The country needs national leaders from science and engineering and not just politics, sports and cinema, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said here Saturday.
The prime minister was speaking at the golden jubilee celebrations of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay.
He said that the IITs have become an integral constituent of 'Brand India' like nuclear science institutions or other centres of research and teaching.
He said that IIT Bombay students have risen to top positions internationally, including former head of Bell Laboratories Arun Netravalli, present Dean of Harvard Business School Nitin Nohria and others.
"One of our brightest cabinet ministers, Jairam Ramesh, is an alumnus of IIT Bombay, and also Nandan Nilekani, who (implemented the Unique Identification Number scheme)," he said.
Manmohan Singh said he was by the high cut-off marks to these institutions.
"Today, as we celebrate the Golden Jubilee of IIT Bombay, we feel a sense of pride. But that pride must be tempered by the concern that we still do not have the required number of such institutions to offer adequate developmental opportunities to all our bright young women and men," the prime minister said.
In order to tackle this, the government has taken the initiative to expand opportunities for higher and technical education in India.
During the past eight years, there has been a quantum jump in investment being made and the number of seats for students in higher technical and scientific education. He lauded the minister of human resource development and minister of communications and information technology, Kapil Sibal, for his efforts.
Manmohan Singh said that government has opened new IITs, IIMs and institutions for teaching and research in sciences, increased investments in school educations, scholarships for disadvantaged sections of society and set up new institutions for children.
"India currently lags behind many other countries in terms of research and development and we must work harder to bridge this knowledge gap. I am happy that IIT Bombay has made research a priority," the prime minister said.
He added that IIT Bombay is involved in research in key areas like the National Centre for Photovoltaic Research and Education, the 1 MW National Solar Thermal Test Facility and the Indo-US Clean Energy Centre for Photovoltaics.
After half-a-century of zero rate of economic growth (1900-1950), India managed a 3.5 percent growth for three decades after Independence (1950-1980), he said.
"From 1980 to now, that growth rate has nearly doubled and during 2003-2008, it marched forward at a higher nine percent," he said.
"These are not just numbers. They translate into employment opportunities... create new incomes and new possibilities. They help increase the government's revenues so that we can invest more in education, health care, in eradicating poverty, hunger, disease and illiteracy," he said.