In Talks: DORA, The dawn of Centenary Celebrations
With the BHU having been established in 1919, the current year marks the beginning of its hundredth year. On this auspicious and proud occasion, it is the time that we reminisce our past, learning valuable lessons from it, and surge ahead leading the today’s world with the traits we have imbibed through our heritage. In this context, we had an opportunity to discuss with the Dean of Resource and Alumni, Professor A K Tripathi about how the institute is planning to celebrate this occasion and sow the seeds for further advancement. Here are the excerpts of the interaction:
Q: What is the timeline of the centenary celebrations in our institute?
The institute consists of primarily three units that are identified as erstwhile colleges of BHU of which Benaras Engineering College (BENCO), which is the oldest constituent of our institute, was established in 1919. The other two units are MINMET (Mining and Metallurgy), College of Technology (Chemical, Silicate (now known as Ceramic) Technology). Also, we were the first institution in Asia to award the Pharmaceutical degree. The courses in the BENCO started in July, but the departments came into existence a little earlier, sometime in January. Since the foundation day of BHU is Vasant Panchami, therefore, to have it coincide with the mother Institution, we are going to celebrate the main centenary function on Vasant Panchami next year that is on 10 February 2019. These celebrations will conclude on Vasant Panchami, 2020. The beginning of these celebrations is on 22nd February 2018. The golden jubilee reunion of the 1968 batch of BENCO is during the same period, and we will launch the centenary celebrations in their presence.
Q: How will the departments contribute to these celebrations?
Achievements of Alumni are also the achievements of the department, and consequently of the Institute. Similarly, faculty colleagues who have worked in the departments also have contributed to the development of the nation or world and are also an achievement of the department. So the departments have been asked to prepare a list of eminent alumni who have made a mark in their respective profession, in R&D, in academia, or also in society. Traditionally departments have been working in their own chosen areas of specialisation. Now the time is of interdisciplinary initiatives in research, that is, research on the interface of two disciplines. The departments have been asked to identify the types of initiatives that can be taken in the new century of the institute. The departments will be planning National and international academic meets in the true sense in which right professionals and academicians from important research institutes abroad and industrial organisations would come and participate. These meets will be organised as part of the centenary celebrations this year and next year also. The idea is to bring the contemporary problems from the industrial and professional organisations for our research and undergraduate students to work on, and we also want a great deal of involvement of alumni in this respect also.
Q: How will various organisations contribute to the Centres that you plan to form on centenary celebrations?
Rather than just academically thinking about these things and proposing centres, we are approaching various industries. People from Railways, Mine Safety Organisation, DLW, Nuclear Power Corporation of India, Atomic Energy Commission, BARC, ISRO, DRDO will come and we will be holding event brainstorming workshops on 10th and 11th of February in which those people would come and participate. We will put four questions to them: If we award some Master’s degree in dependability engineering whether such graduates can be employable? This Master’s degree course can be 2-year course after B tech programme in any engineering discipline. The second question that we are going to ask those representatives of the industry is whether they would be interested in sponsoring their people for Masters and PhD program here in that area of technology. The third question that we will be putting up to them is whether they would be providing industry problems on which research can be carried out in collaboration with their organisation. Collaborative research projects are those where the scientists and engineers working in the organisation and the students and faculty working in the department can engage in some collaborative research. Because of our B.Tech and M.Tech programs themselves being research and innovation oriented, we can associate even 2nd-year students in these projects. The fourth question that we will be putting to those organisations is that whether they can provide some launching endowments. We will involve them at the beginning itself so that the centres can flourish with the participation of industry rather than thinking on our own about what is suitable for the national needs. We will be proposing centres of R&D around the themes of the national requirements so that various government and industrial organisations can support us.
Q: Will there be any infrastructural developments in the institute with these celebrations?
We are proposing a few centres: –
Centre for Dependability Engineering – It will include courses on safety, security, reliability, availability, and usability, so that we can prevent the various types of losses that occur during the operation of any system like the material loss, property loss, or loss of lives etcetera. We will have brainstorming workshop on 10th and 11th of February 2018 involving the professional and industrial organisations discussing this centre.
Centre for Research in Planning, Architecture and Disaster Management – It was proposed by one of the members of Board of Governors, Mr Nitin Malhotra who is a graduate of Ceramic engineering department of IIT BHU. All the cities in the country are becoming disaster prone. It is not possible to move. Pollution is very high, because of which people are unable to go to their schools and offices. All these difficulties are there. The idea is to plan Urban and rural settlements and design architectural blueprint for urban settlements keeping in mind the disaster management. So Planning and Architecture, driven by the requirements of Disaster Management. In disaster management, there are many types of initiatives that are possible. Worst affected thing is the communication as the towers fall in a hurricane or typhoon. There are newer technologies available in which the total base station for communication can be put on a balloon and floated into the air when the disaster occurs so that till the time reconstruction of towers takes place, the communication can be intact.
Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Automation Control and Instrumentation – In this centre, we can pull the strengths of the department that brings in the synergetic involvement of multiple disciplines for addressing the issues of Industry 4.0. It deals with embedded systems, electronic automation and networking.
Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Planetary and Space Sciences – A distinguished alumnus of our institute Dr Anil Bhardwaj, who is a director at ISRO, proposed that we should come up with this centre. We can have synergetic involvement of Department of Physics, Electrical Engineering, Electronics Engineering, and Mechanical engineering to work on this idea. This may also involve clubs like Astronomy club which are already exploring this vast domain in the college.
Q: This centenary celebration is focussing on relishing the past and taking the baton of R&D, social outreach as well as humanistic studies. Collaboration with industries is also being given a serious thought, but are there any notable changes directed towards faculty?
There is no denying the fact that all IITs are starving for faculty. The greatness of an institute can be adjudged by the greatness of its faculty. Clearly, for us to be a top-notch institute, we need a faculty of high calibre. During the last 2-3 years, we have added some 100 new faculties. We should have 550 faculties but we are running short with some 250 faculties. I realize that the numbers aren’t good but I see a silver lining to it. I see it as an opportunity to enrich our faculty. When you have the names of professors who have graduated from Berkeley, Stanford, Oxford etc on your faculty list, your department not only appears to look good but also gets enriched because, then, you get diverse technological perspectives and new ideas from across the globe. We are reaching out to our alumni association through our institute’s newsletter with an effort to attract such minds. For this, infrastructure is also important – better faculty houses, state of the art library, both of which are being covered in the centenary initiative.
Q: Clearly, an institution prospers by the size of the fund. Do you have a fundraising policy for the institute?
There is an alumni registration portal which is being recast into centenary celebration website. We are also asking the Banaras Alumni Association to host mega alumni meet in Varanasi wherein alumni across the world would be participating. Because these are centenary times, we can expect the number to notch up to thousands. We do have another centenary project that is known as Corpus Fund. Like institutions such as Stanford, Oxford etc where billions of dollars are available in corpus fund, our institution will have a Shatabdi Kosh. An institute of higher learning is supposed to create knowledge, process knowledge and disseminate knowledge. A plethora of newer dimensions can be added (analogous to the Oxford Dictionary and Oxford Press in the Oxford University). This corpus fund should not be less than 20 million dollars. We are going to ask the alumni association to engage this type of corpus fund. We are thinking in terms of a technology park where various companies would come and establish R&D so that students, faculties and scientists could work together on the chosen areas of grand challenges and national needs. IBGAA has promised in one of the alumni meets that it would be generating 1 million dollars. The government of India said that if we could generate a million dollars, they would assist us in the additional funding required for establishing such information technology park. In this way, we can attract sharp minds from other countries as well for research works. Positively, we can get the very cream of SAARC countries for PhD and Masters.