Shyam Ranganathan

CHENNAI: The C.V. Seshadri chair of professorship has been instituted at IIT Kanpur in honour of Dr. C.V. Seshadri.

Instituted on November 29, 2008 by his former students, led by Ashok Mishra and Santosh K. Gupta with the support and encouragement of M.V. Murugappan of the Murugappa Group, the chair has been funded by a corpus of about Rs.40 lakh raised in about eight months.

Mentor and friend

Dr. Seshadri had a nine-year stint at IIT Kanpur where he served as mentor and friend for many students. He was the Head of the Chemical Engineering Department and also Dean of Students Affairs, before he left the institute to work on his pet projects on affordable technology.

Mr. Murugappan, who remembers him from his childhood days, says: “He always believed in science oriented towards people. When I was searching for a person to head the A.M.M. Murugappa Chettiar Research Centre, he was helping to set up a yeast plant for a friend in Mysore at one-third the cost of international units with the same quality. He promised me that he would join the centre after he had finished setting up the plant, and, in 1976, became the centre’s founder-director.”

At the MCRC, as it is called, Dr. Seshadri had a favourite dictum for his students, Mr. Murugappan recalls: “If you are not willing to soil your hands, you do not belong in this place; if you want UGC scale pay, you do not belong here.”

He said Dr. Seshadri could mould ordinary people like a potter into good scientists. “He demanded a lot from the people but they also learnt a lot from him. He always emphasised on appropriate technology. Small is beautiful was always the motto with him.”

Gandhian ideas

Dr. Seshadri developed Gandhian ideas on organic farming and self-sufficiency at the MCRC. He contributed to the development of Spirulina algae, which was once considered as a healthy supplement to the government-run noon meal programme. His work resulted in his being given the Jamnalal Bajaj Award for Application of Science and Technology for Rural Development in 1981.

“We are moving towards understanding Dr. Seshadri’s ideas that a high yield per acre or high efficiency are not necessary. Sustainability in the long run is necessary and it means fewer inputs or “small is beautiful.” This chair is a fitting honour to the visionary thinker,” Mr. Murugappan says.