Chennai: Declaring 2012 as the 'National Mathematical year' as a tribute to maths wizard Srinivasa Ramanujan, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday voiced concern over the "badly inadequate" number of competent mathematicians in the country.
He also said that the perception that pursuit of mathematics does not lead to attractive career possibilities "must change."
"It is a matter of concern that for a country of our size, the number of competent mathematicians that we have is badly inadequate", he said at a function to here mark the 125th birth anniversary of Ramanujan.
Singh also declared December 22, the birthday of Ramanujan, as 'National Mathematics Day.'
Students have not pursued mathematics at advanced levels over more than three decades, which has resulted in a decline in quality of mathematics teachers at schools and colleges, Singh who is on a two-day visit to the state, told a galaxy of academics at Madras University.
"There is a general perception in our society that the pursuit of mathematics does not lead to attractive career possibilities. This perception must change. This perception may have been valid some years ago, but today there are many new career opportunities available to mathematics and the teaching perception itself has become much more attractive in recent years", Singh said.
The Prime Minister said the mathematical community has a duty to find out "ways and means" to address the shortage of top quality mathematicians and reach out to the public, especially in the modern context, where mathematics has tremendous influence on every kind of human endeavour.
Noting that the Central government has pursued a policy of encouraging scientific activities of diverse kinds, the Prime Minister said, "Given our traditions, we naturally attach special importance to mathematics...in many ways, mathematics can be regarded as the mother science".
He said Ramanujan overcame formidable difficulties to reach the pinnacle of greatness, illustrating the inadequacy of University evaluation system in the early decades of the last century, while at the same time showing the system displayed enough flexibility to take care of mavericks like him.
"There have been many reforms since those days but there would still be talent which would elude proper evaluation. Our institutions of higher learning must be sensitive to this problem."
"A genius like Ramanujan would shine bright even in the most adverse of circumstances, but we should be geared to encourage and nurture good talent which may not be of the same calibre as that of Ramanujan", Singh said.
Honouring Professor Robert Kanigel, who has written a biography of Ramanujan, Singh said this book has made Ramanujan well known to the public at large all over the world.
He said the country was proud of Ramanujan and Tamil Nadu has a special claim on him for he was a Tamilian.
"Along with CV Raman and Subramanyam Chandrashekhar (both Nobel laureates), he is among the three great men of science and mathematics that Tamil Nadu and India have given to the world of modern times", he said.