“Students can pay attention for only seven minutes”, Prof. GD Yadav, Vice-Chancellor, ICT, Mumbai

Prof. Ganpati Dadasaheb Yadav has been associated with the
Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT), Mumbai since 1970. He joined as a
student, and is now the Vice-Chancellor of the institute. He joined ICT after
realizing that it offers a better syllabus for Chemical Engineering and had a
four year course, when compared to IIT Bombay’s five year course.

PaGaLGuY spoke to Prof GD Yadav for an exclusive interview.
Excerpts from the interview:

You have been associated with the institute for more than
45 years. How has ICT changed from when you started?

You can say that I have co-written the history of ICT. When
I joined, it was a small institute. In terms of numbers, there were around
600-700 students and 60-70 faculty members.  But it was a reputed institute because of its deep
connections with the industry. ICT has been associated with Chemical
industries, Pharmaceutical companies etc. for research projects. Today, we have
728 PhD fellows, 450 Post-Graduate students and 1100 under-graduate students.
In the last 10 years, ICT has applied for and obtained 328 patents and 104
industry sponsored research projects. Even the Bill and Melinda Gates
Foundation supports projects worth US$100,000.

Why isn’t ICT seen anywhere in the international Top colleges lists, which the IITs have
recently breached?

I can beat the IITs and IISc any day. ICT is a state-led
deemed university, whereas the IITs etc. are centrally-run institutes. ICT was not
allowed to participate in the rankings process. I have been asking the state authorities
to allow us, and next year we hope that we are allowed to participate.  In India, when a magazine publishes rankings,
institutes pay through advertisements to get in the Top 10. It is moral corruption.

What are the challenges you face as the Vice-Chancellor?

The challenge is to hire good faculty and retain them. We
have endowments for faculty, and the Maharashtra government has given us
faculty quarters and retirement benefits, so we are at the par with the IITs.
Instead of retiring at the age of 60, my faculty now retires at 65. The creation
of this endowment helped in recruiting very good people on endowed positions
without any government intervention. For instance, recently I recruited two
professors, one is a retired director of the Central Salt and Marine Chemicals
Research Institute, Bhavnagar and the other is also a retired director from the
Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, Hyderabad.

After the government reduction in funding for the
Department of Science and Technology in India, has ICT faced any challenges?

All our research funding comes from two sources: central agencies
and industry. Central agencies include everybody so we compete with the IITs,
central and state universities, research labs etc. The Maharashtra government
gives me only a salary grant, they do not give any development money. In industry
sponsored projects, we charge 25% over expenses. We have three advantages: any
donation is 100% tax free, we can give 75% tax benefits to any particular donor,
and Corporate Social Responsibility. We have companies like PepsiCo, Hindustan
Unilever, Mitsubishi etc. sponsoring our projects.  

What is a
student assured of when he\she enrols at ICT as compared to other engineering
colleges?

We help our students monetarily and morally. We also
ensure that they are a part of our alumni network. Because we are compact, the
camaraderie is very high. Out of 2,300 students, almost 840 students stay on
campus. Many of our students come from rural parts of the country, 52% of whom
are from reserved categories. They can’t even speak proper English, but this
doesn’t mean they are bad students. We make sure that when our students leave, they
are ready to be a part of the industry.

In 1978, while you were still a student at ICT, you were
given the position of acting director. How did this happen?

Back in 1978, the University of Mumbai’s administrative
employees were on strike for 56 days. I took charge of everything. I used to
take students to clean the rooms, water the garden, I became the literal hero.
The then director Prof EH Daruwalla was so afraid of the employees, he gave me
a letter stating that I am authorized to run the institute. I still have that
letter. That was an unexpected coincidence, I never knew that I will be sitting
in this chair and running the institute in the future. If anybody would have
told me this, I would have laughed at him. I maybe intelligent and smart, but I
have been quite lucky.

Today, people are looking for shortcuts to be successful.
What do you think?

Every human being has the potential to be somebody. But we
lack in consistency of effort. There are many brilliant, highly accomplished
people, but because of their inconsistent efforts, they fail. Take the example
of Vinod Kambli, he was better than Sachin Tendulkar but because of his
inconsistent efforts he couldn’t get the fame. He was not disciplined whereas
Sachin was highly disciplined.

What do you see missing in today’s students?

Today students have an attention span of seven minutes,
after which they become restless. They start playing with their mobile phones,
start drawing something in their notebooks, or start scribbling. Their body is
in class but mind is not.  So technology must
be used to bring the student back into the classroom. Methods of teaching have
to be changed, be interactive. Gone are the days when the teacher writes on the
blackboard and the student takes down notes. Students now depend on photocopies.
They put in minimum efforts, study a day before exams. But in science and
technology, dedication and hard-work is required.

You have a busy schedule, do you get time to pursue your
hobbies?

I travel a lot. But I do get time to do what I love. I go
to bed by 10 pm. I do meditation and I am interested in Vedic Philosophy.  I read a lot, I carry a Kindle while
travelling. I hardly watch any movies, the only time that happens is when I am
going on an 8-10 hour flight. My children also never asked me to go to the
movies, we go for swimming, tennis etc. I will share one of my memories. My son
came to my office after his class 10 examination, asking permission to go to
movies with his friends, I gave him Rs. 10. After 30 minutes, he came running
and said ‘the ticket is Rs. 100’. When I told him that the last time I saw a
movie the ticket was Rs. 2.25, it was a hilarious moment.