Dr. Singh, VC, BHU: “Teach humanity to lead society”

This maverick scientist developed DNA fingerprinting technology widely applied for criminal, medical cases. Dr. Lalji Singh now VC of Banaras Hindu University (BHU) had to endure the ordeal of getting approval of his technology as viable evidence in court of law. “I knocked doors of hundreds of courts, and finally today it is popularly used for common good,” he thoughtfully recalls. His vision for the holy city Banaras is to bring about second white revolution with the opening of Institute of Veterinary science. The real weapon of education is beyond courses, he expresses “All educational set-ups must teach humanity on how to lead society.” He is vocal about university ratings essayed by agencies.”The lame ones expect us to pay for registration so those who pay bomb hog limelight. Sadly, the university fails to provide accurate information to real genuine agencies. Annual reports is the best way to showcase your best efforts made,” he stresses. 

Q. You are the only university having IIT within campus. How far you achieved in terms of integrating BHU with technically skillful IIT BHU? 
A. I am mixing both so much that it will not be possible for them to claim that they are totally independent. IITs are already asking medical schools to set up, so that they can develop technology together. I am glad that BHU has taken bold attempt to slowly convert into future part of university, so that both can benefit from each other. The drawback of IITs was that they were in isolation. How can you just focus on engineering? Take for instance how we amalgamate: BHUs Ayurveda department collaborated with IIT BHU. Ayurveda researchers prepared Bhasma and IIT visualized it. For allopathcians mercury is toxic element. Our unified breakthrough research has proved that mercury signifantly used in Ayurveda is non toxic. After prolonged Bhasma’s grinding it no longer remains mercury but converted into nano particles.  

Q. Best clinicians are from institutes having highest patient turnover. With the presence of Institute of Medical Science (IMS, BHU), how do you combine research efforts of science and technology? 
A. I am waiting for the full status of AIIMS to the Institute of Medical Sciences (IMS), BHU. In India we have variety of patients who belong to various ethnic groups and this is not available to any country in the world. There are nearly 4500 anthropologically well defined human population in India. There are many ethnic groups because we marry within our ethnic caste and remain separated at DNA level also. So we have the highest human diversity in the world. Therefore any medicine we get from US or any other foreign country cannot blindly work on our population. We need limited trial done on Indian population.  BHU IIT is joining hands with physicist, chemistry scientists and can interact with doctors on how to simplify technology. Here I feel that there should be setting up of facility for Translational research. A lot of nanotechnology physics work is going on in IITs – so how can we use it in medicine? How can we develop software for better emergency? Till now we have been importing software from foreign, like CAT, PAT to name a few. It’s sold to us in a very high price. There’s little of any Indian’s work here. Why we can’t we invite them here to value add to our indigenous software and sell that technology outside.
Q. India is still lagging in innovation. How can universities create environment for the spirit of interdisciplinary innovation? 
A. Unlike Western countries, we are not richthat all departments will benefit to have all kinds of facilities’. Earlier it was science which was driving technology, but today it is technology which is driving science. If we do not develop our own technology we cannot be leader, if we keep borrowing technology we will always be behind, so how do you develop technology? What I am doing in BHU is that I am creating Central Discovery Centre (CDC) – for those who will discover and develop something. It will have centralised sophisticated equipment facilities for inter BHU and IIT BHU.  These facilities will not belong to any faculty or department. Different faculties will come together and explore ideas. Eventually, this will force engineers, doctors, physicists, biologists, biotechnologists to work together. This will help young research scholars to interact with higher people to explore grand ideas. 

Q. One of your pioneering works is development of DNA fingerprinting technology. What’s your take on research efforts that culminate into intellectual property rights?
A. It’s a tool for economic growth, but it takes its own time. I went through rough patch when I developed DNA fingerprinting technology which had application in crime detection, medical diagnosis and pedigree analysis.  It took years to gain approval as practical evidence in courts of law in India. I knocked the doors of hundreds of court, and today it is popularly used for common good. Our country doesn’t need high figh research, it should translate into applications. As technologies progresses, we can cut down on costs, time consumption and commercialise it for the benefit of the society. When I was student most of the research was coming out from universities. Today, universities are neglected with the expansion of research institutes. The policies are slowly changing, as government has changed the emphasis. For promotion, UGC gives 50% marks for teaching and remaining for research. This surely motivates faculties to take up research. AT BHU, those who publish in NATURE, Science journals, IMPACT FACTOR 30 offered Rs. 5 lakhs, and those who publish 5-15 in impact factor journals will get 2 lakhs, and for 3-5 journals will received 1 lakhs as an incentive. The first ever international US patent has been granted to BHU for Ayurveda. Prof. G P Dubey got US patent and 4 university collaboration including Harvard university. For his invention of medicine which slows the process of aging.   

Q. Banaras, is oldest holy city worldwide known for spiritual culture. How educational tower BHU helping the needs of the society? 
A. The environs inside the BHU campus is heavenly, but outside it is very appalling (roads, pollution etc). It’s a greatest danger for BHU to survive in the future. We can improve the deteriorating environment conditions, by interacting with the society. Ours is the only university having institute of agricultural science in the country, which is doing excellent service for the communities. They have developed new varieties of rice producing double yield, requires less water and can be grown anywhere. We organize Kisan mela and distribute seeds free of costs. We have facilities like seed processing plant for production of seeds - pulses, rice seeds increased farmers productivity in the nearby areas.  So the role of teachers is not limited to classrooms, they help people outside.

I am trying to open veterinary sciences institute soon which will bring about white revolution in Varnasi. We have dairy technology which can buy the milk and convert into product. This will be the first veterinary hospital of international repute. Classes will begin in the main campus, but the building will take at least 3 years. There is more demand than what we produce. It will encourage local poor people to buy goat, cows and buffaloes. On the whole, it will generate employment in the city.  

Unless you improve the primary education, only by shouting that our higher education is not good doesn’t help. I feel our catchment area is poor. There are good schools in cities, villages are neglected. The village where I lived there was only one intermediate college with science, even today only the same exist in the village.  If we had concentrated in these areas since independence days, then things would have been better. So primary education needs close attention. 

Q. Why is India ranked lower in world ranking? Could we ever dream to have one world class university?  
A. Definitely, India has world Class University, but I feel it is at the cost of transparent rating. There is no university like BHU in the world. Take the comprehensive education starting from nursery to top level education. Check out how we linked well to the society. I call it we serve the talented poor. Fee is not high, we provide food and lodging to poor students. I have set up cyber library which functions 24 hours. It is for those people from villages who cannot afford have laptop.  You have to make use of innovative ways to empower these people. These are the individual ethnic problem related to our country.

And the rating they want to see is that how many foreign staff is there, how many foreign students are there? Its high time India prepares its own standard of rating. The rating selection committee should put together social scientists and scientist together. Ratings coming from certain agencies are fudged. When they ask to register, then you have to pay huge amount of money. You pay money and your ranking improves. But when genuine agencies come unfortunately we don’t provide accurate information. We are at fault, so we have to galvanise. You must share your annual report it’s the best way to promote your work. The cover page of BHUs annual report shows the best finding of the preceding year, so people bound to read your effort made.
What is fascinating about Havard is that teaching staff was not regularised. There is constant filtration; faculties are tested on the ground that who is doing well. Based on serious scrutiny best performers are made permanent. Those retained bring out new invention, so every top person has patent and they sell out to industry. People are rich there! 

Q. What should be the goal of true education?
Education is beyond courses. Before becoming first rate scientist, engineers, technologists, you should be able to develop yourself to be good human being. All educational setups adopt education not to just teach subject, rather teach humanity on how to lead society. I feel knowledge and your character will make you capable to compete internationally. My philosophy of education is that education begins from home which remains throughout life

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