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Agro-experts frustrated

Better care may stop brain drain

By Special Correspondent
07th-Feb-2014       
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A total of   about 300 agro scientists went on self-retirement over the decade  from the public research institutions under National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) out of frustrations over  poor pay package and lack of other facilities.  
A good percentage of those skilled manpower also left the country being attracted by greater opportunities abroad during the period. Meanwhile, another 30 percent out of   a total of about 1600-strong scientists' pool are approaching their retirement age, official statistics revealed. Some of them might also find jobs abroad as there is high demand for agricultural scientists, informed circle 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, Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC) sources said.
BARC coordinates activities of the 11 agro-research institutions, which 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 suffered serious setback in the brain drain phenomenon as they together lost more than 200 scientists in recent years. Scientists of BRRI and BARI preferred voluntary retirement and joined research institutions abroad or universities at home where better pay package and other facilities are available.
The scientists 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.
Mahbub Hossain, Executive Director of BRAC that has a huge agro-research resource pool in which many are former public sector scientists, told the media that the government should provide special incentives for the scientists to stop brain drain.
"We've repeatedly urged the government for incentives for agriculture scientists. But little has been done so far," said an official of the Krishibid Institution, Bangladesh (KIB), which represents over 20,000 agriculture graduates.
He said brain drain can be stopped if scientists are given 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.
Meanwhile, on an average between 700 and 1,000 brilliant students of the country are migrating to different countries annually mainly for post graduate education and higher degrees. But most of them do not return to the country, revealed the annual report of University Grants Commission (UGC).  They migrate mostly to countries like USA, UK, Germany, Japan, France, China and Korea.  UGC has recently made two proposals to attract the post graduate students for higher degrees within the country to give a check to the trend of migration to foreign countries so that they could give their services to the nation, said one UGC source.  
But neither the Ministry of Education, nor the UGC keep the record of students migrating to other countries. Once there was a system of prior approval of the Education Ministry for higher education in foreign countries. But as those seeking such approval had to grease the palms of a section of officials of the ministry, the system has been stopped almost a decade ago, an official source said.

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