OTRI - a picture of neglect

ANANTAPUR, OCT. 7. The Oil Technological Research Institute (OTRI) set up here by the composite Madras State in 1949 to carry out research into oilseeds grown largely in the area, which was transferred to the Industries Department first and to Jawaharlal Nehru Technological Institute later, is a picture of total neglect.

Valuable equipment, mostly procured in early 1950s and 1970s, worth crores of rupees has turned into junk due to lack of regular utility ever since they were installed. "Some machinery was not even used once," says the Director of the institute, K.N. Jayaveera.

The institute has been functioning for `namesake' with some academic research work going on, which has not been useful to the general public, for decades with the salary bill of the employees touching Rs. 1 crore a year till recently. However, it has come down to about Rs. 40 lakhs now with many employees attaining superannuation.

Efforts for revival

But, constant efforts are being made for the last four years to bring the OTRI on to rails and make some contribution to society. In the process, the institute has diversified and has started a four-semester self-funding course -- M.Sc. -- food technology, in December 2001.

The employment potential of the course has already helped about 40 students get good employment.

A microbiology laboratory and class laboratories have been set up for the purpose. Faculty for the course is being hired every year. Though the course has been started with 25 seats, it has not attracted full quota so far, in spite of the employment potential, thanks to the violent incidents in the district, says Mr. Jayaveera.

The admission conducted through an entrance test by JNTU has given 20, 14, 19 and 16 students during the last four academic years, respectively, including the current year. The basic eligibility of B.Sc. with chemistry has been changed to any science bachelor's degree from the current academic year.

Several former directors of the institute with vested interests had successfully prevented the institute being taken over by the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

As the result, the institute has been functioning without any research project for 10 years. But, it has now six projects with a funding of more than Rs. 40 lakhs.

Status report

As part of making the institute more useful to society a committee has been set up by JNTU to prepare a status report on the equipment. It had recommended that 90 per cent of the equipment had to be disposed in scrap. Accordingly, tenders would be called soon for disposal of equipment in scrap once its current value is estimated.

Equipment like solvent extractor and vegetable tallow, which had cost only about Rs. 4 to 5 lakhs in the '70s, cost about Rs. 1.5 crores now.

But, they are not in working condition. A mini vanaspati-making unit set up with about Rs. 3 lakhs in the '70s was not operated even once due to improper erection. Similar new equipment will cost Rs. 1 crore now.