Prof. Prabhat Ranjan is Vice Chancellor of D Y Patil International University, Akurdi, Pune
Author: Prabhat Ranjan
Prof. Prabhat Ranjan is Vice Chancellor, D Y Patil International University, Akurdi, Pune. He was heading India's Technology Think Tank, TIFAC(tifac.org.in) as its Executive Director since April 2013 to April 2018. Earlier he was Professor at Dhirubhai Ambani Institute for Information and Communication Technology, Gandhinagar (DA-IICT) since 2002. He was educated in Netarhat School(near Ranchi), IIT Kharagpur and Delhi University. He received his Ph D from University of California, Berkeley where he carried our research on “Nuclear Fusion” at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory during 1983-86. He immediately returned to India after this and carried out research in Nuclear Fusion area at Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, Calcutta and Institute for Plasma Research(IPR), Gandhinagar. He played a major role in India’s Nuclear Fusion program and was Project Leader of the largest operational Indian Fusion Reactor, ADITYA, at Institute for Plasma Research from 1996-2002.
His current interests include applications of Wireless Sensor Network to Wildlife, Planetary Exploration (Chandrayaan mission), Nuclear Fusion, Healthcare, Agriculture etc. He has received National Science Talent Search Award, IBM Faculty Innovation Grant and HP Innovate 2009 award, NPEDP-Mphasis Universal Design Award 2012, Bihar Gaurav Samman 2012 etc.
The study of the impact of the Technology Vision 2035 document is an ongoing process and based on this mid-course correction in strategy is important for the country to move ahead. We have seen good action and progress in certain areas e.g. Waterways. However healthcare sector is still lagging and going by the current trend, we would not achieve the targets set by TV2035. Frequently, authorities responsible for these set a lower target for themselves that does not require a major effort!
After Hon’ble PM launched Technology Vision 2035 on the morning of Jan 3, 2016 (See my blog Making and Launching of Technology Vision 2035), our focus shifted to its impact on the future of India. In that blog, I mentioned that “In the very first meeting on TV2035, I emphasized the importance of being able to communicate the document among citizens at large and policymakers, in particular. I mentioned multiple means of communication that are relevant today: (1) Print Media (2) Electronic Media (3) Social Media (4) the Internet (5) Workshops etc. Each one of these needed their own way of providing information from the document.”
With organizations like TCS as part of Tata Group, it is surprising that the IT systems of Air India have not been improved in the last 10 months to even ensure the basic functionality of Modification/Cancelation/Refund, etc. In spite of all this, I am very hopeful that the Tata group would make corrections just like they have done for the Indian passport office!
I had my first flight of life in Sept 1981 when I flew to Narita Airport, Tokyo from Delhi on my way to San Francisco to join the University of California, Berkeley as a Ph.D. student. It was not a good experience both from the food point of view and my own exhaustion due to the last-minute preparation. I was not used to the Japanese food that was served on the Japan Airlines flight. There was no option for Indian-style food. Later on, while traveling between USA and India, we used to look forward to the Air India flights towards the last leg of the flight from connecting to India as we would get food that we liked. There was no option for Direct flights.
Finally effort to create a digital fabrication movement is sweeping across the country with the AICTE IDEA Lab network growing. This would have profound effect on the innovation landscape of the country as well as manufacturing sector and growth of GDP and move India towards “Aatmanirbhar Bharat”
While preparing Technology Vision 2035, after joining TIFAC as its head in April 2013, we started tracking various technologies that were likely to impact us in the coming decades. I have described these aspects in detail in my blog Making and Launching of Technology Vision 2035. Among the many technologies that were on the horizon, we had 3D printing (also known as additive manufacturing). This was also covered widely in the Manufacturing Sector Roadmap of Technology Vision 2035. I was aware of this and of FabLab initiative from MIT. 3D printing and other digital fabrication technologies were revolutionizing prototype development as well as customized manufacturing. The cost of setting up labs of this kind was around Rs 50 Lakhs at that time. Due to lack of awareness and cost, very few places in India were setting up such facilities. Most of the educational institutes were not aware of these developments nor were these part of the curriculum. Even those places (one could count them on fingers) were mostly setting it up for projects and special facilities, not for the part of regular training of students as part of the curriculum. From my project funding, I had procured a PCB milling machine to reduce the time to make PCBs. This made it easier for students to indulge in hardware development.
Coaching industry flourishes in India at the cost of students’ learning opportunities and loss to nation of innovative minds essential for India to progress fast. Key issue is popular perception of very few “quality”seats being chased by large number of good quality students.
Recently IISc Bangalore Professor Arindam Ghosh highlighted the importance of school education and how the recent structure is destroying the minds of the students. He said that students leave schooling to prepare for IITs ‘Destroys Fabric of Education’.
I basically agree with this statement about students spending 4-5 years in coaching to prepare for one exam is distorting the learning process. They do very targeted learning during this period focused on “cracking” an exam. We do lose a very important part of students’ life where creativity and exploration would have been important. Being able to ask questions is more important learning than trying to learn what is the “correct answer”. We make the students “convergent thinkers” rather than “Divergent thinkers” needed for an innovative mind.
This blog describes my travel woes while returning from USA to India in first week of January 2022. Purpose of writing this blog was to let people know that trouble and system failures can take place in any part of the world and not only in India!
I was in the USA to spend time with my daughter, Juhi, in California in December 2021. As my grandson’s birthday falls in 3rd week of Nov, I normally plan to be there during Nov-Dec time (See my blog How Did I Start Cooking! to know about my baking cake for grandson) Towards the end of December, we spent a week traveling through death valley in California/Nevada area.
I had booked my return trip on Jan 3, 2022 taking a direct United Airlines flight from San Francisco(SFO) to Delhi. As per Covid protocol, we needed to get an RT-PCR test done within 72 hours of departure. The earliest day for testing was Jan 1 and we tried to book a testing slot a day earlier but we were not finding it easily by searching through various possibilities. I woke up early morning of Jan 1 to try doing more search but there was nothing available in either free or by paying $100-$150 per test. There were some that had mentioned walking in and trying but nothing was very clear. I raised an alarm about the difficulty in finding a testing slot. My Son in law, Sanchit, wakes up early morning around 5:30 AM or so. He tried to collect information from his circle too and only possibility of getting a Rapid PCR test done by paying $300 came up – with results available in 2-3 hours.
For nearly four decades, I have been involved in the Nuclear Fusion work due to a midnight patriotic feeling while on my way out of the country for higher studies and since then have continued to play a role in developing or promoting nuclear fusion in India. I hope to continue contributing to this and expect to see applications happening in India too!
Starting in 1983 at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory (and Univ of California, Berkeley) till 2002, I did full-time research in the area of Nuclear Fusion in USA and India. I contributed through modeling, development of data acquisition and control system, variety of system development, experiments, and operational improvements as well as solving technical problems to enhance the performance of both the first generation Tokamaks(a type of Nuclear Fusion Reactor) in Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics(SINP), Kolkata and Institute for Plasma Research(IPR), Gandhinagar to international levels of performance. At IPR, I was project leader of Aditya Tokamak from 1996 to 2002. I was also Project Leader of SST-1(Superconducting Tokamak) Operation and Control Group from 1997-2002.
Here I describe my contribution during the continued contribution to Nuclear Fusion for almost 4 decades.
My chance entry to the disability sector through a student project changed my life for better and made me a better human being as I learned to be more positive and to “Count the ability and not the disability”
In DA-IICT, we had introduced design thinking in the second semester of BTech(ICT) program. This was followed by an internship in summer(later changed to winter) in a rural area and a Zero Credit Design project in the second year. Idea was to let them explore some area of societal benefit for a full year without any pressure of grades and timeline.
Two students, Pallavi and Ramya(both from Hyderabad) approached me(most likely in 2007) to work with me on design project with an interest in helping persons with visual impairment. They visited Blind People’s Association in Ahmedabad to get an idea of various needs. Later in summer vacation, they came across news about a girl, Bhawana from Chennai, who had passed class 10th. Normally this does not make news but Bhawana was not in a position to move or talk. She did not have fine finger movement just a coarse movement of hands. In spite of these conditions, her passing of 10th was worthy of news. Pallavi and Ramya visited her in Chennai to understand how she studies and carries out other functions.