CFTRI: call for ‘accountability check’

 The Central Food Technology Research Institute (CFTRI)  takes up a sizeable  chunk of Mysore’s real estate.  Does the R & D done here and its benefits to  society add up to justify the size and scale of CFTRI’s Mysore establishment?

I find an answer in Dr Potty’s blog.  Where it says that CFTRI hasn’t come up with any new product since 1994.  Dr V H Potty, a former CFTRI deputy director  who blogs on food technology,   calls for an ‘accountability check’ by an  experts panel to find out how public funds earmarked for R & D are spent.

Referring to CFTRI’s  infrastructure,  an insider says the pilot plant and workshop on the campus are idle.  The person who comes up with this shocking info doesn’t identify himself in the blog,  saying  “I wish I could write my name but having been bitten by him (CFTRI chief), I don’t think one has the  patience to fight him”.  According to this anonymous commenter,  in-house printing press, the supporting sections of the workshop, such as smithy,  foundry, carpentry, “are going waste”.

Dr Potty’s blog is an outcome of   collective frustration of the retired scientists,  who still retain their commitment to research in food technology.  As this technologist-blogger put it, ” Many retired scientists who are no more  in active service in their chosen field but are still committed to the  subject have been watching helplessly the high decibel claims like 1,000 patents, earth shaking technological achievements without any basis, tsunami  heroics and call for help from Katrina flood victims for foods, the supposed bonding with industry,  getting many regional,  national,  international and  extra terrestrial laurels for many of the imaginary achievements, etc etc etc .”  Dr Potty reckons it is time the  ‘helpless watchers’  in the scientific  community stood up to “call the bluff”.

The blog has evoked considerable response, going by the number and the  substance of commments. But then the anonymity of an overheming proportion of  comments  undermines the force of their advocacy. The plain-talking  Dr Potty could do with more backers  who are prepared  ‘to stand up and be counted’. 

Anyway,  Dr Potty’s blog should serve as a wake-up call for CFTRI administrators.  Two things are clear,  even without having  an ‘accountability check’.

1)  CFTRI should be more transparent to the public,  by encouraging visitors to the campus;  and  conducted tours of its faciities  during designated visiting days.

2)  Share under-utilised infrastructure such as the printing press, foundry, carpentry and other worshops with other public sector agencies in need of such facilitices.  CFTRI can do with an infrastructure audit  to ensure proper use and better maintenance of facilities developed with tax-payers money.

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The NRI swadeshi fervor, a growth industry

It is said a desi abroad grows fond of India and things Indian; native Bellary or Bhatinda tends to look more romantic from Boston or Birmingham. And our Bollywood thrives on the genre of movies that hype patriotic fervor of desis abroad – Dilwale Dulahania Lejayenge,  Khabi Khushi Khabhi Gum, Pardes, Aa Ab Laut Chalen and several others.

Indian TV news channels have made inroads in NRI living rooms. They pay hefty subscription to watch ‘Page-3’ frivility; and celebrity-related non-events jazzed up as ‘breaking news’. Headlines Today the other day made ‘breaking news’ of Aamir Khan taking to smoking again.

The channel gave viewers in the Bay Area an insight into why and how Aamir Khan took to smoking again, quoting extensively from the actor’s blog post. Those of us who were concerned about Aamir Khan’s smoking habit were reassured that our celebrity smoker doesn’t light up in the presence of children, and in company where someone objects. I don’t suppose Doordarshan carried this item. But then I don’t get to see DD channels in San Ramon, California. 

Swadeshi-minded NRI’s keen on keeping up with developments back home could count on better fare from DD channels, though their coverage may be boringly developmental. And I wonder how many NRIs are aware of the Lok Sabha channel that telecast Question Hour and notable parliamentary debates. But then how many flag-waving Americans watch C-SPAN, to get first-hand account of US Senate proceedings?

My blogger friend Maddy says the degree of swadeshi fervor of NRIs is  proportionate to the length of their stay away from India. He calls them India Deprived Desis (IDDs); the type that would drive 50 miles for a plate of masala dosa at Bhimas in Milpitas or Sunnyvale’s Saravana Bhavan. Indian eating joints have mushroomed in and around San Jose.  IDD zindabad.   

Tapping the NRI swadeshi fervor is a growth industry and Bollywood promotes its own version, notably, among ABCDs – America born confused desi. Their take on India’s socio-cultural tradition is shaped by Shah Rukh Khan and Karan Johar. A growing number of ABCDs are Bollywood movie fans. Many of them, with aspiration to be part of it, are reported to have signed up for courses at Anupum Kher’s and other acting schools in Mumbai.