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Lohia spells out Presidency plan

An avid trekker has embarked on one of her most challenging treks. Anuradha Lohia, chosen to be Presidency Universityís first full-time vice-chancellor, is a woman of many parts, who is as much at home on mountain slopes as in laboratories.

The professor of biochemistry at Bose Institute spoke to Metro at her south Calcutta home on Sunday on what she plans to do at Presidency.

On returning to alma mater after 38 years

Everybody learns the basics of life from his/her alma mater. The task is challenging. Presidency is an eminent institute and I hope I will have the strength and support from everyone to shape it.

Never did I think that I would get a chance to steer the institute where I was once a student.... Itís not about me, itís about making sure that Presidency University gets what it deserves, what is due....Whoever will be in the office will do good work. Malabikadi (outgoing interim VC Malabika Sarkar) has done a wonderful job.

On the first three Presidency VCs being women.

Itís an extraordinary thing about Bengal. I have never faced any discrimination in my career. People elsewhere complain about women not getting the same opportunity.

Actually it is not about gender, it is all about merit. I donít think they had selected Amitadi (Amita Chatterjee ó the first interim VC) or Malabikadi because of their gender, but because of their merit. There should not be any discrimination based on gender. Itís rare to have a woman VC. There are so many institutes in the country but I donít know of many women at the helm.

I donít think you should focus on the gender issue. This is a rare quality that Bengal has ó we celebrate merit and we do not discriminate on the basis of gender. And the whole country should follow this example.

Itís not that poise, composure and ability to multi-task arm a woman with attributes to steer an institute ó these are the prerequisites for any successful and competent human being.

On plans to tap resources for the fledgling university

I have to talk to my predecessor, the registrar and the mentor group, talk to whoever is concerned about Presidency. What they have tried, where they succeeded, where they did not... I need to know. After that I will draw a strategy in collaboration with others.

Itís not about funds alone. First you need very competent human resource. You must have excellent teachers. Along with that you must have adequate funds. Having a good faculty will not achieve much unless you provide them with proper facilities.

We have to upgrade campus infrastructure, including Baker Building. We also have to inspire the faculty so that they submit research projects and secure funds from various agencies. Itís not easy, but we have to try.

On students

We must have an excellent pool of students. Having a good faculty is not enough, we must also have students eager to know more. It has to be a combination of both and itís about pursuing a common goal ó excellence in study, research and collaboration.

We donít exist if we donít have students. Today I am a noted researcher because I had good students. If they were not there, where would I have got my name and fame from?

On debate and politics on campus

Debate is the life of Presidency. No Presidentian ever has lived without debate. You are always debating during your stay on campus and that is how you grow. I have always benefited from this ability to listen and debate. But I must emphasise that debate should be held in a constructive manner. Debate should not mean only protest. Thatís what I learnt in my youth. There was a lot of political disturbance during our student days but we took the positives from it.

On the mentor group

Amartya Sen is adviser to the chair of the mentor group. How blessed you are when Professor Amartya Sen is there to guide you. Sugata Bose (chairman of the mentor group) is also an extremely wise person. A lot of good has happened over the past few years.

On her life outside academia

I love trekking. I have trekked to Kailash Mansarovar. I have trekked in Nepal, Sikkim and even in Italy and France. My last trek was about two years back in Bhutan (Dagala Thousand Lakes).

I took lessons in creative dancing from the Uday Shankar India Cultural Centre. Later, I specialised in Kuchipudi and performed till I got into teaching. I still watch dance performances.

I am very much into reading fiction, preferably that of Amitav Ghosh and Vikram Seth. My other love is art and I have several art works in my house.