Concern over move to set up KSHEC office on science museum campus in Kerala capital

The Kerala State Science and Technology Museum at PMG in Thiruvananthapuram.

The Kerala State Science and Technology Museum at PMG in Thiruvananthapuram. | Photo Credit: S. MAHINSHA

Science enthusiasts in Kerala have expressed concern over the move to build an office of the Kerala State Higher Education Council (KSHEC) at the Kerala State Science and Technology Museum (KSSTM) at PMG here.

The higher education council, which has been functioning from a building on the 4.75-acre museum premises since 2007, now proposes to build a 6,000-sq ft office on a space behind the structure it currently occupies. This, however, is an area where visitors to the museum, particularly students, sit down for lunch and make use of washrooms. A fabrication area for the museum exhibits and a restroom for differently abled students who manage the museum’s gardens are also located here.

Once the new structure is ready, the current council building too will be demolished and the space utilised for its second phase construction.

The council pays electricity, water, and other maintenance charges for the building it currently occupies. However, a permanent set-up for it on the campus will severely restrict the development of the science museum as well as the council, it is feared.

The museum is on the path to recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic with work on three new galleries (automobile engineering, computer science and electronics) set to be completed in a few months. Its future plans include a virtual reality experience centre, an augmented reality centre, emerging technology gallery, health gallery, earth exploration, fun science gallery, one on Kerala’s scientific contributions, puzzle corner and so on. Temporary exhibition halls and student activity centres are also planned.

Space, though, remains a major constraint. The new galleries are not as spacious as the museum would like them to be. Even the popular science gallery is situated in a limited area. This in turn limits content and size of the exhibits.

As its only 3D theatre is quite cramped, it wants to increase the number of 3D theatres and make them more spacious to attract visitors.

Science academics say the museum’s development will be constrained if it is left with little or no expansion possibilities. Finding space for the facilities proposed to be torn down will be another problem. As it is situated in the heart of the State capital and has been popular among students and the public, the museum needs to keep up with changing times in order to stay relevant.

K. Papputty, former State president of the People’s Science Movement, says though the KSSTM is known largely for its planatarium, it is more significant as a science museum. It should become a space for children to come and conduct experiments and build things, especially as school labs are not always well-equipped.

Another academic says the museum has inspired successive generations of students and changed their outlook towards science. Since the State aspires to become a knowledge economy, the museum and its development should be promoted, not curtailed by accommodating another institution there. Even the Institute of Human Resources Development (IHRD) model finishing school on the campus needs to be shifted elsewhere.

Both the museum and the higher education council will end up asphyxiated if the government move is realised, says a former college principal who was also a Senate member. The museum campus already lacks space to accommodate all the buses bringing visitors, even the road leading up to the museum is less than ideal.

As the apex body coordinating higher education institutions and activities, the council also deserves a building that befits its status and can welcome chancellors and vice chancellors without embarrassment, not a structure that is relegated to one side of the museum compound.

Rajan Varughese, member secretary of the council, however, says the move is part of a government plan for a permanent office for the council. The council functions from a run-down structure that had been lying unused 15 years ago. This building will now give way for a new structure. Some more space that is a dumping ground for scrap will also be utilised for the needs of the council. The council will not encroach on any of the museum facilities. As there is a lot of unused space available on the campus, the functioning of the museum will not be affected.

V. Venu, Additional Chief Secretary, said the in-principle decision to construct the council office on the museum premises had been taken considering all aspects, and would not affect the development of the museum.

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Printable version | Aug 6, 2022 12:32:15 pm |