The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Salute to Shourie, and five more IITs

Kanpur, Oct. 1: The spiral staircase at the entrance to the biological sciences and bio-engineering building of the Indian Institute of Technology bears eloquent testimony that things can be achieved with the minimum of fuss and fanfare. Perhaps it was the association with the DNA double helix, but the message sent out was more effective than any politician’s.

The sprawling biological sciences complex has come up at the IIT campus in 12 months quietly and without even a foundation ceremony. It has been set up with the Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme funds allotted to divestment minister Arun Shourie.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who was present for the inauguration, acknowledged the achievement, saying: “It show what a politician with vision can achieve.

“Some people told me that Shourie’s idea was politically incorrect. MPs usually give funds for improving amenities in a primary school or a hospital... or some such standard purpose. But when Shourie explained the thinking behind the gesture, I was convinced.”

Vajpayee, who announced the admission of five more institutions to the IIT fold, said the Kanpur project had been started at a time when the excitement generated by the completion of the human genome-mapping had swept the global scientific community. “It shows that we have the capacity and the will to forge ahead,” he said.

Constructed over an area of 1,000 square metres, the new complex has 16 state-of-the-art labs, three classrooms and a lecture theatre. It is an eco-friendly building, points out Pradip Sinha, head of the new department. “We have managed to nearly halve the energy required for airconditioning, using various energy-saving techniques,” he adds.

“The hallmark of the programme is the platform that it provides to students of diverse disciplines such as physics, chemistry, mathematics and all engineering branches, besides those from diverse branches of biological, pharmaceutical and medical sciences to undertake training and research in modern biology and bioengineering,” Sinha said.

The department has already started work in some key areas of research. From next year, the institute will also offer a bachelors degree in bio-science and bio-engineering. At present, there are five researchers who are probing matters like genetic defects and hereditary disorders and searching for genes that cause cancer.

Mulayam Singh Yadav, who was present on the occasion, acknowledged the innovative approach of using funds allotted under the local area development scheme. “I wish this function had been held in an open pandal where all the MPs and MLAs of Uttar Pradesh could have attended to see what can be done with MPLADS (Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme),” he said.

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