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NDRI, Karnal
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WHAT IS IT' A top educational and research institute for dairy science and engineering under ICAR.

WHO’S THE BOSS' Dr Nagendra Singh is the director.

HOW TO GET IN' Clear an ICAR-conducted all-India entrance examination and interview for the BTech and masters programmes.

HOW CHEAP IS IT' Education at NDRI is subsidised. The annual BTech fee is about Rs 5,000. Hostel fees are extra.

WHERE TO STAY' On campus. There are hostels for boys and girls.

WHERE IS IT' NDRI, Karnal, Haryana 132001. Phone: (0184) 2252800, 2259002.

It's a sprawling 560-hectare campus in hinterland Haryana where you'll see students of engineering and technology rear cattle, feed and milk them, and learn the science of transforming milk into ice-cream. And when they're not in their classrooms, the boys and girls at this educational institute might be found manipulating cattle embryos, operating milk-processing machinery, or engaging in study sessions in cattle yards.

For students keen on pursuing careers in dairy science and technology, the National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI) in Karnal offers an undergraduate as well as several postgraduate programmes. NDRI, one of four deemed universities under the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), trains students in the myriad fields that cover livestock science and dairy management.

In recent years, NDRI officials say, the four-year BTech in dairy technology has emerged a top choice among students who apply for the 30-50 seats in this programme.

NDRI began operations in Bangalore in 1923 as the Imperial Institute of Animal Husbandry and Dairying and was later renamed the Imperial Dairy Institute. It moved to Karnal, the site of the central cattle breeding farm in 1955, launching research projects and offering education and training programmes.

NDRI also offers MSc programmes in 12 disciplines ' animal biochemistry, animal biotechnology, animal nutrition, animal physiology, animal breeding, dairy chemistry, dairy engineering, dairy microbiology, dairy technology, dairy extension, dairy economics, and livestock production and management. Each discipline admits five to six students making up an annual intake of about 70 students at the MSc level.

Postgraduate students at NDRI get paid to study. Each MSc student gets Rs 5,000 a month, while a PhD scholar takes home an educational stipend of Rs 7,000. Doctoral students also receive Rs 30,000 as contingency grants. 'But these continue only as long as the students maintain high performance standards,' says Rameshwar Singh, NDRI registrar.

The institute attracts students from across India. 'We've got students from the central agricultural university in Imphal pursuing PhDs here,' says Singh. While boys have traditionally dominated the student population at NDRI ' the boys-to-girls ratio being about 3:1 ' the number of girls applying each year is steadily rising, particularly in biochemistry, biotechnology and microbiology.

NDRI alumni have standard career options in the milk and food processing industry, but officials say students may also continue in academics or research in institutes of higher education in India or abroad.

Faculty members at NDRI say some students also pursue higher studies within India ' either at agricultural universities or other institutions.

Ajay Zener completed a dairy technology BTech at NDRI and joined the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, for an MBA. A wide range of food processing industries ' baby food plants, cereal makers, ice-cream and milk processing plants, and even soft drink plants ' accept NDRI students. 'There is some overlap in the technologies involved in processing milk and soft drinks,' explains Singh.

The National Dairy Development Board is another major employer of NDRI graduates. Some students also join banks as agricultural officers who can look after rural finance. India is today the world's largest milk producer, but quality and processing practices need to improve. 'There is a need to find better ways of managing livestock and dairy animals,' says Dr Nagendra Sharma, NDRI director. 'Our students are contributing to that process.'

Old memories

Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation general manager Dr Satyendra Bhalla remembers his NDRI days

AFTER COMPLETING A BSc in agriculture and animal husbandry, Satyendra Bhalla decided to specialise in dairy science and joined the National Dairy Research Institute for his masters and PhD . It was the mid-1970s, and India was not yet self-sufficient in milk production.

Bhalla says that the senior members of the faculty emphasised the myriad challenges that lay ahead for India in the field of dairy science. Through formal lessons and informal talks outside classrooms, the faculty stressed the role that research could play in efforts to boost the quantity and quality of milk and milk products in India.

Student life at NDRI was an endless cycle of classroom lessons, fieldwork in cattle yards, and lab experiments involving the microbiology of dairy science, recalls Bhalla. When working late , he and four or five close friends used to bicycle two km through dirt tracks and open fields to the railway station where they would stuff themselves with hot paranthas at a roadside eatery. The paranthas would supplement their hostel dinners, and sustain them through the long nights. But, Bhalla says, what he values most from his days at NDRI are the lessons he learnt during his PhD: analysis, interpretation and management of data.

AS TOLD TO G.S. MUDUR

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