Delivering the talk on ‘Doing Science in India,' Rao pointed at China as to how the country has advanced so much.
"China has managed to leave India way behind as far as ‘Doing Science' is concerned. They are extremely hard working," Rao said.
"Many years ago, we were on par with China in research, but we weren't that competitive. Today, they've left us behind. They produce 2,300 PhDs every year and also produce a lot of papers. I don't know why we can't do it?" asked the veteran scientist.
Saying China is only second to the US in publishing papers, Rao said it is important to have more publications in the scientific field.
"Unfortunately our papers are not getting good citations and not enough papers are also being produced. But Indians are not hard working. An average professor takes four to five tea breaks each in an hour, resulting in very little time for research," he said.
What we do in science most important
He said despite good research in India, the works of Indian scientists were not getting noticed. He wanted scientists to pick problems that will provide them breakthroughs, rather than repeating what has been already done.
"In what topic we are doing science becomes more important than what we do in science," he said.
Calling upon the industry to invest, Rao said the government apathy has often left the scientific fraternity with very little options. However, he was quick to add that government alone cannot be blamed always.
"No other democracy of our size has faced as many problems as we did simultaneously. The industry must also begin investing. If the industry does not bear 35-40 per cent of the investment burden for science we will go nowhere," he said.
Hoping that he should be able to do science as long as he was alive, Rao called for transforming India with people of dedication and not always hooked to making money.
"Science comes with passion. Did CV Raman, JC Bose and Ramanujam make any money? But their works are landmarks even today," he said.
He said scientists must be selfless and fearless, not selfish.
"Great scientists have declined positions by dedicating their life is in the lab. How many of our scientists do that? Instead, they run to administrative jobs for getting Rs 10 more," he concluded.
Ironically, the amphitheatre, which was packed for PM Modi's speech, had thin attendance for Rao's talk.