Mr Ramesh Unnikrishnan

If you think All Indian Council for Technical Education (AICTE) directors have to necessarily be dreary-looking, peering through thick-rimmed spectacles, from columns of dusty files, you need to check on Ramesh Unnikrishnan – AICTE’s Western Regional Director.

He is young, sports a perpetual smile and takes every call that rings on his table. Not only that, he makes sure no file is left unattended to on his office table when he leaves in the evening. “The reason is simple. If we in AICTE want educational institutes to work efficiently, we have to be efficient as well,” Mr Krishnan told PaGaLGuY in his first ever interview to the media.

The new director is 40 which is a record since AICTE directors are generally much older. Besides, he has spent just a year in AICTE’s Delhi office as Director in the Approval Bureau, before becoming the director of Mumbai, Goa, Daman and Diu. Mr Krishnan is an engineer by academics, and believes that his proximity to the discipline will help him understand institutes better. He also taught at the College of Engineering , Munnar and loves the idea of interacting with students.

That Mr Krishnan means business is obvious in a few observable changes. One, the dusty, paper-jammed box files which were stacked along every wall and on tables and chairs have disappeared and are neatly stacked in one corner. Second, Mr Krishnan met this correspondent without an appointment. “If I have the time, I will meet. No point acting busy and putting off visitors,” is his justification.

But the best news is that he has urged AICTE headquarters to seek tenders for a new office premise in Mumbai’s eastern suburbs. “I am looking for a whole new building exclusively for AICTE. We cannot be functioning from a part of government building forever. If we are setting rules for institutes for better infrastructure, we also have to be display a better workplace,” he said. The plans are to buy out an already-constructed but new building. A few sites and buildings have been seen.

The building from where AICTE operates today is an old one, and host to many government offices. The insides and particularly where AICTE is located has the typical ‘government’ look about it. The director’s PA has a crammed cabin and there is little or no waiting room for visitors. Besides, when AICTE conducts meetings, it has to request some of its affiliated colleges in the city to lend space.

On the current issue making news about institutes closing down, Mr Krishnan said quantity has to make way for quality. “Eventually, the good ones will stay on and the bad institutes will close, which is how it should be.”

While Mr Unnikrishnan misses Munnar, Kerala where he has lived and worked for most of his life, his current residence in Matunga keeps him close to home flavours and sounds. He does feel a little left out when everybody around him speaks Marathi and has hence decided to learn the language. “My staff is good and I will understand them and the city better if I know the language,” he justifies.

PaGaLGuY take

It was indeed refreshing to meet Mr Unnikrishnan in a relatively cleaner AICTE office in Mumbai. There was a visible difference among his staff as well who seemed more than just cordial to receive unannounced visitors. Infusing young blood in an institution like the AICTE can work wonders for it, provided the real goals are in place. The only fear, however, is that as a sole individual, he may not be able to do much and could just succumb to the babudom malaise that has hit so many government bodies across the country. But for now, Mr Unnikrishnan is full of vim, zest and a dream to change the much maligned reputation of his institution. We hope he succeeds, even if in a small way.

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