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PM to begin premier science institute’s centenary fete


Bangalore : Undeterred by the recent terror attacks in Mumbai and to send a strong signal that ‘it’s business as usual’, the prestigious Indian Institute of Science (IISc) is decking-up to host Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday to formally herald its centenary celebrations.

“The prime minister is scheduled to unveil the centenary commemoration plaque on the campus and mark the inauguration of the centenary celebration conference this month beginning December 13 as curtain-raiser,” IISc public relations official V. Thilagam told IANS Tuesday.

Though the century-old institute’s court president Ratan Tata will not be present on the occasion as he is pre-occupied with salvage operations of his terror-hit Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai, a host of luminaries and dignitaries will participate in the conference.

Among the invitees are Rajya Sabha member and former Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman K. Kasturirangan, The prime minister’s science advisory committee chairman C.N.R. Rao, former IISc directors Govardhan Mehta and G. Padmanabhan, and noted scientists and technocrats in defence, space and academia.

“The centenary celebrations began formally May 27 to commemorate the historic date of the vesting order that led to the establishment of the institute. The celebrations mark 100 illustrious years of leadership in science, technology and innovation,” V. Thilagam, the PRO, said.

Through the year, the focus of the celebrations has been on its contribution to fundamental and applied scientific research, its role in creating and nurturing scientific institutions, its place as a rich source of talented scientific manpower and its future rule in the Indian society with major aspirations to take its rightful place in the global order.

Located in the heart of the city, the institute with 400-acre sprawling campus was set up in 1909, with initial endowment from visionary Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata and munificent grant of vast lands by the then Mysore ruler Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV, when Lord Curzon was the Viceroy of India under the British rule.

The contribution from the princely state of Mysore was the decisive element in determining the location of the “Tata Institute”. Ironically, in a gesture unmatched in the annals of private philanthropy in India, Tata did not wish his name to be associated with the institute.

“Tata’s dream was to create an institution that will contribute to the development of India. The institute’s name – IISc – since then reflects in every way the wishes of Tata,” Thilagam recalled.

Interestingly, visitors to the city who seek out IISc still ask local residents for directions to the “Tata Institute”, a clear recognition that Jamsetji Tata’s act of generosity has remained undimmed in public memory, despite the passage of a century.

Beginning with only two departments – general and applied chemistry and electro-technology, the institute now boasts of 53 departments, 550 faculty members and 2,000 students, including research scholars.

Nobel laureate C.V. Raman was the first Indian director of the institute way back in 1933.

“Since then, the institute had grown to become India’s premier centre for research and post-graduate education in science and engineering. Its evolution over the past 100 years has mirrored the development of science and technology in the Indian sub-continent,” Thilagam said.

Many of India’s distinguished scientists have been associated with the institute as students or faculty. Notable among them are G.N. Ramachandran, Harish Chandra, S. Ramaseshan, Brahm Prakash, A. Ramachandran, C.N.R. Rao and R. Narasimha. Its alumni also head many major organisations in India and abroad.

The institute offers a variety of programmes for master’s degree in engineering, an integrated (post-B.Sc.) programme in sciences and Ph.D. programmes in a wide spectrum of disciplines in science and engineering. The research laboratories are well equipped.

“Modernisation of academic facilities, labs and expansion are underway with the Rs 1-billion special grant of the union government in 2006,” Thilagam said.

The prime minister is also scheduled to dedicate the international centre for material science of the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advance Scientific Research (JCASR) on the outskirts of the city.

Headed by C.N.R. Rao, the centre was set up in 1989 by the science and technology department to mark the birth centenary of Nehru. As a deemed university, the centre awards master’s and Ph.D degrees. It has 40-member faculty and 150 graduate students.

“Department secretary T. Ramaswamy, Karnataka Governor Rameshwar Thakur and state Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa will be among the dignitaries present,” centre’s official A.N. Jayachandra said.

On the campus, Manmohan Singh will also inaugurate the CNR Hall of Science.

Though the prime minister is scheduled to be in Bangalore for six hours Wednesday, the police are yet to get a confirmation of his visit due to his pressing engagements in New Delhi, including the impending visit WEdnesday of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

The IISc came under a terrorist attack in December 2005 when a retired professor, M.C. Puri, was killed and four others were injured in the gunfire opened by what the police believed to be a lone terrorist. The attackers have not been arrested yet.