Mamun
    Thursday, November 1, 2012 06:43 PM GMT+06:00 (100 weeks ago)

    Speaking frankly, all the political parties are worried about their party interest not the country interest.

  • Mridul Mitra
    Thursday, November 1, 2012 07:18 PM GMT+06:00 (100 weeks ago)

    Bangladesh is an agricultural country. About 80 percent people of our country are farmers. They are mainly depended on agriculture. If the agricultural sector is not well, they have to lead a miserable life. Now-a-days our agriculture is unplanned. Because the improver of our agriculture namely scientists are being bound to retire their jobs in a short time because they do not get due pay. They are going abroad to for earning more money. It causes brain drain. As a result, we are losing our genius. So the government should take some steps on it early. Besides the country has to increase their salary and retirement benefits as soon as possible. Otherwise we have to lose all, the scientists and geniuses of our country.


 

 


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