This article examines the failures of applying long held knowledge to effective development in India across many domains. It argues that the necessary knowledge systems and their inter-relations are dysfunctional and proposes steps which could be taken to address the problem. The author is a professor of engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai and a strong advocate of local level immersion in the training of young professional.
Inequity of development outcomes such as in heath, education, incomes, access to resources, etc., is now an important issue which needs immediate attention. An assertion of this paper is that partly, these are consequences of a failure of knowledge systems and not correctable by purely macroeconomic arrangements. In our analysis, knowledge formation in Indian higher education institutions (and consequently society) is highly problematic and suffers from serious issues of practice, relevance, excessive merit, knowledge capture, aspirational dysfunction and so on. The second major issue is that, besides industry, the state and society are important (and complementary) players in knowledge formation and consumption. The development agenda and programs, such as drinking water or NREGA pose a huge demand on knowledge production, which is either unmet or is sought from the the "informal sector", i.e., NGOs, civil society organizations and so on. This supply and demand mismatch is a primary cause of poor developmental outcomes. We propose a modification to the current training of engineers and applied social scientists, and a focus on engagement between educational institutions and regional governance, as a way out.