Vice Chancellor’s Address – XXXI Annual Convocation Of SSSIHL

Addressing the graduands of the year, welcoming the Chief Guest for Convocation 2012, Vice Chancellor Prof J Sashidhara Prasad delivered the Welcome Speech on 22 November 2012, on the occasion of XXXI Convocation of SSSIHL in Prasanthi Nilayam.

Aum Sayeeswaraya vidmahe

Sathya Devaaya Dheemahi

Tannah Sarvah prachodayaath

I offer my most humble, respectful and loving pranams at the lotus feet of my beloved Swami. This is the second convocation to be held after Bhagawan Baba left his physical form and assumed all pervading universal consciousness. We can feel His divine presence watching this ceremonious function wherein His children whom He always considered as His property are receiving the degrees to walk into the world carrying His message of Love. I am sure that the graduands of this hallowed Institution will be the torch bearers of the vision and mission of revered Bhagawan and thereby fulfill His dream and will of a peaceful world.

Esteemed Chief Guest of the day Dr. Anil Kakodkar, Former Vice-Chancellors, Members of the various Trusts, Board of Management and Academic Council, Members of the faculty, distinguished invitees and guests, Graduands of the year, students of the University and my dear  brothers and sisters, Loving Sairam to each one of you!

I deem it a great privilege to extend a most cordial welcome to all of you to the thirty first Convocation of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning.

Justice P N Bhagwati took over the responsibility of Chancellorship of this University founded by Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba twenty months back after beloved Swami left His mortal coil.  In spite of his old age and health problem, Justice Bhagwati has been taking keen interest in the development and growth of the University and his advice and guidance are always readily available whenever we approach him. We miss his presence today as he has been advised by the doctors not to take up travel.

We are honoured to have Dr. Anil Kakodkar, Former Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission and Secretary to the Government of India, Department of Atomic Energy, during the years 2000-2009, and presently DAE Homi Bhabha Chair Professor at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC). He was the youngest Director of BARC after Homi J Bhabha.

Dr. Kakodkar has worked for the development of the atomic energy programme in India throughout his professional life. Undeterred by the restrictions imposed by the international community, he succeeded in developing various systems for the pressurized heavy water reactor, in building the Dhruva reactor starting from the conceptual stage, in rehabilitation of Madras Atomic Power Station Units 1&2 both of which at one stage appeared to be on the verge of being written off following failure of the moderator inlet manifolds, and in conceptualization and development of Advanced Heavy Water Reactor that realizes the next generation objectives through innovative configuration of present day technologies besides use of thorium.

Dr. Kakodkar has been a key contributor to India’s strategic programme. He was among the chosen few involved in the first successful Peaceful Nuclear Explosion Experiment that India conducted on May 18, 1974 at Pokhran. And later, he played a key role in the series of successful Nuclear Tests conducted during May 1998, again at Pokhran. India also demonstrated nuclear submarine power pack technology under Dr. Kakodkar’s leadership.

Dr. Kakodkar’s sterling leadership led to a significant boost to India’s nuclear power programme notwithstanding the uranium supply constraints. As a result and with the completion of projects already underway, India’s nuclear generation capacity is set to reach 10,000 MWs as well as poised for a rapid scale up thereafter. The comprehensive and robust programme under Dr. Kakodkar’s leadership has earned India a distinctive status as a country with advanced nuclear technology.

Notable also are his innovative contributions to human resource development activities. Establishment of NISER (National Institute of Science Education and Research), DAE-Mumbai University CBS (Centre for Basic Sciences) and HBNI (Homi Bhabha National Institute) are expected to result in a fresh wave of human resource development, generating greater experimental capabilities and bringing in linkage between basic research and technology development for the acceleration of India’s multifaceted atomic energy programme.

His contributions to the Energy Sector, promotion of higher education and research, societal development and culture through his active participation as the leader/member of several Commissions and Advisory bodies are noteworthy. He is a Fellow of all the National Academies of Science and Technology and has been conferred honorary doctorate from eighteen universities including IITs. He is the recipient of Padma Sri in 1998, Padma Bhushan in 1999 and Padma Vibhushan in 2009. He has several international recognitions notably Rockwell Medal for Excellence in Technology, Member of World Innovation Foundation, USIBC Award for Expansion of US-India Trade Relations and Officer del ’Ordre de la Legion d’Honneur  by President of French Republic, 2011; the highest civilian honour of France. Major National Honours and Awards run to three pages and I am afraid I cannot read through them.

I had the privilege of interacting with him during my tenure as the Vice-Chancellor of University of Mysore particularly when the National Neutrino Observatory was taking shape, which is expected to throw light on the birth of the universe.

Dr. Kakodkar is the illustrious son of illustrious parents Smt. Kamala and Shri Purushotham Kakodkar, who were involved with the freedom movement along with Mahatma Gandhi and had undergone imprisonment. His mother brought him up with great patriotic spirit. It was with this patriotic zeal that he was instrumental in initiating the nuclear treaty with the US Government. It paved the way for nuclear technology collaboration with the countries across the globe.

I very warmly and affectionately welcome him.

It has been a year and a half since our beloved Swami, the Divine Chancellor, left His mortal coil to assume His infinite cosmic form. During this time, there was an element of scepticism in some sections of society about the sustenance of His Institutions, without realizing that Bhagawan in His all pervading universal consciousness would guide the destiny of His creations, which are close to His heart. This has been amply demonstrated with regard to the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning – the University founded by Bhagawan that trains students to live His message and thereby transform society.

The University has made substantial progress over the past one year.

The fourth Campus of the Institute at Muddenahalli has been operational from this academic year starting 1st June 2012. Two new programmes have commenced this academic year. A 2 year M.Tech. Programme in Analytical Methods and Chemical Instrumentation at the Prasanthi NIlayam Campus and a 2 year Master of Finance Programme in the Brindavan Campus as an integrated programme for the B.Com. (Hons.) students. Making further strides, the Institute is commencing two new Programmes from the coming Academic Year – A two year M.Tech. Programme in Nuclear Medicine at the Prasanthi Nilayam Campus and a one year M.Ed. Programme for women in the Ananatapur Campus.

The student strength has increased by four percent. The number of research scholars/fellows has increased by eighteen percent, strengthening the research activities at the University. The number of faculty has gone up by twenty nine percent with the introduction of new courses and increase in student strength. Right persons with good background approached the University, of their own accord, expressing their desire to serve in this Institution.

Sixty percent of the faculty holds a doctoral degree and a good number of teachers, nearly twenty, are pursuing research leading up to a doctoral degree. The teacher student ratio (8:1) is far ahead of the national average of (33:1). Also, the computer student ratio (3:1) is far ahead of the national average of (229:1), enabling each student to have one computer for independent use at the Institute. Compared to the last academic year, this year, publications in good refereed journals have gone up by 48%, papers presented in conferences have gone up by 68% and publications of books and chapters have more than doubled. The pass percentage in GATE and UGC-CSIR NET continues to be high as in the past.

As part of the FIST Programme to rebuild the Science & Technology infrastructure in the country, the Department of Physics of the Institute has been identified as one of the ten “University Departments” in the country that are to be supported with huge grant support under Level-1 scheme of FIST-2012, for the next five years

Apart from the regular Workshops and Conferences conducted by the various departments of the Institute, this year, the Department of Management Studies, in the month of August, organized for the first time, an Executive Development Programme for Training on Strategic Planning, for the Management Team of Burckhardt Compression (India), a wholly owned subsidiary of Burckhardt Compression AG, Switzerland.

Another major initiative was the redesign of the Institute website, based on Bhagawan’s philosophy of simplicity with aesthetics & clear vision, adopting an information architecture to bridge the secular & spiritual aspects of SSSIHL. It provides ease of navigation with a clear & concise introduction to SSSIHL for first-time visitors.

New buildings are under construction – extension of hostel building, class rooms and auditorium complex in Prasanthi Nilayam Campus; Quarters for teachers and workers in Anantapur campus.

Research activities in thrust areas have been initiated with the active participation of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences and Food and Drug Administration, USA and few other overseas partners. These projects aim at translating the scientific and research knowledge for practical use in serving the patients. It is expected to have new vistas in early diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis, dengue, chikungunya and HIV. A recent initiative in this direction is the establishment of the Chondrocyte Cell Culture Lab of SSSIHL at the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences. The Lab will help studies that will explore the possibilities of chondrocyte cell culture in treating knee cartilage defects. It will aid the quality of health of patients by avoiding joint replacement surgeries and the symptoms and costs associated with it.

Another initiative is the Gamma Camera Project, wherein the Board of Research in Nuclear Science (BRNS) has sanctioned  a Rs.70 lakhs project to the Department of Physics to take up a collaborative project with the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences in the area of Nuclear Medicine. The Project aims at reviving and optimizing the performance of a gamma camera for medical diagnosis.

I would like to acknowledge the active support and participation of Dr. Choudhary Voleti in these projects undertaken with the hospital.

The increase in academic activities does not in any way imply that the Values-based Integral Education, conceived and demonstrated by our beloved Baba has been pushed behind to second place.  Conscious efforts have been made to sustain and take forward all the activities pertaining to Integral Education with the active participation of Faculty and Research Scholars in workshops and brain storming sessions.

In the month of May 2012, the Institute organized a two day Workshop for all faculty members and research scholars focusing on Bhagawan’s Guidelines for teachers and scholars and the art and science of Mentoring.  Mentoring has always been an integral part of the teaching-learning process at the Institute, more so because of its values-based integral education philosophy. However, since the last 2 years, the Institute has been putting in efforts to design a robust framework to formally institutionalize the process.

Apart from the Summer Course in Indian Culture and Spirituality that the Institute conducts every year for its own students in the month of June; this year the Institute widened its scope to include youth from outside the Institute, with the objective of re-infusing and rejuvenating the spirit of Bharatiya culture in young men and women. In the month of May, the Brindavan Campus of the Institute with the support of the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organization, Karnataka, conducted a similar course for young men and women from across the state of Karnataka, and last week, the Anantapur Campus just concluded yet another course in Indian Culture and Spirituality organized for young women from across Andhra Pradesh, with the support of the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organization, Andhra Pradesh.

Teachers and Senior Research Scholars have also been deputed to deliver talks on Bhagawan, across the country and abroad, whenever requested.

Anyone who is able to get deeply connected to Swami, will feel the Divine Hands of our beloved Baba in each of these activities, indicating that He is there for us always and is guiding, leading and protecting us in all our endeavours. Let us pray to Him to reside in our hearts always and bless us.

Once again, I warmly welcome each one of you for this auspicious ceremonial function.

 Jai Sai Ram