Is there a need to establish a separate university in Kerala for furthering the development of veterinary and fisheries science education? G. Krishnakumar examines the case for the establishment of a university for the promotion of these disciplines.
Growing prospects in veterinary, animal and fisheries science have once again thrown open a debate on whether Kerala should have a university exclusively devoted for the promotion of research and development in these fields. Despite being a pioneer in veterinary and fisheries science education in the country, the State has not been able to bring uniformity in its approach. Increasing opportunities in the field have encouraged successive Governments to take up proposals for de-linking veterinary, animal and fisheries science from the purview of the Kerala Agricultural University. Government sources said that the proposal for introducing a university for promotion of research in these fields might be taken up for detailed discussions in the coming days. The Hindu-Educationplus caught up with the academia to find out the possibilities of such an exclusive institution.
Need for shift
Highlighting the need to shift veterinary and fisheries science education from agricultural universities, K. Gopakumar, former Director of the Central Institute of Fisheries Technology (CIFT), says that both animal sciences and fisheries were included under agricultural universities in the past. "Since over 80 per cent of the faculties and Vice-Chancellors were always from agricultural disciplines, these universities never gave required finance and support to these two faculties. This was a complaint that had always existed. However, in the last two decades, fisheries and agricultural sciences witnessed tremendous growth and became a major foreign exchange earner for the country. The Government realised the importance of these subjects and agriculture universities were divided and veterinary and fisheries universities were created," he says.
Tamil Nadu initiative
Tamil Nadu took the lead to set up the first veterinary and animal sciences university in 1989 with its headquarters in Chennai. The new institution was named Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (popularly abbreviated as TANUVAS). Dr. Gopakumar said that eight States had already introduced such universities. "Kerala Agricultural University has become unmanageable and most the problematic issues are created by the agriculture sector. This detracts the growth of both animal and fish disciplines. Hence, sooner the bifurcation, the better for these two sectors," he adds. A close look at the existing pattern shows that Kerala Agricultural University offers seven graduate programmes in agriculture and allied areas, through 10 constituent colleges located in different parts of the State. The faculties under the university include agriculture, veterinary and animal sciences, fisheries and agricultural engineering and technology.
The Bachelor of Veterinary Science and Animal Husbandry degree programme of the faculty of Veterinary and Animal Sciences is being offered at the College of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Mannuthy and College of Veterinary and Animal Sciences at Pookode in Wayanad district. The College of Fisheries at Panangad in Ernakulam district offers a four-year Bachelor's Degree programme in Fisheries Science.
Referring to the rapid changes evolving in the fisheries sector, Dean of College of Fisheries D. D. Nambudiri says that a university for veterinary and fisheries sciences will boost research and other studies in the field. "Several States had already introduced such universities. Such an institution will be of help, especially at a time when the Centre is giving a lot of thrust on the development of the fisheries sector in the country. The Department of Animal Husbandry was renamed as Department of Animal Husbandry and Fisheries. A National Fisheries Development Board was launched in Hyderabad in September. The sector has also emerged as a major export earner for the country," he adds. Elaborating on the need to set up an exclusive university, Dean of the College of Veterinary and Animal Sciences at Mannuthy, E. Nanu says that the State has about 2,600 veterinary institutions involved in implementation of various projects related to the sector. "For the overall development of the sector, it is absolutely necessary that veterinary science and animal husbandry be de-linked from the agricultural university. Several States, which had realised the importance of these sectors, had already introduced exclusive centres for promotion of animal, veterinary and fisheries sciences," he adds. Dr. Nanu says that Kerala is the only South Indian State not having a university to exclusively focus on these fields.
Under one roof
Stressing the need to bring all programmes related to veterinary and fisheries sciences under one roof, B. Madhusoodana Kurup, Reader, School of Industrial Fisheries, Cochin University of Science and Technology, says that an exclusive university might ensure uniformity of approach. "There exists an unhealthy competition among various institutes offering the same type of programmes in these fields. A university would help in enhancing research and development," he says. Dr. Kurup says that streamlining research and academic programmes under a university will also help hundreds of inland farmers in the State. "Today, we are not able to fully translate the results of research for the development of inland farming in the State. An exclusive university for fisheries and animal sciences will provide the required boost for promoting research in the field," he adds. Recalling the experience gathered during his tenure as Deputy Director General of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), Dr. Gopakumar says that the universities for promotion of veterinary and fisheries sciences have done enormous good for development of these sectors.
"Kerala is benefited by the presence of two world famous fisheries institutes in India, including Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute and Central Institute of Fisheries Technology. But the Kerala Agricultural University has not utilised this facility for its development," he says. Dr. Gopakumar says that the State should invite reputed men as Vice-Chancellors and professors. "The proposed animal and fisheries sciences university should give thrust to higher productivity and farming and development of vaccines. It should promote research in frontier areas like genetics, biotechnology and biochemistry and related subjects," he adds.
Kochi as the hub
Experts suggest that Kochi would be the ideal place to set up the university in the State. Dr. Nambudiri says that the place is "the hub of fisheries activities." "Many institutes of national and international acclaim are also located here. Kochi also houses state-of-the-art processing units. The fishing harbour here is another advantage," he adds. Dr. Kurup says that Kochi has the potential to set up the university, as it is the "fisheries capital" of the State.
Critics of the proposal for introducing a university for veterinary and fisheries sciences say that the need of the hour is to provide maximum support to the existing educational institutions. A few experts who do not want to be quoted told The Hindu-Educationplus that the Government's focus should be to better the existing academic atmosphere in centres offering research and academic programmes in veterinary and fisheries science. "We already have so many renowned organisations involved in research and development of veterinary and fisheries sector. Efforts should be made to provide necessary infrastructure facilities for these institutions rather than setting up a new university," points out a senior official of a research centre in Kerala. Experts have also called in for Government intervention in ensuring better pay packages for professionals working in the processing units in fisheries sector. They have also suggested introduction of academic programmes in new and frontier areas in veterinary, animal and fisheries sciences.