A JOURNEY WITH SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
Dr. S. P. Srivastava
11, April 2015 firstname.lastname@example.org
7C, house No 989, Faridabad, Haryana-121006
Preface Page No 3
Chapter 1- My India 4-11
Chapter 2- My school and university 12-27
Chapter 3 – Research to technology development 28-34
Chapter 4 - India’s oil sector - 35-45
Chapter 5 – Transition to robust brand SERVO 46- 51
Chapter 6 – Product development dynamics 52- 59
Chapter 7 – Building a research and development organization 60- 68
Chapter 8 – Misdemeanour in scientific world- we must avoid 69 -75
Chapter 9- The journey and future challenge 76 - 85
Faridabad, April ,11, 2015
This book traces the journey of an Indian, born in British India then educated in independent India and worked in the developing environment of the country to bring up India’s science and technology in the field of fuels and Lubricants to the fully developed state from virtually scratch. Indian political leaders, particularly Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru and of course others after him, have planned the development of country meticulously and created large infrastructure in science and technology. They realized that if the country had to develop fast it has to be through science and technology only. Many young boys and girls of my time took up science and technology as their profession and came from small villages of India having hardly any science education facilities and had to struggle hard to acquire knowledge. This was pure natural instinct and obsession with science as there was no one to guide us towards this subject. Even the financial support was not available for continuing science education, yet I went on to acquire highest doctorate degree in science from a well-known university of Allahabad, India. Several of my friends and colleagues also followed a similar route. I then took up scientific career with Indian council of scientific and Industrial research (CSIR) laboratories and got trained in the field of coal, energy and petroleum. Finally I joined Indian Oil Corporation’s Research and development centre at Faridabad to take up the development of fuels and lubricant technology. This centre is unique and provided opportunity to develop entire range of SERVO lubricants with help of large teams of scientists. Today SERVO is India’s top lubricant brand capturing about 35 % of India’s market share, competing with most international brands and is also available in several neighbouring countries. The Indian historical glory, the Dark Age and now the present Indian scenario has been discussed and it is hoped that the young generation of Indian scientists and technologist would be able to understand the struggle of my generation. The young scientists have the responsibility to take India forward to be amongst the top five developed nations of the world in the near future by 2035-2040. I am confident that it will be done.
Dr S P Srivastava
Former, executive director, Indian Oil Corporation, Faridabad, India
and Director Indian oil blending Ltd, Mumbai
(Presently consultant fuels and Lubricants)
A JOURNEY WITH SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
I was born in British India in 1940, when the Second World War (1939-1945) was going on. All the scientific and technical developments that had taken place in Europe and America were being utilized to kill humans and destroy infrastructure built over the last about hundred years at a much faster rate than has been possible in the earlier human history. The killings and destruction were carried out from all direction of sea, land and air. High powered Tanks, Guns, Ships and aircrafts were in use. At the end of the war, it was estimated that it killed about 50 million people and the total economic cost of this war could have reached about 1000 billion US dollars or more. However, there is no reliable information on the exact figures. The death of civilians and destruction of their properties during the war due to bombing or political execution is unknown, but must be substantial. Some European countries lost 20 percent of their population in this war. The nuclear bomb was also used for the first time against Japan to force it to surrender to USA. It is said that the war led to the development of newer technologies and several spin off technologies were later developed for use by the common man. After the war, more deadly weapons of mass destruction have also been developed through extensive research and development, which can now kill and destroy the entire world population in a few hours’ time.
The village where I was born hardly knew at that time about the happenings in Europe and the only effect of war was the non-availability and scarcity of several items of necessity such as clothes and kerosene oil. These were rationed and nobody knew why this is taking place. The village is known as Garautha in district Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh of India. It had a Tehsil, police station, post office, middle school (up to 8th standard) and a river LAKHERI flowing around it. There was only one bus running per day connecting it with the rest of world going to a place called Mauranipur where, one can take another bus or train to reach Jhansi, the district headquarter. Originally my father comes from a remote village called Dhaurra in tehsil Mauranipur which had no civic facility whatsoever. We still have our ancestor’s house in that village where nobody lives, as all my cousins and their children have moved to cities. My grandfather used to be village Patwari (a revenue record keeper). Most of my other close relatives were also Patwaris (present designation is Lekhpal) at different locations of district Jhansi, UP. My grandfather migrated to this village from another nearby village called Birgawan. We also have our ancestral home in Birgawan where some of the relatives stay. Both these villages are still under developed and lack basic facilities like school, hospital, roads and electricity. The residents of village have to depend on the nearby town Mauranipur, which has a tehsil, police station, hospital, schools (up to graduate level) and other facilities. My father, all uncles and myself studied in this town up to class 10th or matriculation level.
Watching the arrival and departure of the bus was a serious matter for young children of the village and we sometimes ran along with it for few hundred meters without any foot-ware for the adventure. The river was a real pleasure and most children would assemble in the morning and evening for playing and bathing to-gather. The river was not deep but would become dangerous during rainy season due to heavy flooding. There were also certain deep points in the river where only grown up boys were allowed that have learnt swimming well. By the time we were 8-10 years old we learnt swimming and went to those deep points regularly. The only mechanical equipment we encountered, were a bus and bicycle owned by a select few individuals. My childhood in this village Garautha was wonderful and full of variety of activities. I had a large friend circle that would go with me anywhere, anytime and enjoyed full freedom. We did horse riding, bullock cart riding/driving, kite flying, swimming in dangerous waters, going into forest and desolated areas, old abandoned forts, temples and palaces, hills in search of dacoits, Sadhus, snakes and treasures and what not. I would say this was the best time of my life which never came back. Parents would not be aware of all these activities, but we never did a wrong thing. This was pure pleasure and adventure and is responsible for developing our personalities. Unlike modern children who have access to mobile phone, computer, internet, television, motor bike, car, cricket, gyms, sport shoes, jeans, designer’s cloths etc., we had none of these and therefore, designed our own games, entertainment activities and enjoyed life. My grandchildren can never understand that life could be lived like this also.
Sometimes we could see a stray airplane moving high and everybody would stare at it with surprise. We used to call it CHIL - GADI (falcon cart). I used to wonder, as to how the plane is flying, but in our Indian mythology there are numerous example of flying humans and objects (Pushpak Viman used by Lord Rama to fly back from Lanka to Ayodhya or Hanuman taking aerial route from Lanka to Himalayas to get Sanjeevani herbs for Laxman) and would thus easily accept that it is possible to fly without understanding the principle. There was no electricity and electricity based appliances, no radio/ television, no computer no telephone, no bank and no hospital or doctor in the village. Post office, however, had the facility of sending and receiving telegrams, which were sent only in case of emergencies and for extreme news. The highest educated persons were high school pass (10th standard), which included school teachers and my father who was Registrar Kanungo in the Tehsil. Tehsildar, however, was an exception who could be intermediate (12th standard) or maximum a graduate. The village was self-sufficient with most food items. Only a few items such as salt, spices, kerosene oil and some fruits were required to be obtained from other locations. These and other utility items such as clothes were exchanged/ bartered by farmers during the weekly bazar with their produces (wheat, grams, maize etc.). This system has been followed in almost all the villages of India. Land owners will do farming. Traders will run shops/ business and supply necessary materials to the needy. Every job was classified and assigned to a group of people and became family affair for example, carpentry, iron smith, cloth weaving, gold- silver smith, pot making, stone sculpture, horticulture, masonry, cleaning, religious matter, music, defence, administration, finance and all other small or big jobs were assigned to certain group of people. The advantage of this was that the training of younger generation was easy; it was all family matter, the skills passed on from father/ mother to son/ daughter smoothly. There was no need for poly-technique or engineering college or management school for learning these skills. However, this is not free from disadvantages; the whole system became so rigid that there was no scope for other genuinely interested people to enter into the other trades or skills. This ultimately led to the caste system in India. The rigid system also did not support further improvements or innovation. Perhaps ancient Indians at some point of time thought that enough development has taken place and there is no further need for development. They therefore devised a system where the society in every village was self-sufficient and any incremental work required could be undertaken by the family members involved in their respective trade or skills. These different groups continued to carry on the assigned jobs quite efficiently but over a period of time the idea of superior casts, lower casts doing menial jobs (service group) and economically weaker groups crept in and the poor communities were exploited. This deteriorated the skill development and innovation capabilities. In such a system only the higher casts such as Brahmins, Kshatriya (security or fighting groups and also rulers), Vaishya (traders), Kayastha (Brahmins who took reading, writing, teaching, accounting and politics as their profession) and some others flourished and the society became complicated.
Indian civilization is one of the oldest in the world. Recent archaeological excavations along the lost Sarasvati River show extensive settlements [1,2,3] of well-organized human society with planned towns of early Harappan age (3500 BC) to late Indus valley civilization (1500 BC). Remote settalite images have discovered dry Sarasvati river bed (presently Ghaggar- Hakra) and most of these settlements have been found along this river bed from Haryana (Rakhi-gari) to Gujrat (Dolavira, Lothal) [4, 5]. These people knew to make uniform fired bricks, painted pottery, water management, waste management system, town planning, toys and jewellery making, metal applications etc. etc. In addition they were farmers and kettle breeders. Some of them were traders and having sea bound trade to other countries. An old port has been excavated in Lothal near Gujarat. Under water excavation in Dwarka, Gujarat, show up Mahabharat age settlement and some of the findings are more than 3000 years old. In order to maintain such a society, obviously these people have used science for the development of crops, their harvesting and food grain production. The different varieties of grains such as wheat, pulses, rice, oil-seeds, special aromatic rice, Basmati, have been developed long ago in India. Bio-technology has been used to convert milk into curd/ yogurts, butter and Ghee (Clarified butter) and other products. Again food preservation through bio-technology led to production of pickles (preservation with the help of oil, salt and spices) and Morabbas (Fruits preserved in sugar syrup). Fermentation technology was developed to produce variety of products and alcoholic beverages. The entire food technology was developed and popularized in every house hold so that the products could be easily manufactured in the domestic sector by the women. All technologies developed were sustainable, environment friendly and were operated on a small scale. The entire farming was organic as no chemical fertilizer or insecticides were utilized. Only plant based insecticides and organic fertilizers were used. Farm implements were developed to improve food grain production. The source of energy for farm work came from the domesticated animals. Even the transport system was also based on animal (Horses, oxen, camel and buffalo) driven carts. For faster and longer distance movement horses, camels, elephants were used. Hunting and fighting has been man’s earliest venture and so aids to kill animals and fellow humans were soon developed such as hammers, spears, arrow-bow and swords etc. Cannons were later added with the discovery of gun-powder. Diseases are part of any society and these health issues were addressed by the plants and herbs based Ayurvedic system (Charak-200-175 BC and Sushrata- 400-200 BC), which is still used worldwide. Unani system of medicine also based on plants and herbs came to India after the arrival of migrants from Middle East. The Chinese system is too based on herbs, plants and animals. Yoga (Patanjali- 400-120 BCE) is another great Indian development  which is now used world-wide. The present form of yoga has, however, undergone several modifications according to the need of the society .
Pioneering work has been carried out by Indians in the field of mathematics, geometry, and astronomy. The concept of zero emerged from India. Some of the great Indian ancient Scientists and their work has been described [8, 9, 10, and 11] in details in several publications and are as follows.
Budhayan – 800 BCE, Value of Pi and also described Pythagoras theorem before Pythagoras (about 540BCE). Budhayan said “The diagonal of a rectangle produces both areas which its length and breadth produce” .
Mahaviracharya -100 BC. -Described LCM
Aryabhatta – 5th Century AD- Astronomy, explanation of solar /lunar eclipse, Rotation of earth on its axis, value of pi, circumference of earth, the concept of zero is also assigned to him.
Kanad- 6th Century AD- Introduced the term Kana or atom and developed atomic theory
Brahamagupta 7th Century AD- introduced negative Numbers, extensively used zero
Nagarjuna- 10th Century AD, Developed method for the extraction of metals such as gold, silver, tin and copper
Bhaskarachrya - 12th Century AD., principles of differential calculus, Algebra
Most of the ancient Indian knowledge is documented in Vedas, Puranas and various other old scriptures which were passed on to the generations through oral tradition, in the absence of written language. After the development of written Sanskrit language these were written down in this language. A similar experience of development took places at other locations of world in Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, China, South America, Rome and other countries independently with occasional interaction and exchange of information. These developments were slow and gradual as there were no organized scientific laboratories and scientists to do so. In ancient Indian system, Rishis in their Ashrams with their students were responsible for carrying out higher level of thinking and development work. This also resulted in more spiritual development as compared to materialistic development.
Most of the Rishis (teachers) were Brahmins and promoted religion and spirituality. They were also respected by the kings and thus had greater say to impose their ideas on other members of the society. This complicated the ancient Vedic system into complex Hindu system with heavy rituals, sometimes unnecessary, on daily basis and on every occasion of birth, marriage, death etc. Complex worship of multiple Gods and Goddesses also emerged with materialistic offerings to them. This led to emergence of large number of small and large temples with priests who started getting a hefty income without doing any work. A large community of Brahmins and others connected with the temple and religious work became parasite to the society. The offerings to God and Goddesses with cash and jewellery in return to some unknown favours became so rampant and well established that it percolated down to every sphere of life. The cash and any other material offering became way of life to get anything done through the official system. This was referred to as Dastur (tradition) or Gift, but is now called bribe and corruption. This system is so deep rooted in the Indian society that it is becoming extremely difficult to remove it; although everybody is fed up with the system and wants to remove corruption.
The desire to become super rich or lose weight or become fair complexioned overnight is so strong that Indian men and women are willing to buy anything advertised on television, radio and newspaper such as a gold plated GOD idol, Laxmi Yantra, Slimming tea or herbal powder or cream at any price. This must be a business of several thousand crores of Rupees per year. In additions there are hundreds of thousands of self-proclaimed Swamis, Sadhus, Babas, Fakirs, Acharya, Pundits, Gurus, Astrologers, gemmologists, fortune tellers and what not, who claim to solve every problem of human beings through their magical powers and worship. This service is, however, not free and most people end up by spending their life long saving. It is impossible to estimate the exact amount involved in this trade. This evil is highly deep rooted and large numbers of well-educated and highly placed people get involved in this system. This superstitious tendency in Indian people has to be changed, since it inhibits thinking process and does not allow the development of scientific mind and thinking out of box to innovate.
Religions have been major factor in India and have influenced Indian society and its thinking in multiple ways. Apart from Hinduism following religions were developed in India. Islam and Christianity came from outside India.
Buddhism and Jainism came with Gautama Buddha and Mahavir in about 500 BC and both the religions were popular up to 8th century AD. Both religions declined in India due to several pressures from Hinduism and Islam. However, Buddhism was spread to many countries by then and it continued to flourish there.
Islam was introduced in India through Arab trade in coastal Malabar, Sindh and Gujarat in the seventh century AD. Islam then flourished in India during Mogul rules.
Christianity was introduced in India even before it went to some of the European countries. Saint Thomas visited India in 52 AD and Christianity was definitely rooted in south Indian states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu from the fourth century to 6th century AD. During various European rules, Christianity then flourished and large number of churches were established throughout the country.
Sikhism is one of the world youngest religions founded by Guru Nanak Dev ji in the 15th Century AD and believes in the Holy Scripture Guru Granth Sahib.
Thus, India is the originator of the four religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. These religions have many things in common since their origin is in Hinduism and each one tried to improve the existing system. There are several other variations of Hinduism such as Arya Samaj, Brahmo Samaj, Radha-swami, Ramakrishana mission, Chinmaya mission, Saibaba and many other sects. These are more liberal Hinduism reform based systems and are not considered different religions. Even, there are variations in Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism. However, there has been a good harmony and respect between all the religions developed in India. Many people consider that Hinduism is not a religion in true sense; it is just a way of life. This has been slowly evolved from the Vedic period. Hindu Gods/Goddesses such as Shiva, Ram, Krishna, Durga, Kali, Laxmi, Saraswati and many others have not enunciated or propagated any religion; they just stood for good cause. They were natural followers of Vedic culture. Hinduism is highly liberal, flexible, promotes universal love for all and there is no opposition to any other system. It can adapt any new God or Goddesses and can respect or worship Pir, Fakirs, Mazars (graves) of any other religion without any inhibition. It only got contaminated by the selfish attitudes of a group of people who loaded common population with unnecessary rituals in the name of GOD at every stage of the life.
The other scenario in ancient India was that of very large number of small independent states or kingdoms. These were ruled by a warrior community called Kshatriya; although there are records of various other communities ruling certain regions for a certain period of time. These kingdoms were continuously fighting with each other to increase their own territory and in this process became militarily weak. The result was then foreign invasion from the western front. Initially the invaders came for the wealth but when weaknesses in Indian system were found, they captured the north- west region (Delhi Sultanate, 1206- 1526 AD) and ultimately major part of the northern, eastern and western parts of the country by the Moguls. Remaining southern part of the country was captured by British and integrated with the rest of the land. British India was spread from Afghanistan to Burma and Kashmir to Sri Lanka. Thus, India remained under foreign powers for more than seven centuries and was exploited extensively. There was, however, some bright spot of improvement during the Mogul rules by Akbar, Jahangir and Shahjahan, who were responsible for supporting art, music, culture and developed it to a greater height and a new hybrid culture emerged. After Aurangzeb, Mogul empire was virtually disintegrated and British, Dutch, Portuguese, French attempted to control parts of India and ultimately British succeeded and controlled India till 1947. British did create some modern infrastructure such as railways, school, colleges, universities and some industries to support their administrative requirements. Some of the modern scientific laboratories were also created where notable scientists such as S N Bose, J. C. Bose, P. C. Ray, Meghnad Saha and Nobel laureates C V Raman, Hargobind Khurana, S. Chandrashekhar and others studied and worked. S. Ramanujam a great mathematician and Noble laureate Ravindranath Tagore a poet, musician, artist were also born and worked rather independently during the British rule in India. This could not be a coincidence; perhaps the infrastructure and education system being built at that time had some influence on the bright Indian minds. During the British period, the condition of farmers and cottage industry became miserable. There were several famines, killing millions of poor Indian people. Education brought-in some awareness and need for freedom was soon getting importance. Most of the freedom struggle was initiated by these educated personalities such as Chandrashekhar Azad, Bhagat Singh, Subhash Chandra Bose, Ras Bihari Bose, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawahar Lal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Dr Rajendra Prasad, Lal Bahadur Shastri. C. Rajgopalacharya and many others. There is a long list of freedom fighters and many gave their life. Details can be found elsewhere. Finally British were forced out on August 15, 1947 by the strong and persistent nationwide non-violent movement of Mahatma Gandhi and his followers, coupled with their weakened strength due to the Second World War. This independence came with yet another final blow, the country was partitioned and world’s largest population transfer took place between India and Pakistan with heavy communal violence. In 1947 independent, devastated and partitioned, yet united new India woke up after about 700 years of foreign rule. Before the British rule, India was the largest exporter of textiles and commodities in the world. Now the local textile and other industries were totally destroyed. Agriculture was in shambles, there was not enough food for the countrymen. Several world leaders including Winston Churchill expressed doubt that if India is provided freedom, it would not hold together due to low level of leadership and disintegrate with chaos and rampant corruption. All such doubts were proved wrong during the first thirty years of Indian independence. However, there are now sign of low level political leadership and corruption, but there are also efforts to overcome these evils and it is hoped that these will be controlled in the next 5- 10 years i.e. by 2025. A new central government is in position in 2014 and with the leadership of Mr Narendra Modi as prime minister, Indians hope that the country will now be on the development mode and shall overcome various difficulties currently faced by the country. There are already signs of improvement, while this writing is in progress.
There was a tremendous challenge to develop this vast and highly complex, ancient, multi-religious, multi-racial, traditional agrarian society oppressed for seven centuries with limited resources and deeply rooted caste system into a modern society which could integrate with rest of the world. I am fortunate to have been associated with this journey of Indian development through scientific research in a humble way in the field of Energy- Fuels and Lubricants. The country had to be re-developed a fresh from the grass root level, requiring changes and adjustments at different levels and that too under a secular democratic system. This was a real challenge and a very difficult task indeed involving every sphere of life and activities such as education, health care, quality of life, infrastructure, agricultural production, industrial development, defence, energy, communication, transportation, science, technology and others. There was no short cut to achieve it, only sustained and sincere efforts by all, over several decades could yield results. This journey is undoubtedly full of excitement and struggle and is being continued by the current younger generation.
1. B. Yashpal et al. “Remote sensing of the lost Sarasvati river, Proc. Indian Acad. Sci., Earth Planet science, 89, 317-331, 1980.
2. P D Oldham, The Sarasvati and the lost river of the Indian desert, J. Asiatic Soc., 34, 49-76, 1983.
3. S. Kalyanraman, “Vedic river Sarasvati- Hindu civilization, Aryan Book International, New Delhi, ISBN: 978-81-7305-365-8
4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/indus_valley_civilization 17dec.2014
5. http://asi.nic.in/asi_exca_2007_dholavira.asp 17 dec.2014
6. Patanjali Raja Yoga, Swami Satya Prakash Saraswati, Pub. S. Chand &Co, New Delhi, 1975.
7. David Gordon white, Yoga brief history of an idea, Princeton university press, USA
8. P. Priyadarshi, History of Indian Science, iitk.ac.in
9. Michel Danino, Land marks of science in early India, iisc.ernet.in
10. Satya Prakash, Founders of sciences in ancient India, New Delhi, 1965
11. Acharya P. C. Ray, A History of Hindu Chemistry from the Earliest Times to the Middle of Sixteenth Century Vol 1, 1902 and Vol. 2, 1908.
12. The Sulabha Sutras, Texts on the Vedic Geometry, Ed. Swami Satya Prakash Saraswati and Usha Jyotismati, Pub. Dr Ratna Kumari Svadhyaya Sansthana , Allahabad, India, 1979.
My Schools and University
I was less than seven years old at the time of independence and only remember that during those days processions with nationalist slogans were taken out with Indian Tricolour flags. Some neighbour Muslim families left for Pakistan but there was no communal disturbance in our village. I did not understand what was happening around. Next year when Mahatma Gandhi was shot dead in 1948, I started reading newspaper and followed the complete story of Gandhi’s assassination. I was born in British India, but my education was taking place in independent India. My initial education was in my home by my mother and father and I started reading and writing Hindi language and doing little bit of mathematical calculations. Then I went to the Government primary school straight in class IV after the head master found me fit for the class. My father knew three languages, Hindi, English and Urdu. He tried to teach me all these languages, but by the time I reached class VI and went to the Govt. middle school, Urdu was deleted from the curriculum and then I too left interest in it. At schools and colleges, I was an average student throughout and had multiple interests in art, music, religion, history, archaeology and science right from the beginning. I learnt music and harmonium playing from my mother and often got some instructions from my maternal uncle who was a village post master and a Harmonium master. I joined as a Scout and learnt paper and wood craft. I never believed in superstitions and theory of Ghosts floating around. I would organize visits along with my young friends to the places such as old abandoned forts, palaces and cremation ground where Ghosts were believed to be living. We would challenge and abuse these “Ghosts” to appear before us. We even went there in the mid-night and got threshing from parents for such adventures. I will do all work against the beliefs and superstitions such as move when a cat crosses my path. The belief is that one should not travel when a cat crosses your path. I even joined my first job at CFRI, Dhanbad on 1st April against the advice of all.
My journey to science and technology started from my middle school days when I decided that I will study science since it fascinated me, but there were no nearby schools offering science courses. My parents were worried as to how to take me to this subject. Nobody in the family or friends knew the meaning of science, its education and its scope in future life. I was also not very clear, but I repeatedly insisted on this subject, so I was sent to an intermediate college in Mauranipur, which was the only school offering science subjects in high school and was about 50 kilometres away. I stayed with my brother-in-law to take admission in class IX to study, Hindi, English, Science, Maths, and fine-arts as an optional subject. Here in Mauranipur I saw a black and white film for the first time called Rama Rajya. I was amused and surprized as to how the picture is formed on the screen. I observed lots of light rays emerging from a small opening at the rear of the theatre and was unable to understand the mechanism at that time. Later I got some old films and tried to generate a picture on the wall by focussing light from a battery operated torch, but could not get clear pictures. Perhaps this was my first encounter and experiment with modern science.
By this time Indian constitution was ready and the first election took place during this time, I vividly remember the election campaigns by different candidates. There was not much choice at that time and Congress party came to power with a pair of oxen as their election symbol.
My mother and brothers joined next year to get me through class X. Again after passing out High school (class X), there was a problem of pursuing science, since this school did not have science subjects beyond high school. Initially parents insisted that I change to arts subject. High school education was regarded as good education at that time and I was even asked to take up our family traditional job in the Tehsil or magistrate’s court. My mother finally came to my rescue and agreed that I should continue my science education. I was then packed to another district of Jalaun’s Government intermediate college in Orai, Uttar Pradesh and stayed in the boy’s hostel to complete my XI and XII classes with physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Hindi and English as subjects. This was 1955-1956 and the education medium became Hindi in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Here in GIC Orai, I became interested in debating, Hindi and English recitation and writings, National anthem singing, Antakshari (competitive Hindi poetry recitation) and many other literary activities and won several prizes in school, inter-schools district level competitions and hostel competitions. To compete in these activities, I had to read both Hindi and English literature extensively. I happened to be one of the youngest students of my class. My both height and weight were low, therefore, although interested in sports activities could not compete with the older and physically fitter boys, yet played football and tried hands on gymnastics and medium distance running. Again after passing out XII standard from UP Board, question arose about the place for higher university education. There were boys who were going for engineering and medical studies but I never thought of these subjects. I was only interested in pure science. The two nearest universities in UP from our place were Lucknow university and Allahabad University. I applied for the B.Sc. class admission in both Universities and the final choice fell on Allahabad University, since there were other known students in that university. One of my cousins had also studied History from that university. Father took me to Allahabad and admitted me to a university Hostel. Allahabad University at that time was a top university of India in science, literature and art subjects. North India’s top poets, writers, scientists, Historian, economists and academicians were there in the faculty. This university is one of the first four universities of India established in 1887 (other three being Calcutta, Madras and Bombay Universities). This was a completely new environment, a transition and adjustment from a small town to the city and university atmosphere took some time. At that time the initial introduction (Now called Ragging of new students by senior student) during the months of July/ August in the hostel was aimed at correcting this imbalance and I soon adapted to the new atmosphere. I made some new friends and started the new innings in the B.Sc. class with physics, chemistry and mathematics. There was, however, a serious problem; the medium of instruction in the university was English and I had studied so far all subjects in Hindi. Although I had studied English literature up to class XII, but I was unable to follow the Science and Maths subjects in English. One of my friend suggested that I should develop English speaking skills and we started talking only in English. This helped a little bit. I then took out an English newspaper and read it from A to Z and noted down all the words, I did not know and understood their meaning with the help of English-Hindi dictionary. I continued this exercise till I stopped getting more unknown English words in the local English daily. These two exercises helped me to start speaking in English and also understand spoken language. Technical words, were, however, taken up and understood separately. In the university there were large numbers of students interested in Administrative services. Some of my friends were also preparing for these Indian administrative services and provincial civil services examinations, but it never attracted me and I was more interested at that time in taking up teaching profession. I realized soon that I have joined a university, which is referred to as oxford of the east. The university maintained a very high standard and many top professors were associated with this university. The university produced one of the largest numbers of, scientists, writers, poets, jurists and civil servants (IAS, IFS, and PCS). I have witnessed this atmosphere (aura) in the university where most students were having scientific, literary, political or administrative aspiration and worked hard to achieve their objectives. The university also produced large numbers of top political leaders (president, vice-president, prime ministers and senior ministers), poets, and Chief justice of India. Some of the outstanding alumni of this illustrious university are as follows:
1. Dr Shankar Dayal Sharma – President
2. G. S. Pathak – Vice –president
3. Lal Bahadur Shashtri – Prime minister
4. Gulzari Lal Nanda- Prime minister
5. V. P. Singh - Prime minister
6. Chandra shekhar - Prime minister
7. Bharat Ratna Purushottam das Tandon- freedom fighter
8. H. N. Bahuguna – Dy- Prime minister and chief minister of UP
9. G. B Pant – senior home minister and chief minister of UP
10. Dr Arjun singh – senior HRD minister, chief minister of MP and Governor
11. N. D. Tiwari – senior minister, chief minister of UP, UK and governor
12. Dr. Murli manohar Joshi- senior HRD minister
13. Rang Nath Mishra – Chief Justice of India
14. K. N. Singh - Chief Justice of India
15. V. N. Khare - Chief Justice of India
16. R. S. Pathak - Chief Justice of India
17. J. S. Verma - Chief Justice of India
18. Maharishi Yogi – yoga guru
19. Madan Mohan Malaviya – founder of BHU
20. Acharya Narendra deb
21. Moti Lal Nehru – freedom fighter and father of Jawaharlal lal Nehru
22. D. S. Kothari – physicist, scientific advisor to Govt. of India and chairman UGC
23. Dr Atma Ram –former DG CSIR
24. Prof S. N. Ghosh – physicist
25. Dr Meghnath Saha – Physicist
26. Prof. K. S. Krishnan – physicist
27. Dr Gorakh Prasad – Mathematician
28. Prof. J. K. Mehta- Economist
29. Prof. N. R. Dhar – Chemistry
30. Prof. S. Ghosh - Chemistry
31. Prof. Dr Satya Prakash – Chemistry
32. Munshi Prem Chand – literature
33. Mahadevi Verma-– literature– literature
34. Sumitra Nandan Pant – literature
35. Surya kant Tripathi, Nirala – literature
36. Maithili Saran Gupta – literature
37. Upendra Nath Ask – literature
38. Harivansh Rai Bachhan – literature
39. Raghupati Sahay , Firaq - – literature
40. Subhadra Kumari Chauhan – literature
41. Akabar Allahabadi – literature
42. Dharam Vir Bharti – literature
43. B. B. Lal ( former director general of archaeological survey of India)
44. Dhirendra Verma- literature
45. Ram Kumar Verma- literature
Several of these illustrious people were in the university during my tenure as student and I have seen and listen to them on several occasions.
Large numbers of scholars are responsible for developing such characteristics high academic standard of the University. It is difficult to provide a complete list, however, some of the legendary figures include, Amaranatha Jha, , S. C. Deb and P. E. Dastoor (English), H. N. Randle, R. D. Ranade and A. C. Mukherji (Philosophy), L. F. Rushbrook Williams, Sir Shafaat Ahmad Khan, R. P. Tripathi (History), Syed Muhammad Ali Nami and M. G. Zubaid Ahmad (Arabic and Persian), P. K. Acharya, Babu Ram Saxena and K C Chattopadhyaya (Sanskrit, Syed M. Zamin Ali and Muhammad Hafiz Syed (Urdu), Beni Prasad, Tara Chand, Ishwari Prasad (all three being historians of repute) and A. B. Lal (Political Science), Meghnad Saha, K. S Krishnan, D. S. Kothari, G. B. Deodhar and K Banerjee (Physics), A C. Banerji, Gorakh Prasad, P. L. Srivastava and B. N. Prasad (Mathematics), Shri Ranjan (Botany), D. R. Bhattacharya and H. R. Mehra (Zoology), H. Stanley Jevons, S. K. Rudra, C. D. Thompson and J. K. Mehta (Economics), and T. N. Sapru (Law).
Very large number of university professors later occupied the position of vice-chancellor in different Indian universities. I may be excused for this incomplete list due to the limitation of this work. However, complete details can be found on the Allahabad University and Allahabad university alumni association web sites.
I felt blessed to have joined such a university of repute and gathered myself to acquire the knowledge which this place offered. During my initial university years, I also started reading out- of- course books, as was the tradition with senior students and studied several books about the evolution of universe, the solar system, galaxies, human beings and it had great impact on my mind and thinking. Earlier I believed that God has created the universe and all of us. This is what was taught to us by our parents, religion and the society. Now I learnt the scientific facts of creation of universe and human evolution. My beliefs were shattered and I became atheist, got confused and continued to think over the subject. The confusion, however, continued in the mind for several years, until I settled that God is one of the finest discoveries of MAN, although nobody has ever seen God. The concept of God exists only in humans and no other species believes in this hypothesis. It is good to believe in God for humans, since we use our highly developed minds for various activities and when we do this, we ourselves invite many worries and troubles. Our self-created problems can best be solved by us only, if we have mental peace. This peace can be achieved by meditation or by focussing on God and surrendering completely to him, which brings back mental equilibrium and all the problems of life can then be solved by our changed thinking process. God does not do anything, physically. Whatever is done is done by us only. Many a times, we lose our mental balance, take wrong action and then suffer. This mental balance can be restored by believing in God and sincerely praying to him. Sincere prayer is helpful and is answered. Various rituals prevalent in different society are also aimed at restoring this lost mental equilibrium. I now think that there is no point in continuing discussions whether God exists or not, since this remains and will remain unresolved mystery in the human society. It is good to believe in some form of God to meditate upon and when necessary go to him for advice for internal correction and fresh thinking. God only help those who help themselves. The concept that God is everywhere in every atom /molecule and is also within us, is wonderful. I also learnt that all religions preach similar basic things such as we should love all around us, we should not harm others, we should help needy, we should carry out all our work peacefully, honesty, sincerely and give back to the society whatever we can. In my opinion these are the key points of all religions. Many people thought that science and religion are in conflict with each other. I never thought this to be true. My simplified idea of religion is completely in harmony with science and I never felt any contradiction. In fact, I found that these synergize with each other, if we interpret religion correctly and accept it in its abstract form. Science is all about finding out truth and religions tell us to be truthful. So where is the scope for conflict? These ideas were further crystalized by listening to many religious discourses. One that influenced me recently was Sister Shivani, Brahmkumari’s discourse on television and I am providing the gist of this discourse as I understood. When I listened to this discourse, it occurred to me that, yes this is what I think and agree with. There might be some deviations from the original but this is my understanding of what sister Shivani said and I may be excused for any misinterpretation or omissions.
Chicago--- Sister Shivani, Brahamkumari’s narration of life dynamics to Kanu priya on Star TV- July 2011
Life is a complex by nature and it is important that we understand the dynamics of various factors associated with it. According to Hindu and Buddhist philosophy, the problems faced by us in our life are the outcome of our own Karma. Or in other words, we are responsible for all our problems. We often assign the cause of the problems to the other person. We suffer tremendous stress due to what others have said about us. The truth is that the cause of our problems lies within us. For example, in an office situation, if the boss tells similar harsh words to his 5 or 6 subordinates, each one will take these harsh words differently. One person may recover from these words in 5 hours, the other may recover in 10 hours, yet another will recover in 3 days , and yet another may recover in 5 days, while the fifth may never recover from this encounter and may have to ultimately leave the job, or side tracked; facing greater hardship . This example shows that while the stimulant is same, different people respond to the stimulant differently and create own problems differently. Therefore, the boss cannot be made responsible for the problems. The problem lies within us. The boss was trying to get better work for the organization. Those who understood this message quickly suffered less. Such situation comes to us frequently in our life in different relationship such as parent- child, husband- wife, between friends or in any interaction between the two personalities. The technique lies in responding to any situation in a positive manner by understanding the situation under which the other person is responding or acting. We should absorb only positive energy and reflect back any negative energy coming to us. Take another example; if there is a good news or bad news in the family, different family member take it differently and become happy or unhappy to a different degree; but the news is same for everybody. Thus, we must understand that for every happiness or unhappiness nobody else is responsible; we ourselves are responsible for it. If we train our mind in such a manner that we only receive positive energy, our worries can be controlled or reduced to a large extent. We see around us many people who are continuously unhappy and keep on blaming others for their unhappiness; but in the same environment there will be people who are relatively happy. If it is accepted that other person is responsible for our unhappiness than the other person has to change so that I become happy. But this is never going to happen. The other person is never going to change. You can’t change your boss, wife, husband, child or parent. The blame game must stop. The happiness or unhappiness is our own creation. The choice to remain happy lies within us and not dependent on others. We have to train ourselves to receive happiness. A harmony is to be established between the inner self and the outside world to achieve lasting happiness.
Our inner self is our soul or Atma. All Atma’s are pure by nature. We contaminate our inner self during our journey in the life, much in the same way as we make our white clothes dirty during a train journey. The soul, however, remains pure and white and can be easily cleaned by some practice and meditation. The concept of God helps us a great deal in handling this issue. God can be viewed as a PARAMATMA (Param atma), the purest form of Atma, and the most powerful all mighty, which constantly transmit power; energy to everybody and in return demands nothing from us. He never gets angry, he never criticizes us, he is always willing to forgive us and always ready to help us. This God could also be called Allah, Khuda, Bhagwan, Shiv, Ram, Krishna, Jesus or by any other name with which we are comfortable with and have faith in him. Now God is ever ready to help us and transmitting energy, the only problem is that we are not ready to receive this energy. God is transmitting but our receiver is not tuned to receive this energy. We need to tune up our receiver. To tune up, we have to connect ourselves to God. We cannot connect to him by just visiting the temples or churches or Mosques for a short while and carrying out certain rituals. You can also not connect to God by saying that God you are great and I am the most down trodden and a small fellow. If you feel degraded and are at a very low level, it would be difficult to connect to God. It is a question of connecting Paramatma with an Atma. One has to synchronize the frequency of his/her inner Atma with the Paramatma. Then only the connection can be established. Most people remember God when they have problems and then they want the solution from God. Nothing wrong with this, but there will be difficulty in connecting to God when there is a selfish motive involved. When you remember God from the core of your heart and from deep within, you will get connected to him and start receiving energy from God. God does not give anything material. If you ask him for Gold or a house, he cannot give it to you. The idea that God can give you everything is wrong. In fact God gives nothing. God provides you with energy and power and then with that energy you actually achieve. This energy directs and gives ideas to you to achieve what you desire. The energy and power from God clears the confusions in our mind. The mind can then think clearly and finds the solution of the problem. The better is the connectivity to the God the faster would be the solution of the problems. The connectivity can be improved by meditation. There are various ways of meditation. One can select the most convenient way of meditation. Meditation is a method of self-cleansing. Layer by layer, one has to go to his sub conscious state and remove various negative thoughts and negative energy within us. This will calm down our mind and it would be possible to take more rational decisions. With cool mind connectivity with the God improves. Negative thoughts and negative beliefs do us a great harm and restrict our performance. It is important that we clean our mind from such thoughts and perceptions. Look at the smile of a child, it is same throughout the world, but as we travel along the life, we contaminant our mind with negativity and this changes the smile characteristics. We need to understand this and remove negative thoughts and beliefs.
Throughout my life I have used a technique of my own to solve my problems. Whenever I have a problem, I go to God (Lord Shiva), remember him, put my problems to him and sit down quietly remembering him continuously. Then as I start receiving energy from him, I start getting newer ideas, new direction to solve the problems. The mind is set to work out various approaches and options in a positive manner. The problem is ultimately solved in a very simple and natural way, which was earlier thought to be a difficult one. This is also the way to convert a disadvantage into advantage in any situation in a work environment. It is a great experience to witness this power of God and once we experience it, our life is changed forever. Remember once again that God does nothing, does not give away anything material, He is there, available to all of us all the time, transmitting energy and power; we only have to tune our receiving senses to receive this energy through meditation and establishing a direct connection to the God. This is the secret of achieving success in life. I have learnt this from many discourses by noble men and women and extensive readings.
Power of mind and body
Whatever we do, we carry out work through our body. It means body is a source of energy; in fact a primary energy. Body cannot, therefore, be ignored. It must be taken care of properly. If our body is sick our action may be improper. We have to take care of this body. Body, however, works through mind; therefore, the health of the mind is important. When both mind and body works in harmony, they are capable of generating huge amount of energy. In our day to day life lot of emphasis is laid on the health of the body, but there are little efforts to keep the health of mind. Mind is the main source of generating thoughts. It is estimated that in a 24 hours’ time, average mind generates 50- 60,000 thoughts. But think about the quality of these thoughts. Most of these thoughts are negative and are discarded. These generate negative energy and affect our health of the body. Imagine if we train our mind to generate positive thoughts only. Then our productivity will improve many folds. The combined power of mind and body can create tremendous energy. We have been talking of energy at several places. Let us understand properly what we mean by the energy of mind and body of humans. Let’s take the example of holy places like temples, churches, mosques, Gurudwara or any other religious place. When we go there we feel peace, tranquillity and a different atmosphere as compared to the market, Mall, Cinema hall, club, office or home. At each of these places the atmosphere is different. Why so? It is we people who create this atmosphere. Our thought processes create this atmosphere. At each of these places we generate different kind of thoughts, and the generated energy is felt by each of the people present there. If in an office there is hatred and disliking between employees, imagine the atmosphere it will create. People will not be able to communicate with each other properly. Similarly in a home environment, if there are fights between husband and wife, the atmosphere of the house will be filled with tension. The food that is cooked in this house will not provide the same nutrition that can be provided in a house full of love. Thus, we are our own creator of positive or negative energy through mind and body. When both mind and body are in harmony, spirituality is born. The combination of these three can create wonders. It is known to the scientists that the capabilities of humans are limit less. Each one of us can create wonders. The requirement is that, we harmonize mind, body with spirituality and generate positive energy all around.
A peaceful soul will remain clam under various conditions and will always generate positive energy. Anger can be controlled only if we are peaceful from within. Those who try to control anger when it manifests, will never be able to control it. The anger is deep rooted inside us and has to be tackled at the root level. To do this, we should sit in a meditation posture and remove our upper mental layer and then auto suggest that we are a peaceful soul. By repeated exercise, we may be able to replace anger by peace within us at the root level. Once we do this, there may not be any need to control anger at the outer level; it will be automatically controlled by the peaceful soul from within. Thus to control anger we need to change our belief at the root level. We generally believe that without anger no work can be done or no body will work without you getting angry. This is a wrong belief; anger only generates negative thinking and energy which affect us as well as people around us. However, sometimes one may have to show his or her displeasure to our children or to colleagues to correct certain situation; but this should be short lived and should not affect our long term understanding and relationship.
Bhagwat Gita also had great impact on my mind. The concept of Nishkama karma is something unique and great and I tried to follow it in my life. The integration of four Yogas; Karma yoga, Gyan yoga, Bhakti yoga and Purushottam yoga, as explained by Acharya Vinoba Bhave in his Gita discourse to jail prisoners in a very simple language helped me to understand the philosophy of Gita. I think Gita is one of the greatest contributions to the world and a practical guide for life. It has universal application and must be read and understood by all irrespective of individual faith or religion. I do not consider Gita a religious book; it is a philosophy of life or a path to organise life and every individual can gain from it.
Two other books left great impact on me. One was Nobel Laureate Pearl S. Buck’s THE GOOD EARTH, where the suffering of Chinese farmers and society was described. Pearl Buck lived in China for several years and had seen the society very closely. The treatment of subject is wonderful. I found many similarities between Indian and Chinese farmers. The other book was Dale Carnegie’s HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE. During those days management courses and education were not available. This book gave me practical guideline for success in life and profession. The book repeatedly says that you must be sincere and lavish in praising people you meet or interact with, if you want to have some impact and influence on them. This means that one has to find out the good points present in every human being and bring them out clearly and sincerely. The book also tells us the power of positive thinking. In a way, such readings during my initial years in university prepared me for my future. Ancient history also interested me. My younger brother was a student of history and I used to read his history books with great interest. Then I also read Jawaharlal Nehru’s Discovery of India and Mahatma Gandhi’s “My experiments with Truth”. These provided a wide panoramic view of Indian history, its perspective, happenings around the world and how truth brings you nearer to God. Then I read Boris Pasternaik’s Dr Zivago, Leo Tolstoy’s several stories in English, Rabindra Nath Tagore’s Gitanjali (Hindi version), Haribans Rai Bachhan’s Madhushala, Munshi Prem chand’s stroies and novels, Bhagwati Charan Verma’s historical novels and many others. Thus, my university not only provided me scientific knowledge but also prepared me for the future work by understanding life as written down by great world leaders and writers. This also developed reading habits in me and during summer vacations, I and my friends would go to the nearby municipal library and read all the good novels and story books available there. I also became a regular reader of magazines such as Reader’s digest, Illustrated weekly of India, Dharmyug, Hindustan and several others available in our hostel library and later on published a couple of articles in Dharmyug and local Hindi newspapers.
When I passed my B.Sc. examination, father told me that it is now no longer possible for him to support my further education in the university and I must take up a job to clear some of the loans he has taken for my graduate studies. We were five brothers and a sister and I was the eldest, the other siblings were to be provided with further education. I understood my father’s limitation and immediately agreed to take up any available job. Father also suggested that I join a typing school so that at least a clerk’s job can be obtained. I did join the school and learnt typing for two months. It did not help me at that time. But this knowledge was immensely helpful to me when computerization started after 30 years and I could type out subject matter quickly. I am even utilizing this skill now and writing down my book manuscripts directly on the computer at a much faster rate. So you learn any skill, it never goes waste, at some point of time it would come handy and be useful. During the summer vacation of 1959, I was offered a leave vacancy clerical job in the Tehsil for about a month and I gladly took it up with Rs 95 (currently equivalent to about 1.5 US$ /month) per month salary. Soon after, I saw an advertisement in local newspaper about the post of a junior science teacher in Saraswati Intermediate College, Jhansi; I applied for it and quickly got an interview letter from the president of the school to meet him at his residence. I was then 18 years old, lean and thin built with 5 feet 3 inches height. I met the president on the assigned date; he looked at me and asked if I was SOM PRAKASH from university of Allahabad. The school president had my application with the certificates that I had attached along with it. I said yes I am. He asked if I can teach science and maths and handle students up to class tenth, who could be as large as me. I again said confidently, yes I can. That was the end of my interview, I was asked to go and next day the appointment letter was delivered to my residence. Now I had a job of science teacher with a salary of Rs 120 (2 US $) per month. Immediately after the summer vacation I joined the school. I was the youngest teacher the school had and soon got a nick name of Chhote (Little) master sahib. I was very happy since I always wanted to be a teacher. I was assigned to take science and mathematics classes for students of 8th, 9th and 10th classes. I was an untrained teacher with no previous experience of teaching but I thought I should use my debating skills (used during my intermediate school days) in teaching and make the science teaching more interesting by telling students, the basic purpose of science and its application in the real world. I found this approach had profound influence on the students and they started taking keen interest in my classes. I also emphasized that students should try to understand the fundamental concepts of science rather than cramming the subjects. I had to study hard to prepare my lectures and this exercise helped me more to clear up many scientific topics which earlier I had not understood well. Gradually I became popular in the school and several offers came my way to offer private tuitions and I was soon earning this way more than my salary. I gave all my money to my mother who saved it and it was calculated that if we can save Rs. 2000 by the end of year I can go to the university for my M.Sc. course. By June 1960 we did save close to that amount and I went back to my university of Allahabad for M.Sc. course. There was some shortage of money in the final year of M.Sc., which my mother made up by selling all her ornaments.
I was good in mathematics and thought that I should take this subject for my post-graduation. I however, applied for university admission in chemistry and mathematics. I got both the admissions and went to deposit admission fee for mathematics course. I was in the queue, when one of my friends Devendra Kumar asked me which subject I am choosing. I said Maths. He said you must reconsider and think about it and pulled me out of the queue. He explained to me that chemistry has wider scope these days and with Maths you can only think of a teaching job. I argued that this is what I want, but he persisted and finally succeeded in changing my mind to take admission in chemistry. Devendra himself took admission in chemistry and later became lecturer in the local university college. This was a turning point in my life but I did not realize it then. The two years passed without any specific event. In the final year of M.Sc. course I selected physical chemistry as my specialization due to my inherent interest in mathematics. My favourite subjects during the master course were atomic/molecular structure, radioactivity, thermodynamics, chemical kinetics, surface chemistry, colloid chemistry and electro-chemistry. In 1962 when I passed out M.Sc., we have exhausted all our financial resources and I was in urgent need of a job to support my family and myself. Many of my friends were joining research for Ph.D. (in our university it was called D.Phil.). I also thought about it but I could join research only if a fellowship is granted. I went to my head of department Prof. Dr. Satya Prakash and requested him if he can take me in as his research student. He said yes you can join but I do not have fellowship grant right now. It might be expected by year end or early next year. I politely asked him, if I can then join research next year. He said OK, you keep in touch with me, I will let you know. I came out and applied for chemistry lecturer positions in various degree colleges and also sent the application to the principal of Saraswati Inter College, Jhansi, where I earlier worked as junior science teacher. This was June end of 1962, school colleges were to open in the first or second week of July. I got couple of appointment letters from Madhya Pradesh degree colleges for the lecturer position and was in the process of deciding where to join. Suddenly I got a telegram from Saraswati Inter College informing me that I am appointed as Chemistry lecturer at a total salary of about Rs. 200 per month. I immediately decided to join my old school, since I knew that next year I am joining research in the university. I informed my University professor that I am temporarily joining an intermediate college till I get the research fellowship and explained to him my financial difficulties and he appreciated it. My these two teaching assignments in 1959 after B.Sc. and now in 1962 after M.Sc.; although gave two years break to my studies, but have been most rewarding to me in the sense that this opportunity gave me time to strengthen and consolidate my basic knowledge of science which helped me throughout my future scientific career. I found that the best way to learn is to teach students or your juniors, since we have to prepare the subject well before we can teach. Here I met my best friends Ramesh Talwar, Chandra Pal Singh, Shyam Kumar Nigam and the time we spent together was one of the best ever. I was asked in the school to set up chemistry laboratory for inspection by a UP minister and inspectors of school for providing Government grant to the school. I set up the laboratory quickly and it was ready for inspection. Our school principal, a Hindi language post graduate, told me to explain and show the lab to the minister. I was ready. On the day of inspection, principal and all other dignitaries came to the lab. Principal was already talking to them and in the enthusiasm forgot that I was to explain and talk to them about the laboratory. Principal continued to talk and started explaining various facilities and equipment in the laboratory. I had to keep quiet, at one point principal said, see these are our microscopes. I was shocked, since these equipment were chemical balances, and I was about to correct the situation. But soon, Mr Minister and all others said, good you have so many microscopes. I had no opportunity to correct the mistake. Finally school got the grant. I was congratulated for setting up such a nice laboratory by the principal. When I told the story to my friends, we had a great laugh for many days. Now I think if I would have interrupted and corrected the statement of principal, I would have lost the job and school would have been deprived of the grant. I realized how science is managed in India and how to manage it with such people around us. My teaching work continued satisfactorily and I kept in touch with my university professor for the fellowship grant. By January 1963 the fellowship was released and assigned to me. This was a Council of scientific and Industrial research (CSIR, New Delhi) junior research fellowship of Rs 250 per month plus a contingency grant of Rs. 1000 per year for research activities. Now in January, I had difficulty in leaving the school since the class XII board exams begin in early march and the course was not yet complete. I was morally bound to complete the syllabus and requested my professor if I can take up the fellowship in the middle of February 1963. He agreed and I took extra classes in the school to complete the syllabus. Soon after I joined my fellowship in the university to begin my research career and this was now going to be my life time profession.
I wondered how destiny has placed me into research in chemistry from a small unknown backward village of Bundelkhand, in Uttar Pradesh, where nobody knew anything about science or chemistry and research. Now for the next half a century I was going to do something I never imagined myself. This was another turning point in my life. My first day of taking up research in the chemistry department of Allahabad University is equally dramatic. My professor asked me to see him in the morning and I thought that he will allocate the topic for my research and guide me as to how to go about the research plan. I immediately purchased a register to note down the points. I went to his chamber. Professor was a senior head of department and was surrounded by many other senior professors. After half an hour I was allowed in and was asked to sit down on a corner chair. I remained seated for about two hours, professor continued to interact with various visitors, till it was lunch time. During the lunch he offered me a masala Dosa (a popular south Indian dish) to eat and asked me to come near him. He said Som Prakash now I give you the Guru Mantra (teacher’s abstract instructions), listen carefully. I opened the register and kept my pen ready to note down. He said Som Prakash; you have seen how busy I am. I won’t find enough time for you. Sometimes back I visited one of the Max Planck laboratories in Germany and they were working on Ultrasonic absorption in organic liquids and trying to study their structure. Can you start work on some topic like that? I tried to seek some clarification but he stopped me and said now go to the laboratory, take the help of other senior research fellow and come back to me after a few months only. You have seen how busy I am, so trouble me least. That was the end of first Guru Mantra. I went back to the laboratory and narrated the encounter to my seniors. One of the senior research fellows, Dr. J D Pandey (who himself later became head of the chemistry department of Allahabad University) suggested to me that Prof. has hinted at the subject so you can start literature search on this subject. He took me to the library and showed how this search is carried out through chemical index, chemical abstract and then if necessary full research paper by referring to the relevant journal. I started the literature search on Ultrasonic absorption from 1940 to the latest issue of the chemical abstract available in the library. There were other senior research students in the group/ department and all of them were very cooperative and helpful. Some of them were DR Feroze Manik Ichhhaporia, Dr Shiv Prakash, Dr Om Prakash, Rajendra singh, Subhash Chandra Sinha, Subhkaran Nath, Sameer Ghosh, Krishna Mohan pant, Suryaveer singh, Moti lal verma, Kunj Bihari and many others. Interaction with all of them enriched my life and knowledge.
The literature search exercise took about two months and another ten days to consolidate and finalize a proposed subject for my thesis. I also worked out the requirements of equipment for this project, discussed with my seniors and went to the professor. After reading the project details, he asked the cost of the equipment required. I said about Rs. 30-40,000. He said no way; you have only Rs 1000 as contingency and department does not have any fund like this. You forget about this project and do something else on Ultrasonic velocity studies of complex compounds and see if you can study their structures. My two and half month effort has gone waste. I had to carry out the literature search again for the next two months on the new subject of Ultrasonic velocity. An ultrasonic generator was available in the department, I had to carry out certain modification to measure velocities at three different temperatures and design a new cell with optically plane glass. There was photography involved with the experiments so I joined a diploma course in photography and also a German language course which was compulsory (any foreign language) for a research student. Studies were carried out in thorium nitrate and silver nitrate solutions and some interesting results were obtained and I tried to correlate these with viscosity and density values and derived an empirical equation.
I now went to the professor after about another three months and when he saw the data and written material, he asked me to convert the paper in Hindi for publication in Vigyan Anusandhan Patrika. Professor was the chief editor of this only Hindi language research journal in India. This was another challenge to write a technical research paper in Hindi. Professor gave me a technical English- Hindi dictionary. I wrote this paper first in English and then translated in Hindi and repeatedly corrected it 6 to 7 times before finalization. What an experience during the first six month of my joining research. Without interacting much with me, my professor trained me how to select a research subject, how to write a review, how to carry out research and how to write a research paper both in English and Hindi. Professor used to tell us that the best guide is he who does not guide and the best administrator is he who does not administer. I could not understand the meaning of these words at that time, but now I realize the power of those strong words and the style of guidance he adopted. He made all his students independently thinking scientists capable of taking up any research project in any field. I was observing other students in the department carrying out research with other professors who were extensively guided and even the research papers and thesis were written by the professors. I felt envious at that time with those students, but I soon realized that one must work hard to learn and carry out thing independently. Later, I tried to use a similar technique to train my juniors and subordinates so that they become independent and are capable of taking up any project with confidence. How true is the Chinese proverb that ‘if somebody is hungry, do not give him food, instead teach him how to catch the fish, he will then never remain hungry’. This is how my research career was launched and I remain ever indebted to my guide and professor who put me on to the greater journey to research and development for the next half a century. I had to change my thesis subject from “Ultrasonic absorption studies in chemical systems” to “Ultrasonic velocity in chemical systems” after about six months and was worried that this will eventually take me longer to complete my doctorate work. However, I tried to make up the loss by working extra time in the laboratory, sometimes late in the night. To my surprise I found that working in the night was better, since the electricity voltage was more stable and I was obtaining stable results from my experiments. Slowly my research work started, my thoughts started taking shape. My two ideal scientists were Albert Einstein and French scientist Louis De Broglie (who stated in his very short doctorate thesis in 1924 that any moving particle or object had an associated wave; published in Ann. de Physique, 10, 3, 22, 1925). De Broglie created a new field in physics, called wave mechanics, uniting the physics of energy (wave) and matter (particle) and won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1929. I learnt from De Broglie that one must be precise and short in explaining scientific matters. Einstein was, however, genius and it is a dream for every scientist to be like him.
In mid-1965 my experimental work was over and I started writing my thesis. I showed it to my professor who after reading it, said that you must correlate your experimental data with mathematical equation based on Debye-Huckel-Onsager equation. He also said that go to the central library and you will get the original paper of Debye. I thought earlier that it would be possible to submit the thesis within a month, but now professor has brought in a completely new dimension which was not part of the initial topic and I had to work afresh. I was really worried and even thought that perhaps I would not be able to finish my thesis. I continued my efforts to find a solution to correlate experimental data with a mathematical equation. I was thinking of this problem all the time and completely absorbed with it, almost to the level of obsession. After about two months efforts I could think of a solution and developed an equation acceptable to professor and he finally said this is all right and you can go ahead with the typing of the thesis. He also said that write a research paper giving the details of your mathematical equation and send the paper for publication in American chemical society journal “J. physical chemistry”. I did that but had doubt if this could be accepted for publication by such a reputed journal. However, to my surprise the paper was accepted without any modification or suggestion from the editorial board of the journal. In the next two months I then submitted the thesis for doctorate degree. I learnt a lesson that if you face a tough problem, get absorbed in it completely, think of it all the time and you will get the right answer. Dr Alfred Wissler of Naval research laboratory USA who had done pioneer work on the application of Ultrasonics was appointed as my external examiner. Dr A B Biswas of National Chemical Laboratory, Pune was selected as my internal examiner. I again wondered why my professor is appointing tough examiners for my thesis. Dr A. Wissler appreciated the work and gave a good report on my thesis. By the end of November 1965 my viva- voce was over and I was recommended for the award of D. Phil. Degree. University convocation was to be held in December, and it was just in time that all the requirements were completed for the award of the degree. Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri came for the convocation ceremony and I got the degree from him. The Indo Pakistan war of 1965 was over and Shastri ji went to Tashkent in January for the Indo-Pak peace treaty and never returned alive. It was a great personal loss for me and I was shocked as the memory of the doctorate degree award was still fresh in the mind. In 1965, when I along with other friends got our doctorate degrees, we were in Great Spirit to do some good research work for India and we thought we shall bring India at par with other developed western world soon. This was a great experience of getting initiated into research and I learnt that one must accept challenges gracefully, work hard on them and at the same time never miss an opportunity. These do not come very often and if we overlook any one of it, we will miss the bus. It never occurred to me, till I completed my M.Sc. that one day I will obtain a doctorate degree in science, yet it happened smoothly within three and half year of my passing master’s course. I also realized that if we have a singular goal in our mind and work towards it sincerely, no power on earth can prevent it from happening. How true is Bhagwata Gita’s teaching that one must work sincerely and honestly without bothering for the end result? The end result will automatically come to us. It may be argued that in Industrial research Bhagwat Gita’s principle cannot be applied as we first decide the end result or goal and then plan the research activities. The explanation is that Bhagwat Gita never says that one must not have a goal or objective in life. After all, the Gita sermon was given by Lord Krishna to Arjun when he was waging a war to win over Kauravas. There was a definite objective for this war. If there is no goal there may not be any activity. However, while pursuing goals we must not be all the time concerned or obsessed with these goals and get confused like Arjuna. Sometimes failure is more meaningful and learning from failures leads to the success. It is said that Edison failed one thousand times before he could produce a workable electric bulb. What is required is that our efforts must be sincere and consistent; success will eventually surface. I will add that in scientific research, knowledge (Gyan) and the ability to convert this knowledge into new-knowledge, products and processes are also very important for the success. This ability need to be cultivated by the individual scientist through proper orientation of the mind. The mind can be oriented towards such thinking by constantly reminding ourselves that the purpose of research is to improve the living standard of human society, to unfold truth, to understand the mysteries of nature. If the R&D is carried out in a business environment, we should learn to convert the existing and new generated knowledge into products and processes, useful to the organisation. Knowledge is continuously being up-graded and so our industrial products and processes would need continual changes. In fact, the entire life is very dynamic and requires proper management of these changes. Everything is changing very fast; nature is changing every minute. If you look at a tree carefully in the morning, day time, evening and in the night, it is different; its shade, colour, leaves position changes with the movement of the sun and wind direction. We, therefore have to keep pace with these changes. If the change is not managed very well, we will fall behind and very soon would be out-dated. Life also offers many opportunities and challenges to us as we travel through it. Opportunities must be utilized well and challenges to be faced boldly and courageously. Alternately these challenges should be converted into opportunities.
I was in university of Allahabad for about eight years completing my graduation, post-graduation, doctorate degrees and some post-doctoral work. The academic atmosphere was superb; I was on the learning mode and shaped my future scientific career in this environment. Students were proud of their alma mater. This University transformed me completely from a raw village student to a dynamic forward looking young scientist capable of handling any research project. Things however, went wrong in University system during mid-1970s or early 1980s that the whole system was politicised, funds were reduced and academic appointments were regularly challenged in the courts. Senior Professors and faculty members got frustrated, good students than stayed away from it and preferred to join newly created Indian Institute of technology or other institutions. Thus an, excellent institution of higher learning was reduced to a mediocre institution. Efforts have been made recently (July 2005) to revive this university by granting more funds and converting it into a central university. Restoration of the original Central University Status has started a new Chapter in the evolution of the University to regain its original stature as an internationally acclaimed institution of higher learning. The University has to renovate its academic system, reinforce its teaching, research and residential facilities to align with the global standards of higher education. Most of the old Government funded universities are also in the similar situation and are in need of financial assistance to improve educational standards. Government funded universities have the disadvantage that they cannot generate their own funds, tuitions fee is negligible to cover the costs and the department have to solely dependent on government funds for research and teaching. This system needs a change, tuitions fee should be enhanced to a reasonable level, students should be encouraged to take up part time assignments in the university itself ( similar to US system) to support their studies. Alternately, bank loans are now available for students. Industry sponsored research projects should be encouraged to generate funds.
By the time, I completed my Doctorate work (1965), War devastated Europe had already recovered, where nearly seventy percent industrial infrastructure was destroyed. The economic recovery, however, varied from country to country. Britain took a couple of decades to recover. On the contrary, India in 1947, had no infrastructure, hardly any industry, we had a huge population to feed and vast land to develop. We had a glorious ancient past and our young minds felt that we have a big role to play in the development of our country. Our minds were, however, heavily loaded with the past Indian Glory and lots of negativity of long foreign rules. This could hinder new thinking, new developments and required to be resolved with greater sensitivity. Most of the technology products were imported at the time of independence, therefore, India embarked upon import substitution development programmes, due to the scarcity of foreign exchange. There was very little export to support import. Most newly formed institutions and also the existing organizations started working on this principle. All young researchers were put into this circuit. I was now ready to have an encounter with both science and technology in my country. This book traces the experience that I had in this journey in various Government supported research laboratories and in a public sector industrial research environment. I think this experience may be useful to young scientists embarking upon their research career in the 21st century to take India forward. The new generation may also understand the circumstances under which the first generation of Indian scientist worked and how difficult it was to overcome the dogmas and doctrines attached to our society and systems.
Research to technology development
I submitted my doctorate thesis in the month of July 1965 and started looking for research jobs in various Indian organizations. I applied for the scientist post in Bhabha atomic research, Bombay, senior scientific assistant position in National chemical laboratory Pune and central fuel research Institute, Dhanbad, in Bihar (now in Jharkhand). It is important to narrate another important event of my life. In July or August 1964 when I was at the final stage of completing my experimental work on Ultrasonic velocity in complex compounds and electrolytes, my guide admitted Miss Shobhay Laxmi Kapur as his new Ph.D. student, who was a M.Sc. Chemistry topper of Sagar University, Madhya Pradesh and my professor was one of the examiner during her university practical examination. She was assigned the same topic which I had perused for my research so that the research is extended further in this field. Obviously I had to interact and guide her initially as our professor was busy as usual. I thus got another opportunity to guide research indirectly at the end of my research work in the university. We liked each other soon. Our respective parents were any way looking for suitable matches for us. We thought that parents can’t find better match than us and perhaps destiny has brought us together. We were matured enough by now to decide to marry after completing our research and both of us finding suitable Jobs. In fact our Professor wrote to our parents for the proposal. My parents agreed quickly, but Shobhay’s parents were initially hesitant, obviously due to the social and financial status differences in our families. Shobhay’s father was a senior district and sessions Judge and he took time to think and decide. Finally he also agreed and later on he encouraged and supported us well. This was another important turning point in my life. The life after our marriage was entirely changed; we synergized each other and much that we achieved in our career and scientific work has to do with this relationship. In early 1966, I got all the three appointments in BARC, NCL and CFRI Dhanbad. NCL job was under a scheme for a limited period so I did not consider it. BARC job was in Bombay (now Mumbai). I thought BARC may be more suitable for nuclear scientists or physicist. We both came from small cities and did not like to live in a mega city like Mumbai at that time, so that was also rejected and I joined CFRI on 1st April 1966 to begin my scientific career.
Let me narrate a little secret in my success in the interviews. When I was preparing for the interviews I came across a book on How to prepare for the interviews. I do not remember the name of the author now but the guidelines were so good that I followed the system. It said, the first question in the interview for a fresh Ph.D. aspirant is generally “What work you have carried out during your research”. The key was that the first question should be so answered that it guides the expert interviewer to the next question which you know very well. This practise should be continued in the further questions and answers. Based on this principle, I prepared three model interview scenarios. I have been following this in all my future interviews and got success wherever there was a clear vacancy and there was no background decision already made. I have however, prepared my physical chemistry subjects very well and summarized 1000 pages of Samuel Glasstone’s physical chemistry book in about ten pages for my quick revision before the interview. These two steps helped me a great deal in shaping my future scientific career. I learnt a lesson that for success in meeting or interview or in any interaction is that we must prepare well by exploring various options necessary for the occasion and must anticipate questions from audience and be ready with the answers. There is no other short cut for the success.
Shobhay completed her Ph.D. in December 1966 in a record time of two and half year and got an ad hoc lecturer appointment in the department of chemistry of Allahabad University. We were engaged in March 1967 and got married on 19 November 1967. Our Prof Dr Satya Prakash attended the wedding and later gave a lavish dinner party, inviting all the university staff and professors. He became a fatherly person for us and visited later on at almost all the places we lived in Dhanbad, Jorhat, Delhi and Faridabad. He became a Sanyasi; leaving all his possession after his retirement and devoted full time to Arya Samaj work and extensively travelled all over the world preaching Vedic philosophy. He translated Rig Veda into English and wrote several books on Arya Samaj and Indian culture. He is our true Guru (teacher) who shaped our life; converted us from raw-science student to mature researchers and his training is responsible for what we achieved in our scientific endeavours. After our marriage Shobhay left the university lecturer position and joined me in CFRI as a CSIR Post-doctoral senior research fellow and started working on the Coal constitution with a senior scientist Mr B.K.Majumdar. I was working in the Chemical Physics group headed by Dr H. S. Rao. This was the beginning of our Industrial research in an Indian CSIR laboratory.
Central fuel research institute (CFRI) was established in November 1946, and is a unique Institute of its kind in India under CSIR, New Delhi to conduct research in different areas of Fuel Science and Technology with emphasis on coal and lignite. It was a large institute with about 1000 scientists and supporting staff. The founder director was Dr Whitaker who structured this laboratory on the lines of British coal research. After Whitaker, Dr A. Lahiri took over as director. CFRI has been working on several interesting projects such as coal gasification, coal-hydrogenation, coal-carbonization, coal-washing processes, fly ash utilization, coal-tar by-product utilization, coal-constitution, coal-beneficiation, fertilizers from coal, coal- survey and many other areas. Institute had also established several pilot plants to study Indian coals utilization. They did good work in all these areas. Several coal washeries have been established based on their technology. Several survey stations were also established providing support to the coal industry. Extensive research facilities were provided. I find that CFRI (now named as central institute of mining and fuel research) is still working on most of these projects, may be on different aspects. Germany produced fuels and other products from coal during the Second World War. South Africa’s Sasol is one of the world’s largest coal based fuel and lubricant producing industry and are providing this technology worldwide. India is still working on this technology and somebody is planning to import it from Sasol.
In the chemical physics group where I was working, modern analytical equipment such as gas-chromatograph, IR spectrophotometer, NMR, Mass spectrometer and other necessary equipment were available. I had not seen and worked on these systems and it was a great opportunity for me to work on such advance instruments. This group was working on various chemical conversion processes such as alkylation, de-alkylation, dis-proportionation and isomerization of various coal tar products to obtain value added products. I was assigned a project to separate alkyl naphthalenes from drained naphthalene oil (called DNO from Durgapur chemical, West Bengal) and then isomerize the mixture into the more useful isomer and also de-alkylate to obtain naphthalene through catalytic gas phase reaction. These were completely new projects for me but with my training at the university, I quickly learnt the subject and started work which involved fractionation (In a packed and spinning band-Podbeilneck fractionation system), solvent extraction, sweating, analysis of various fractions by GC and IR, Preparation of Alumina- silica catalyst, gas –phase reactions and their kinetics etc. I completed this work in about two years and produced a report and two research papers. Next, I was asked to work on the utilization of Aromax/ Iomax, an aromatic extract from Barauni/Guwahati refinery. I characterized this product and submitted a report. CFRI taught me how to handle industrial research projects and also got exposure to analytical techniques. However, my work remained un-utilized as there was no industry linkage by the laboratory. This is one of the great weaknesses of most of the Government supported and funded research laboratories. Scientists, have to be generally satisfied with the publication of a research paper or filing a patent. For technology development this is not enough. During my stay in CFRI, I also got an opportunity to write my first book on “High Polymers” which was published by S. Chand and Co, New-Delhi. This required me to read and consult many books on Polymer, Plastics, resins and elastomers. I also got an opportunity to translate about 100 pages of Wealth of India- raw material into Hindi language on behalf of CSIR. Thus, I got enough opportunity in CFRI to improve my knowledge and expertise in many areas, but I felt sad that the work I did, could not find industrial application. Similar situation prevails in most government funded laboratory even now. The laboratories spend huge amount of money in recruiting, training of scientists and creating expensive infrastructure, but do not plan their projects well in co-ordination with the user industry with the result that the work carried out by scientists remain within the laboratory or at the best get converted into a research paper or patent. I started feeling uncomfortable and was thinking how I carry out research so that it is useful to the industry. I was, however, too young to come out with a solution, since this was an organizational problem. Nevertheless, I was on a learning mode and realized the weak link responsible for this state of affairs in our government funded research institutions.
My head of the department Dr H S Rao, then an assistant director, was a great speaker, he will come to our laboratory and talk to us for hours on various current subjects and I thoroughly enjoyed and learnt from these talks. I and my colleague Mr R N Bhattacharya were working together in this laboratory. Dr H S Rao had good knowledge about the current Indian hydrocarbon and chemical Industry and we certainly gained from these interactions. Later on again in 1973, I and Dr H S Rao happened to work together in Indian oil corporation Research and development centre. Dr Rao was heading analytical division and I was then working in the product development division.
In 1968, I happened to see an advertisement for Scientist post in another sister CSIR laboratory in Jorhat, Assam. I applied for it and got the selection with several increments in Scientist –B grade. It was also promised, during the interview that my wife would be accommodated as a post doctorate research fellow. The Regional research laboratory, Jorhat was a CSIR laboratory, therefore I asked for the transfer and it was granted. Thus, we moved to Jorhat, Assam in February 1969. Both of us were attached with the Petroleum Department. Dr M.S. Iyengar was the director and he was also an ex CFRI scientist. There were many other former CFRI scientists working in this institute. Jorhat is a beautiful small town not far from Brahamputra River and the RRL was at the out skirt of the town on Jorhat- Guwahati road. The air force base and airport were very close to it. People were friendly; environment of the laboratory was excellent and ideal for research and academic work. CFRI Dhanbad on the contrary was in coal field area, full of pollution and black coal dust in the atmosphere. This change of place was very soothing to the mind and body and we quickly absorbed ourselves in the work. Dr Iyengar knew that I am a physical chemist so he had kept many projects ready for me to handle. There were several issues involved with different projects in bio-technology, cement, petroleum and paper divisions. I was immediately assigned following problems:
1. Separation of single cell protein from the microbial broth obtained after the fermentation of gas-oil. The proteins were in emulsion form (gas-oil-water emulsion stabilized by yeast cells)
2. Fermentation of slack wax in solid phase for single cell protein production
3. Pour point depressant and flow improvers additives for crude oil transportation
4. Improving crude oil production through additives
5. Microencapsulated reactive dyes coating for carbon-less papers
6. Water purification through candle filtration and anti-bacterial coatings
7. Oil well cement additives
8. Slow release polymer coated fertilizers
9. Pressure sensitive adhesives
Emulsion science has been my favorite subject, so I started the first two projects. I studied the emulsion characteristics of oil-water-yeast cell system and found that this emulsion can be easily broken by adding benzoic acid in small quantity which also act as preservative for the yeast cells. Earlier method used was solvent extraction using large quantities of low boiling solvent. The process was patented and tried out on a one ton pilot plant. The single cell protein thus isolated was also subjected to trial and no after taste was felt by volunteers. In gas oil, only linear paraffins are utilized by the yeast cells. It was therefore thought that slack wax could be used for this process in place of gas oil. However, the problem was that being solid; it could not be utilized by the yeast cells easily due to low available surface area. Efforts to utilize some of the known emulsifies were not successful, since the yeast would eat away the emulsifier itself. I found that the cause of failure was the use of long straight chain emulsifier molecule, which was preferentially used up by the yeast cells. I therefore, selected a combination of non-ionic emulsifier and formed a meta-stable emulsion of slack wax. This was easily fermentable and the problem was resolved. Everybody was very happy with these two quick successes in about eight months’ time. This was pure application of existing fundamental knowledge of physical chemistry to solve industrial technology problems.
I learnt from this exercise that whenever an industrial problem is to be handled, first of all the basic fundamentals issues involved must be studied and investigated and then look for a simple solution rather than looking for a sophisticated complex solution. There are always more than one solutions of a problem and the best solution is the simplest one, which can be adopted quickly. There is tremendous amount of knowledge already available and developed countries are investing heavily to generate new knowledge. In the absence of adequate funds, we will not be able to match these countries in the generation of advance new knowledge for at least some time. Therefore, the best option is to utilize existing knowledge to develop new products and processes. Throughout my career I have used this principle successfully. What we have to do is to sit comfortably when we have a problem, relax and go to the fundamental cause of the problem. Then think of possible two or three solutions and finally select the simplest solution. Most of the time, one can even convert a disadvantage in life into an advantage through this process. I have repeatedly used this in my life and it works well without fail.
It is in Jorhat, Assam that we got our first son, Ashwin Prakash on 11th May 1970, which meant a new dimension to our life. Ashwin Prakash is now a doctor and an assistant professor in Harvard University medical school and an Associate in the department of Paediatric Cardiology, Children hospital, Boston. We got our second son, Amit Prakash while in Faridabad in January 1978. Amit completed his masters from the university of Illinois in Electronic and telecommunication engineering and computer science followed by another masters in management information system. He is currently a senior manager in Amazon web services in Seattle, Washington. We strongly opposed caste system of India and therefore, decided that our children would not have the surname indicating the caste or sub-caste. We also now have three grandsons (Aarav prakash, Manav prakash and Aahan prakash) who are natural US citizens. Our two loving daughter-in-laws (Dr Jyoti and Shalini) also work in their respective senior position in the United States. Wife Shobhay laxmi rose to the position of additional director in Cement research Institute of India (now NCCBM) and superannuated in 2002. This lovely family support provided me great incentive, mental peace and encouragement during my work in IOC and in my post retirement work. Most of the usual family life problems and issues were resolved quite successfully. Now, when I review my life, I feel happy, completely satisfied and sometimes astonished that I have been blessed with so much that I could have ever thought or imagined.
Next I took up the crude oil additives problems and studied large number of polymeric and surface active compounds available within India. This was not a single problem but a bundle of multiple problems associated with the crude oil production technology. Assam is in Crude oil production zone and I visited Oil India and Assam Oil Company to understand their problems. In pumping well there was the problem of wax deposition and flow problems in high wax containing, high pour crudes. There were several multinational companies offering their products and services to resolve these issues. I studied the available literature on this subject, obtained most of such products and designed laboratory experimental system to study the problems. Couple of solutions were arrived at and we started to look for field trials with crude oil producing companies in Assam. In the meantime micro-encapsulation technology was also developed using reactive dyes and gelatine coacervate and an Indian patent filed. Presently this technology is also utilized for the production of nano-particles.
The water quality in Assam has been bad and RRL had developed ceramic candles for water filtration, which was capable of removing suspended impurities. However, the requirement was that of bacteria free water. The imported candles at that time were removing both suspended impurity and bacteria from Assam water. I was assigned this problem of making filtered water free from bacteria. It was found that colloidal or nano-silver particles have been used to deactivate bacteria. I then developed a process to deposit nano-silver particles at the pores of ceramic filters. This was quite successful and we manufactured 500 water filter candles with this process and supplied to a customer. The process was commercialized and an Indian patent filed. I also investigated oil well cement additives required by the oil industry for cementing drilled well. Flow properties of the cement slurry had to be improved and the cement setting period to be retarded. I could only complete initial work when I had to move on to other areas. Here also I kept my writing interest and wrote a book on “Free Radicals” in Hindi for Uttar Pradesh Hindi Granth academy and later on won a literary award from UP Government in 1976 for this work under the leadership of Acharya Hazari Prasad Dwivedi. I also wrote couple of popular science articles which were published in Science Reporter (CSIR), Kheti (IARI) and other magazines, I do not remember now.
This was around 1971 when Indian Oil Corporation advertised the posts for research scientist for their proposed new research and development centre. It was not clear at that time where this centre is going to be created. The advertisement was by the Bombay headquarter so it was presumed that possibly the centre would be in or near to Bombay (now Mumbai). I applied for it, got the interview call for 4th July 1972 and extensively interviewed and asked specific questions about petroleum additives such as pour point depressant and Viscosity index improver and their mechanism. I was, however, prepared to answer all the questions and soon the appointment letter was received on 28th July 1972. There were eight other research scientists recruited by IOC as the first batch of scientists for the R&D centre. I was, however, the last to join as I was not released from my CSIR post earlier than December 1972.
In the mean time during early 1972, I was already promoted to Scientist C level in The RRL Jorhat, Assam. It was difficult to convince Director RRL to relieve me, but finally I was relieved on 31st December 1972 to enable me to join IOC R&D centre in Delhi on January 3rd 1973. Soon, wife also followed me and joined Cement research Institute of India in Ballabhgarh (near Faridabad); not very far from IOC research centre, as a scientist in 1974. Thus, when I joined IOC R&D centre, I had with me ten years of highly diversified research experience (3 years in University and seven years in CSIR laboratories) on a varieties of subjects such as Ultrasonic, coal-chemicals, fuels and petroleum products utilization, Crude petroleum additives, bio-technology, micro-encapsulation, fertilizers, paper surface coating, surfactants and polymer coatings etc. Thus when I joined IOC research centre, I had both fundamental and sufficient Industrial research experience and was ready to take up any R&D project. The initial training that I got at my university and CSIR laboratory is going to be of immense help to me in my new assignment. IOC R&D centre was required to develop lubricants and the facilities were going to be created in Faridabad near Delhi. For the manufacture of lubricants, chemical additives are most essential ingredient and I was assigned to look after these additives in addition to develop industrial lubricating oils. This centre was going to be my research arena for the rest of my working career. The career spanning over a period of 28 years has influenced my life tremendously and is responsible for providing me immense satisfaction with respect to both career growth and scientific development. I joined IOC R&D centre with some of the lessons learnt during my last ten years of research and teaching experience and formulated some of the following basic principles which I pursued throughout my work in IOC. Joining IOC R&D centre is another turning point in my career.
1. Be straight forward and simple in your dealings with your juniors and seniors
2. Juniors must be trained with whatever knowledge you have and these are our assets in a team work
3. Seniors need to be respected but not flattered and to be handled cautiously
4. If you have courage and conviction, nobody can prevent you from doing whatever you want (for a just cause)
5. Try to convert the existing knowledge into workable products and processes, but the knowledge must be upgraded continuously
6. Learn to convert a disadvantage into advantage by your appropriate actions
7. In an industrial research environment, you and your team members have to justify your presence in the organization. Your work should be accountable and provide the organization enough business to justify the investment on you and your project.
8. Organization and country are supreme and we are answerable to them.
I kept on repeating these words to myself and also to my entire team member throughput, which has been my basic management system. Later on as I learnt modern management systems, various tools have been applied additionally to realize our goals. I also learnt and enriched my experience from several senior technical professionals in IOC including Dr G Jayarama Rao and Dr J S Ahluwalia. I must confess that this has been very successful model and all my scientific team members contributed to the best of their ability. I however, learnt later that many of my team member felt that I was bit hard on them; but amazingly they also felt that their welfare and interest in the organization have been well protected and they gained technically. My sole interest was to get best out of my colleagues to meet organizational objectives. I thus call the entire experience as my journey with science and technology as I had no background, no support and no resources to take this journey. Perhaps this is the story of many young Indians of my time who came from small villages of India and took up science and technology as their profession and succeeded. I still quite do not understand the motivation behind this. It seems that it was an inner urge to do something different from what people around you have been doing and a strong focus on that objective. Rest of the things then fell in line with my thinking.
It is now important to describe the development of India’s oil sector and the creation of research and development facilities to meet its technology needs. This is one of the most fascinating and successful story of administration and management under a public sector environment. I was associated with the R&D centre of IOC from the very beginning till my superannuation in the year 2000 and have seen its formation, development and achievements.
India’s oil sector
The first oil well in India was drilled in Nahorpung, 30 miles south-east of Digboi. This event took place just seven years after the first oil well was drilled by William Drake in Pennsylvania, USA in 1859. The presence of oil deposits in India was a chance discovery in 1866 in the jungle of Assam state by an elephant, whose leg was found to be drenched with oil. The first Asian oil refinery was established in 1901 by Assam oil company in Digboi with a capacity of 500 barrel per day. This refinery is still working and is world’s oldest operating refinery, currently owned by Indian Oil Corporation. However, this refinery has undergone several up gradation and is now a modern refinery. At the time of independence in 1947 India produced and refined only 0.25million tons of crude oil in this sole refinery. In the first decade after independence, three coastal refineries were established by Burmah Shell, Esso Stanvac and Caltex; adding about 4.8 million ton per year refining capacity. In August 1958, Indian refineries Ltd was established followed by setting up of Indian oil company on 30th June 1959 to oversee marketing operations. These two companies were then merged to form the present Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. on 1st September 1964. This new entity then set up three refineries at Guwahati (with Romania collaboration), Barauni and Baroda (with Soviet collaboration), enhancing India’s refining capacity to 12.7 MMT/year by the end of 1960’s. These initial collaborations have been of tremendous help to young IOC engineers to understand refinery design, construction, commissioning and their operations. Their work and dedication under adverse conditions laid the foundation for the future projects on their own. The decade of 1960’s was witnessing a series of changes in the industrial policy of Government of India. Nationalistic policies were leading to the creation of public sector undertakings at the cost of private sectors. The Industrial Policy resolution of 1956 sought public control of industries of basic and strategic interests. The main reason behind such a decision was the lack of interest by the private sector controlled by foreign companies to participate in the economic development programmes in India. Private Banks, oil companies (Burmah Shell, Esso and Caltex) and several other private enterprises were then nationalized. Two new oil public sector companies named Hindustan Petroleum Corporation and Bharat Petroleum corporations were created to take over these foreign oil companies. In 1974 Indo Burmah petroleum Co was taken over by Government and renamed as IBP Ltd in 1983. This was subsequently taken over by IOC in 2002 and merged with IOC in 2007. The lubricating oil blending facility (IOBL) created with Mobil collaboration was also taken over in July 1974 by IOC and thus the entire oil sector was operating under Government control. Only Castrol was operating with a changed equity and name as Indrol Lubricants and Specialties Pvt Ltd. There might be some other minor companies operating with low turnover but these were insignificant. A need was now felt to set up a design and engineering company to support refining industry in India and Indian oil took the lead to create such a central design and Engineering cell. This cell was later separated out as an independent public sector undertaking, known as Engineers India Ltd (EIL) in 1965. In 1967 EIL became a wholly owned Government of India enterprise. Creation of EIL was a right step towards achieving technical competency in the area of oil and gas and refining. EIL became a major player in the design, development and technology absorption for oil industry in India and later on in the other neighbouring countries. EIL is now capable of designing, constructing and commissioning a complete grass root modern refinery and a petro-chemical plant. EIL has now further diversified itself to cover many areas of technology and has also established its own research and development centre in Gurgaon, Haryana, which further strengthened its activities. They also collaborated with various research organizations such as Indian institute of petroleum Dehradun and IOC research centre and developed several joint projects and processes.
As the demand of petroleum products increased, due to industrialization, more refineries and expansion of the existing refineries took place. In the year 1970’s Haldia refinery in West Bengal and in 1982, Mathura refinery in UP were commissioned by IOC. However, IOC did not have lubrication oil business. To bridge this technology gap IOC entered into collaboration with Mobil Oil Corporation to blend and distribute Mobil branded products in India and a new company Indian oil blending Ltd was formed with a 50:50 partnership in 1962. This gave IOC a good opening into the marketing of lubricants. This agreement was further extended for another six years in 1968. IOC sales and technical engineers were trained to provide technical services to the end user customers. During this period, Castrol, Shell, Esso and Caltex products were also available in India. I think the planners at that time did a wonderful work, they, it appears had the vision as to how to go about the entire development of the petroleum industry phase by phase. Having set up refineries and lubricating oil manufacture through collaborations, they now planned to manufacture base oils and additives required by the lubricant industry. By late 1960’s Lube India Ltd (with Esso collaboration) in Mumbai and Madras refineries Ltd in Chennai were set up to produce lubricating base oils in India from imported crude. Lubricant additive manufacturing plant was set up in collaboration with Lubrizol USA in 1969. Thus by 1970 lubricating base oils and additives were produced in India, but still the lubricant technology was not available. Information and some help were, however, available from Lubrizol for manufacturing some grades of automotive and industrial oil by utilizing Lubrizol additive packages. Indian Institute of Petroleum was able to certify products for supply to defence and some other strategic organizations.
Oil industry Research needs
The entire manufacture of refinery products and lubricants in India before 1970 was based on technology acquired from multinational companies. There was Indian Institute of Petroleum under CSIR to meet the basic testing and development work. This institute was set up with the collaboration of IFP France and did a good job in developing human resources to take up future activities in the field of petroleum and Lubricants. This institute had also good linkages with the oil industry and most of the existing refineries and oil companies took the help of IIP for their testing, training and development needs. For the first time an engine testing laboratory was established in IIP which provided certification for lubricants quality. They also developed several refinery technologies which could be transferred to industry through joint collaborative programmes with Engineers India Ltd. According to IIP thirty eight technologies having licensed capacity of about 28 million tons per annum have been transferred to industry. Several Indian refineries in the country have technologies licensed by the Institute. Even though IIP developed expertise in refining processes and Lubricant testing, the development of Lubricant was a gap area. The requirements of defence and other industrial sectors were crucial. Lubricant technology at that time was a trade secret and a highly guarded technology.
There were other CSIR laboratories like Central fuel research Institute Dhanbad now in Jharkhand, RRL Jorhat in Assam and Indian institute of chemical technology in Hyderabad who were also carrying out work in the field of Coal and petroleum. These laboratories developed good researchers and scientists and provided extremely good training. Many of these scientists then moved to Industrial research in other sectors and provided leadership.
Need for Lubricant Research
The two wars on Indian borders in 1960’s and 1970’s brought out several constraints in the supply and distribution of strategically important petroleum products and it became necessary to develop complete capability and self-sufficiency in the field of fuels and lubricants. The efforts to renew IOC-Mobil agreement at the mutually agreeable terms and conditions beyond 1974 did not materialize. It was under these circumstances that the idea came to set up independent Research and Development facilities for developing entire lubricant technology to meet the growing demands of developing industry and defence establishment. The feasibility report of IOC for setting up a research centre was approved by Government of India in 1971 and 65 acres of land was allotted in Faridabad, Haryana for this purpose. Dr J S Ahluwalia the then Deputy General Manager at IOC’s Haldia refinery was designated as Head R&D centre who also had the experience of working at the Indian institute of Petroleum, Dehradun. Dr G Jayrama Rao who was with the Marketing division of IOC was also deputed to join this new research centre. Tentative organization structure, number of laboratories, working sections, man- power and equipment requirements were worked out in details. The first advertisement for recruiting Heads of division and senior Research scientists appeared in May 1971. This was then handled by IOC marketing division. I applied for the post of Research scientist from RRL Jorhat. The centre finally came to realty on 10th March 1972 when Dr Ahluwalia and Dr G. Jayrama Rao joined this centre. Search for appropriate man-power began and a search committee visited Europe and USA for the potential candidates. Several Indians were interviewed and short listed. The exercise resulted in the recruitment of following technical personnel in the first phase.
1. Dr I B Gulati head of Dept. on deputation from IIP Dehradun (went back to IIP as director after a year)
2. Dr H S Rao Head of analytical division from CRFI, Dhanbad (left to Join NRDC as its CMD)
3. Dr K C Tripathi, Head of product development division from Alcan USA( went back to USA after a year) and was replaced by Shri P K Goel from IIP Dehradun
4. Dr R K Gupta, Head of mechanical testing division from USA( Went back to USA after a few years)
5. Mr Shahidul Ansar, computer specialist from USA( went back to USA after a year)
6. Shri K S Anand from IIP
7. Dr N C Saha from PDIL Sindri
8. Shri J M Sagar from IIP
9. Dr K L Mallik from IIP
10. Shri I P Narang from IIP
11. Shri N S Ramanathan from Balmer Lawrie, Kolkata
12. Shri J R Nanda from central power research institute, Bangalore
13. Shri K P Nair from Central road research Institute, Delhi
14. Shri N R Raje from B P research centre, UK
15. Dr S P Srivastava from RRL, Jorhat, Assam
16. Shri S K Gupta from Reading university, UK
17. Shri K C Mehta from defence research, Kanpur
18. Shri A K Mehta from IIP Dehradun
In the second phase more scientists joined from IIP and other laboratories to strengthen the organization. Some of them are Shri N V R Apparao from CRFI, Shri S K Jain from BARC, DR T V Krishnan from TIFR, N Raju Iyer from DMSRDE Kanpur, P D Srivastava, Shri B K Rana from IIP Dehradun. It is interesting to note that the entire first five senior level scientists went back or left IOC due to various personal reasons, but they contributed in identifying and creating valuable facilities. Dr K L Mallik and Dr T V Krishnan also left after some time to join other organisations at higher positions. The centre was initially operating from New-Delhi then shifted to rented houses in sector 16 Faridabad and eventually to the sector 13 temporary buildings when these were ready in 1974-75.
Strong day-to-day coordination with IOC marketing division (technical service group) was established to work out the strategy of developing lubricant technology. Product priorities were established, customers who could try out our developed products were identified. The core team in place at R&D centre hardly had any direct lubricating oil development experience; although all of them had exposure to some sort of hydrocarbon research. This was not enough and a need for training the scientist in the field of lubricant was felt. The only people, who knew about lubricant applications, were the technical service engineers of marketing division. Therefore, product knowledge course for the R&D core team was organized by marketing division. IOC marketing technical service team was quite familiar with the application and performance characteristics of Mobil lubricants and the problems encountered by lubricant users. This exercise was extremely useful in understanding lubricant related issues, but many of us also wondered, as to what scientists like us could do in applying a thin film of lubricant between the two moving surfaces The subject initially appeared to be dry, but as we proceeded further, read the subject, interests and clarity developed and could visualize the potential of the work intrusted to us. Most of us lost no time in starting our work, since the core team members were assigned a discipline to tackle with and were completely free to do whatever was necessary. Soon analytical laboratory, standard testing laboratory, engine test, tribological test and product development facilities were created. Initially work on the development of automotive oils, Industrial oils, Metal working fluids, greases and fuels was taken up based on the base oils and other stocks available from Indian refineries and additives available from Lubrizol and other suppliers. A strong information base was created about the availability of additives around the world, which helped the development of lubricants at a faster rate. I was handling Industrial lubricants and additives and decided that we should develop lubricants based on individual additive components rather than taking a package from an additive supplier. The package based development could be faster, but it makes you dependent on the supplier and you never know the full chemistry of the product. Automotive engine oils require elaborate engine test facilities and therefore in the beginning all such oils were being developed utilizing Lubrizol or other supplier’s additive packages. All group leaders were well focussed on their projects and Marketing inputs were available about the products to be launched. Thus the R&D centre had strong linkages with the customers, production plants and marketing, right from the beginning. I think this aspect is very important in any product development activity. Harmonious interaction and proper coordination of the project is extremely important in product development activities. Research away from such coordination will never be fruitful. It is true that researchers know more than the production, users and marketing people regarding the scientific aspect of the product, but the application part is better known to the users and marketing. Their input is, therefore, as important as the researcher’s input. In IOC R&D there were continuous review meetings with them and timely corrections were applied in the development activities. Two senior marketing officers were always available to us at the centre for guidance and to take the product for user trial as soon as it is developed. Our head R&D centre Dr J S Ahluwalia also created strong linkages with organized users of lubricants such as steel plants, Railways, defence (Army, Navy and air-force), Cement plants, textile industry, power plants and other OEMs. This helped scientists to understand the lubricant requirements and their application well and could convert the feedback from these organisations into superior products.
By 1998 India was refining 62 MMTPA of crude oil. Today there are 22 refineries (17 under Public Sector, 3 under private sector and 2 in Joint Venture), in India with a refining capacity of 215 MMTPA. This capacity is further going to be increased by the expansion of the existing refineries ( by 50 MMT/year) and setting up new grass root refineries (by 39 MMT/year), taking the total refining capacity to more than 300 MMT/year by 2017. Correspondingly the lubricant demand will grow to about 3 MMT per year. Currently Indian Oil Corporation controls 10 out of 22 refineries and has a refining capacity of 65.7 MMT/year; controlling 31 % of national share. Indian oil is now India’s biggest enterprise with an annual revenue of Indian Rupees 4, 75,867 Crores (about 75 billion US $). In 2013 it is ranked 88th in the global fortune 500 companies. The growth of oil sector in India has been one of the fastest amongst all the core groups and the credit goes to the planning and policies of Government as well as the initiative taken by the private and public sectors. The management of oil sector in India also remains quite distinct, employee friendly and forward looking to ensure smooth development. In fact this is one of the main reasons for its success and others must take lessons from this approach. The Indian refining capacity is sufficient to meet the entire current domestic consumption and have substantial surplus for export of refined petroleum products. During 2013-14, the country has exported 62.69 billion US $ worth of Petroleum products. India is the fourth-largest consumer of oil and petroleum products in the world. Its energy demand is projected to touch 1,464 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) by 2035 from 559 Mtoe in 2011. During 2013-14, the total consumption of petroleum products in India was 158.2 million tonnes (MT).
A brief description of the 22 refineries in India is provided in the following pages to understand the oil Industry development in India.
1. Digboi Refinery (Assam) - Indian Oil Corporation Limited
The Refinery was set up at Digboi, Assam in 1901 by Assam Oil Company Limited. Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. took over the Refinery and marketing management with effect from october1981 and created a separate division. The Refinery had an installed capacity 0.50 MMTPA and the capacity was increased to 0.65 MMTPA by modernization in July, 1996. A new Delayed Coking Unit of 1, 70,000 TPA capacity was commissioned in 1999. A new solvent de-waxing Unit for maximizing production of micro-crystalline wax was installed and commissioned in 2003. The refinery has also installed hydrotreater and Hydrogen plant in 2003 to improve the quality of diesel. Naphtha hydrotreater and Isomerization units were commissioned in December 2010 to upgrade fuel quality.
2. Guwahati Refinery (Assam)-Indian Oil Corporation Limited
This first public sector refinery was set up in collaboration with Romania and commissioned on 1st January, 1962 with design capacity of 0.75 MMTPA. The present capacity of the Refinery is 1.00 MMTPA with a hydrotreater Unit for improving the quality of diesel fuel (commissioned in 2002). The refinery has also installed IOC R&D technology Indmax for upgrading heavy ends to LPG, gasoline and diesel fuel in 2003. Naphtha Hydrotreater, Isomerization units and allied facilities were commissioned in December 2010 for meeting gasoline quality requirements.
3. Barauni Refinery (Bihar)-Indian Oil Corporation Limited
Barauni Refinery in Bihar was built in collaboration with the Soviet Union and was commissioned in July, 1964. By 1969, capacity was expanded to 3.3 MMTPA and further augmented to 4.2 MMTPA in 2000. A Catalytic Reformer Unit (CRU) was also added to the refinery in 1997 for production of unleaded gasoline. The refining capacity was further increased to 6 MMTPA in 2002 with Residue Fluidized Catalytic Cracking Unit (RFCCU) and Diesel Hydrotreating Unit (DHDT). Naphtha hydrotreater, Isomerization, FCC gasoline desulphurization units were added in December, 2010 for meeting present MS quality requirements.
4. Koyali Refinery (Gujarat- Baroda) - Indian Oil Corporation Limited
The Koyali Refinery was built with Soviet assistance and was commissioned in October, 1965. The Refinery had an initial capacity of 2 MMTPA and was designed to process crude from Ankleshwar, Kalol and Nawagam oilfields of Oil & Natural Gas Commission in Gujarat. In 1967, the capacity of the Refinery was increased to 4.3 MMTPA through debottlenecking measures and to 7.3 MMTPA in October 1978. With the implementation of additional processing facilities, refinery could achieve capacity of 9.5 MMTPA in 1989. This capacity was further expanded to 12.5 MMTPA with commissioning of 3.0 MMTPA CDU in September, 1999. The present refining capacity of this refinery is 13.70 MMTPA. A Linear Alkyl Benzene (LAB) plant was commissioned in August 2004 for conversion of Kerosene to high value products. In order to meet Motor Spirit quality requirements, CCRU plant was commissioned in October 2006. During the XII five year plan the capacity of this refinery is further being increased by 4.3 MMT/year, taking the total capacity to 18 MMTPA.
5. Haldia Refinery (West Bengal) - Indian Oil Corporation Limited
The Haldia Refinery for processing 2.5 MMT of Middle East crude oil was commissioned in January 1975 for producing fuels and lubricating base stocks. This is the first IOC refinery to produce lubricating base oils. The refining capacity was expanded in several stages and the present refining capacity is 7.5 MMTPA.
Catalytic de-waxing unit was commissioned in March 2003 which can produce API Group-II Lube base stock and first of its kind in India. It also has the capability to produce API Group III base oils. Residue Fluidized Catalytic Cracker Unit (RFCCU) was commissioned in September 2001. Once through Hydrocracker (OHCU) project was implemented in February 2010 for improving distillate yield and producing BS-III / BS-IV compliant High Speed diesel (HSD). During the XII five year plan the capacity of this refinery is further being increased by 5.0 MMT/year, taking up the total refining capacity to 12.5 MMTPA.
6. Mathura Refinery (Uttar Pradesh) - Indian Oil Corporation Limited
The Mathura refinery with a capacity of 6.00 MMTPA was commissioned in 1982. The Fluidized Catalytic cracking unit (FCCU) and Sulphur Recovery Units (SRUs) were commissioned in Jan, 1983. Continuous Catalytic Reforming unit (CCRU) was commissioned in 1998 with technology from IFP, France. The capacity of this refinery was increased to 7.5 MMTPA in 1989 by debottlenecking and revamping. A DHDS Unit was commissioned in 1999 for production of HSD with low sulphur content of 0.25% wt. (max.). Once through Hydrocracker (OHCU) project was commissioned in July’ 2000 as an additional secondary processing unit. For meeting diesel and Motor Spirit quality, Diesel Hydro-Treater (DHDT) and Penex units were commissioned in May’2005 and June’2005 respectively. The current refining capacity of this Refinery is 8.00 MMTPA.
7. Panipat Refinery (Haryana) - Indian Oil Corporation Limited
The refinery was set up in 1998 in the district of Panipat, Haryana with a refining capacity of 6.0 MMTPA. Refining capacity was expanded to 12 MMTPA in Aug’ 2006. Major secondary units in the extended facilities include Hydro-cracking Unit, Delayed Coking unit, Diesel Hydro-treating Unit etc. Country’s largest Purified terepthalic acid (PTA) plant was commissioned in June 2006. The refining capacity was further enhanced to 15.0 MMTPA after the revamp of its Crude Distillation Unit in November 2010. This refinery also manufactures petrochemicals such as Mono ethylene Glycol, Polypropylene, linear low density Polyethylene and High density Polyethylene.
8. Bongaigaon Refinery (Assam) - Indian Oil Corporation Limited
Bongaigaon Refinery & Petrochemicals Ltd. (BRPL) was incorporated in 1974 as a Government owned company, with the crude processing capacity of 1.0 MMTPA. It also has a Petrochemical Complex producing, xylene, Di-methyl terepthalate (DMT) and Polyester staple fibre. The capacity of the refinery was increased in phases to the present level of 2.35 MMTPA. BRPL has now been amalgamated with Indian Oil Corporation Limited effective from March, 2009.
9. Manali Refinery (Tamil Nadu) -Chennai Petroleum Corporation Ltd
Chennai Petroleum Corporation Limited (CPCL), formerly known as Madras Refineries Limited (MRL) was formed as a joint venture in 1965 between the Government of India (GOI), AMOCO and National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), with an installed capacity of 2.5 Million Tonnes Per Annum (MMTPA). In 1985, AMOCO disinvested in favour of Government of India. Currently IOC holds 51.88% while National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) continued its holding at 15.40%. Therefore, the CPCL became a subsidiary of IOC in 2001. The Manali Refinery has a present capacity of 10.5 MMTPA and is one of the most complex refineries in India with Fuel, Lube, Wax and Petrochemical feed stocks production facilities.
10. Mumbai Refinery (Maharashtra) - Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited
Mumbai Refinery, originally a Standard Vacuum Refining Company of India (Stan Vac) was commissioned in 1954 with an installed capacity of 1.25 MMTPA. In 1962 this was re-named as ESSO India Limited. In 1969, the installed capacity was increased to 2.5 MMTPA. Simultaneously Lube India Ltd also came into existence for manufacturing Lube Oil Base Stock (LOBS), with a capacity of 165 TMTPA. In July, 1974 these companies were nationalized and merged to form Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL). The refinery was expanded in several stages to reach a capacity of 6.5 MMTPA. The Lube refinery unit was also similarly expanded to produce 400 TMTPA of base oils which includes superior quality API group II and III grades of base oils as well. During the XII five year plan the capacity of this refinery is further being increased by 2.0 MMT/year.
11. Visakh Refinery (Andhra Pradesh) - Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited
The Visakh Refinery was originally commissioned in 1957 by Caltex Oil Refining (India) Ltd. with an installed capacity of 0.675 MMTPA. The Refinery was taken over by the Government of India in 1976 and was consequently amalgamated with HPCL in 1978. Over the years, the refining capacity was increased to 1.5 MMTPA by debottlenecking units. In 1985, the first major capacity augmentation was taken up by commissioning separate stream of 3.0 MMTPA Crude Distillation Unit (CDU-II), Fluidized Catalytic Cracking Unit. Thus the capacity was increased to 4.5 MMTPA. The second expansion in the year 1999 increased the capacity to 7.5 MMTPA and then to 8.3 MMTPA in 2009-10. During the XII five year plan the capacity of this refinery is further being increased by 6.7 MMT/year, taking up the total capacity to 15MMTA.
12. Mumbai Refinery (Maharashtra) – Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited
The refinery in Mumbai was commissioned in January 1955 under the ownership of Burmah Shell Refineries Ltd with an original design capacity to process 2.2 MMPTA of crude oil. Following the Government acquisition of the Burmah Shell, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd came into existence in 1974. Since then, the crude throughput of the refinery has been consistently enhanced by de-bottlenecking the existing facilities and the installed capacity increased to 6 MMPTA in 1985. With the successful commissioning of “Refinery Modernization Project” in 2005, the current refinery capacity stands at 12 MMPTA. The Refinery commissioned a Lube Base Oil Unit for production of API Group II base oil.
During the XII five year plan the capacity of this refinery is further being increased by 1.5 MMT/year.
13. Kochin Refinery (Kerala) – Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited
The Kochin Refinery Ltd (KRL), a public sector undertaking was set up in 1963 as a venture between Govt. of India, Philips Petroleum Co. of USA and Duncan Brothers of Calcutta with an initial capacity of 2.5 MMPTA. The capacity has been increased in several phases to 9.5 MMTPA by the year 2010. Kochi refinery has now taken up further expansion plan to enhance refining capacity to 15.5 MMTPA and also to diversify into petrochemical manufacturing.
14. Basin Refinery (Nagapattinam-Tamil Nadu) – Chennai Petroleum Cauvery Corporation Limited
CPCL's second refinery is located at Cauvery Basin at Nagapattinam. The initial unit was set up in Nagapattinam with a capacity of 0.5 MMTPA in 1993 and later on its capacity was increased to 1.0 MMTPA.
15. Numaligarh Refinery (Assam) - Numaligarh Refinery Limited
Numaligarh Refinery, popularly known as " Assam Accord Refinery" has been set up as a grass -root refinery at Numaligarh in the district of Golaghat ( Assam) for providing thrust towards industrial and economic development of Assam. Commercial production at Numaligarh Refinery commenced from 1.10.2000. The refining capacity of this refinery is 3.0 MMTPA. During the XII five year plan the capacity of this refinery is further being increased by 5.0 MMT/year.
16. Mangalore Refinery (Karnataka) - Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd
Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Limited (MRPL) is a grass root refinery with a current capacity of 15 MMTPA, at Mangalore. The refinery came up in three phases:
First phase of 3.69 MMTPA in March 1996
Second phase, capacity increased to 11.82 MMTPA
Third phase, refining capacity increased to 15 MMTPA in 2012.
17. Tatipaka Refinery (Andhra Pradesh) – Oil & Natural Gas Corporation Limited
A mini refinery (Phase-I) of ONGC with capacity of 0.066 MMTPA was commissioned in September, 2001 at Tatipaka in East Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh. Under Phase-II, an additional refinery of same capacity of 0.066 MMTPA is under construction.
18. Reliance Industries Limited (Domestic Tariff Area) (RIL-DTA) (Private Sector), Jamnagar (Gujarat)
Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) has two refineries. The present capacity of the first refinery (RIL-DTA) is 33 MMTPA. RIL-DTA is the World’s biggest grassroots Refinery having a petrochemical plant for the production of 1,550 KTPA Paraxylene, a polymer plant for the production of 1,000 KTPA.
19. Reliance Industries Limited-SEZ (RIL-SEZ) (Private Sector), Jamnagar (Gujarat)
After the amalgamation of Reliance Petroleum Limited with RIL, in September 2009 (a unit in Jamnagar SEZ) RPL refinery has become the second refinery of RIL. The capacity of the second refinery (RIL-SEZ) is 27 MMTPA .The SEZ refinery has a unique design and configuration with ‘Clean Fuels’ process plant. It is designed with high level of flexibility to change grades based on economy and to capture margins based on market dynamics. The new SEZ refinery is the first refinery in India to produce Euro-IV grades of gasoline and diesel.
20. Essar Oil Limited (EOL) (Private Sector), Vadinar (Gujarat)
The private sector refinery was commissioned in November 2006 with an installed capacity of 10.50 MMTPA at Vadinar, Gujarat. The grass root refinery was designed to process crude oil along with secondary processing units such as fluidized catalytic cracking, naphtha and diesel hydrotreater, continuous catalytic reformer, vis- breaker, sulphur recovery and product treating units. Capacity of the refinery was revamped to 14 MMTPA during the April’ 09 and further to 20 MMTPA in June 2012.
21. Bina Refinery - Bharat Oman Refineries Limited (BORL) (Madhya Pradesh)
A, 6 MMTPA grassroots refinery set up by Bharat Oman Refineries Limited (BORL), a joint venture of Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) and Oman Oil Corporation Limited (OOCL) at Bina, District Sagar, Madhya Pradesh, was dedicated to the nation on 20.5.2011. This refinery would augment the availability of petroleum products including BS III/IV compliant fuels in central and northern India.
22. Guru Gobind Singh Refinery – HPCL-Mittal Energy Limited, Bhatinda (Punjab)
Guru Gobind Singh Refinery (GGSR) is a refinery owned by Hindustan Mittal Energy Limited (HMEL) a joint venture between HPCL and Mittal Energy Limited. It is located in Bhatinda, Punjab, India. This 9.0 MMTPA refinery was dedicated to the Nation on April 28, 2012.
Indian downstream petroleum sector has done quite well in developing business and absorbing new technology. This sector has also managed changing global scenario and trained their personnel to handle global business. According to Platts assessment, India is the largest exporter of petroleum products in Asia since 2009. The growth of petroleum Industry in India has been substantial; however, the matching research and development facilities have not been created. The largest oil company, Indian Oil Corporation invests around Rs. 200 crores (Rs 2 billion) on R&D on their total revenue of about 475,000 crores (Rs 4750 billions). This amounts to less than 0.05 percent of the revenue on R&D. The other oil companies invest even less than this percentage. Similarly the manpower engaged in R&D is also proportionately low and one cannot expect great innovations with such investment. Such low investment can only support day to day developmental and routine product development activities. I think the high level planners have doubt that any higher investment in R&D can yield appropriate results and pay back in the near future. It is then a vicious circle. You invest less in R&D and complain that enough is not being done. For example take the case of Exxon-Mobil, one of the largest oil companies of the world. They invest about 1 billion US $ (equivalent to about Rs. 6000 crores) in R&D on a revenue of about 400 billion US $. This is 0.25 percent of the total revenue and five times higher than the IOC budget of 0.05 percent. India now needs a robust R&D policy for the oil sector and a coordinating body between the various public sector refineries to cater to the needs of long term business and opportunities around the world. Other than investment, it is also very important to have good leadership to manage hydrocarbon research. The investment, leadership, modern systems and accountability are four core issues which need attention in Indian research system. Any weak link will adversely affect research quality and output.
Transition to robust brand – SERVO
Before 1974, lubricants in India were manufactured by Mobil, Esso, Caltex, Shell and Castrol. In 1962, IOC entered into collaboration with Mobil to manufacture and market Mobil products and a new joint venture company Indian oil blending Ltd (IOBL) was established. Two blending plants in Mumbai and Kolkata were created. IOC has been paying royalty to Mobil based on the volume of the blended products. IOBL plants were managed by Mobil and IOC was responsible for marketing these products. IOC set up a technical service group to provide service to the industry and engineers became quite familiar with the application of Mobil lubricants. This agreement was renewed in 1968 for another six years and continued till July 1974. Efforts to renew IOC-Mobil agreement to blend Mobil lubricants in India beyond July 1974 were not very successful. It became clear in the beginning of 1974 that this collaboration would come to an end on 19th July 1974 and IOC would be on its own and cannot blend and market Mobil branded lubricants in India. IOC had developed good business with Mobil products and there was urgency as to how to retain this business. Earlier some engine oils were formulated with Lubrizol additives and engine tests carried out at Indian Institute of Petroleum at Dehradun. These oils were marketed through IBP Co, since IOC could not market any lubricant other than Mobil. Now there was a need to create a new brand of Lubricant which could be as strong as Mobil, at least for the Indian market. I think our marketing division had a good brain storming session to decide on this and finally choice fell on “SERVO” which means “All” in Sanskrit language. It was also then decided that there would be a suffix to indicate the application of lubricant followed by numeric number indicating viscosity grade. Thus in early 1974 a brand on paper was created and names decided for the possible lubricants IOC would be manufacturing and marketing. In 1974 Government of India nationalized petroleum sector and all the foreign oil companies were converted into public sector companies. Esso became Hindustan Petroleum Corporation and Shell became Bharat Petroleum Corporation. In this situation, however, Mobil, Esso, Shell and Chevron were willing to supply at least lubricant additives to India. Lubrizol was already operating in India and base oils were produced by Lube India Ltd and Madras refineries. By this time we had gathered enough information through various sources to blend basic lubricants required by Indian industry. Each group leaders dealing with automotive oils (Mr. J R Nanda), Industrial lubricants (myself), Metal working fluids (Mr. K C Mehta) and greases (Mr. N S Ramanathan) in R&D centre were sounded to be ready with whatever lubricant formulations we can, so that Indian operation of blending SERVO lubricants may be started as soon as MOBIL leaves India on 19th July 1974. The work involved preparation of formulation sheets, blending procedure/sequence, quality control methods, base oils and additive specifications, handling practices, safety procedures, marketing and sales technical manual, product literature for sales and technical service engineers. To accomplish this work a committee consisting of myself, Mr J R Nanda, Mr B K Sarkar and M J Shah was constituted and we had less than two months to complete the task. Whatever we could gather in Faridabad we assembled and packed off to Mumbai for completing the assignment. This was perhaps end of June 1974 and we had to complete the change over from MOBIL to SERVO before 19th July. The team virtually worked round the clock in a war like situation to meet the deadline. Marketing division also provided all possible support to this group. Wherever necessary, Lubrizol help was also taken. I have great appreciation and respect for my colleagues Mr J R Nanda and MR M J Shah of IOBL who really contributed a great deal with their knowledge and hard work. There were two groups working simultaneously; one was our group and the other Mobil group, who were destroying all possible records of Mobil formulation to exit on 19th July. Both teams succeeded in their efforts. Before Mobil team could leave, our documentation was ready with formulation of 150 products and similar number of base oils and additives specifications along with the new code system to maintain secrecy by the afternoon of 18th July 1974, i.e. one day ahead of the deadline date. Brand SERVO was thus born on 18th July 1974, to be nurtured and developed further to maturity. When we presented these documents to marketing division, there was an overall element of surprise, achievement and jubilation. This was the first major contribution of IOC research and Development centre and I think from that day onwards we have never looked back; and the march continues till today to take SERVO to newer heights. I now feel that if we would have failed in our initial efforts to provide these lubricants in a tight time bound manner, IOC would have been forced to seek foreign collaboration at a high cost to manufacture and market lubricants.
The exposure of research scientists to the hard core commercial problems right from the beginning was extremely useful in developing an insight as to how to convert pure scientific knowledge into products and processes that are useful to the organization. In any industrial research environment the linkages between research, marketing, manufacturing and customers are very important. If these linkages are in harmony, the product development activities become smooth. If there is a well-defined and well understood project with ready customer for the proposed development product, I think half of the work is already done. Our founder head of R&D Centre Dr J S Ahluwalia was a force behind establishing such linkages. He was of the opinion that before taking up the development work, the project must be clear to all concerned such as research, marketing, manufacturer and customer and if any in- between correction are to be applied, these must be communicated to all concerned and agreed upon. There was a system that if marketing divisions wants R&D to develop a product, they have to first write down a project proposal providing all the information required by the scientist such as the product specification, raw-material choice, characteristics, equipment detail, expected cost, any OEM requirement, customers likely to use such a product, expected field trial requirements and anticipated development time period. They were even asked to provide product details of any similar product available from any source. Then, this proposal was discussed in greater details and remodelled. This activity is followed by an R&D development proposal providing details of base oils and additives required along with a test programme. These final programmes are then closely monitored by senior scientists to coordinate activities within the R&D centre, since several departments are involved in the total activity.
Thus after July 1974, we started manufacturing and supplying SERVO lubricants to customers. This was all right for general trade, but was not easy for specific well organized sectors such as steel plants and railways. These sectors were used to MOBIL grades and would question about the performance of SERVO vs MOBIL. For defence grades we obtained IIP certifications and were then acceptable to services. Mobil products had extensive OEM approvals and to begin with, we had none. This situation was anticipated and IOC blended enough critical Mobil products to supply to such customers over the next about one year. This was permitted with in the MOBIL agreement since IOC had to pay royalty to Mobil on the blended products. These grades included rail road oils, marine oils, steel plant Morgan bearing oils, Turbine oils, compressor oils and certain defence grades. This arrangement provided us to develop such critical products within the next one year. It was a perfect planning and we did develop most (except marine oils) of these oils within the next one year. To address customer resistance for SERVO products, R&D and marketing teams organised get-together, meeting and seminars. Presentations were made on the performance characteristics of SERVO products. Some customers demanded guarantee on the performances and compensation for equipment damage due to the use of IOC SERVO. This issue was handled very delicately and we assured that we shall provide all necessary monitoring of the product- quality and equipment health during service and would not allow any equipment damage. We still realized that OEM approvals on products are important and set out to obtain these on SERVO lubricants. This process, however, is a long drawn and was taken up as a project. Slowly and steadily these approvals started flowing. In many cases we had to conduct extensive field trials and submit performance parameters to OEMs. Once the SERVO products were in the market and started providing satisfactory performance at a very competitive price, acceptance and sales picked up and a robust brand SERVO was born.
R&D Collaboration- that was not to last long
The product development pace was fairly good, but we were working in a closed Indian environment, while the lubricant business is international requiring interaction with OEMs, engine builders and additive manufacturers. To hasten this process a technical collaboration agreement was signed with Castrol UK in 1976. Under this agreement Castrol was to provide us all their international lubricant formulations along with OEM approval. It was also agreed that IOC would formulate SEVO branded products with Castrol International formulation and Castrol would provide us a rebrand approval of SEVO equivalent and thus we will obtain OEMs approval on SERVO products. Castrol were also required to accept our scientist in their laboratories in Pangbourne, Reading for this work. Teams of R&D scientists from product development division, analytical division, mechanical and engine testing division visited Castrol laboratories in UK for three months each. Mr K S Anand, K C Mehta and I were in the first group of scientists visiting Castrol in the month of September 1976. At that time I was handling Industrial lubricants and additives. This provided an excellent international window to learn as to how to develop and test lubricants for international business and obtain OEM approvals. Castrol scientists were also quite open to detailed discussions and all of us learnt a great deal from this collaboration. However, when it came to obtaining marine and aviation lubricant business and approval, there were reservations from Castrol side and the agreement was prematurely terminated by Castrol in 1978. Nevertheless, by that time our teams were independently ready to take up challenges for the development of newer grades. Since Castrol was operating in India, they once commented that “it was a mistake to provide technical assistance to IOC”. Such a comment came when Castrol India started finding difficulties to compete with SERVO. Castrol signed this agreement in 1976 when they had some financial difficulties and had to sell out certain affiliate companies to generate funds and IOC collaboration suited both the partners. By 1978 we had extended staff, scientists, new laboratories and equipment in place. There was total support from our marketing division, blending plants and Indian customers who were willing to try out any new product developed by IOC. I think the entire environment and motivation created in IOC R&D centre by our head Dr J S Ahluwalia and other seniors at that time was such that all the young scientists were bubbling with enthusiasm and energy that ignited the process of further development. This process quickly filled the gap left due to the termination of MOBIL agreement. Thus during a period of eight years (1972 – 1980), complete technology of over 250 diversified lubricants was developed and commercialized with OEMs approval and customer satisfaction. This was by no mean a small achievement. This development came up silently, no advertisement, no award, no published papers, no patents filed and no accolades only internal satisfaction of doing things right was derived by all concerned. Of course, this was not rocket or missile technology to be taken to masses. What we developed were all similar looking liquids, only varying in viscosity and certain invisible chemicals in them. Most people and even educated scientist (not involved in lubricants) do not understand lubricants. They only think it as a small liquid material to be applied between moving surfaces for reducing friction; nothing more than that. The high technology involved in lubricants is even now not well understood by scientist working in other disciplines. Imagine a 100 tons steam power plant turbine rotating at high speed continuously, supported on bearings and lubricated by hair thin film of lubricant. This lubricant is so critical that the power production will come to stand still, if the lubricant is not proper. It is to be realized that without a suitable lubricants no industry can operate, no vehicle will move, no modern war can be fought, Rail road’s engines, ships and aircrafts cannot move. Life can come to stand still. Lubricants are so critical to our daily life. A large oil company generally market about 1000 grades of lubricants for different industrial and automotive, rail road, marine and aviation applications. These are then continuously upgraded to meet ever changing specifications and equipment designs through research and development activities.
By the middle of 1980’s SERVO captured India’s almost 50% lubricant business (about 400,000MT/y), which no other brand could achieve and rightfully became most popular Indian Brand. This figure far surpassed the market share of IOC with Mobil products. This is a story of a dedicated crack team of which I was a humble member which took SERVO to this height. Currently SERVO share stands at 36 percent of about 2.5 MMT of Indian lubricant businesses in a fiercely competitive market, where most of the MNC’s are operating. This business converted to money accounts for approximately Rs 10,000 crores/year (Rs 100 billion) and has been created through research and development activities of IOC research centre at Faridabad. It gives me a sense of pride and satisfaction that I was one of the members of this team responsible for developing SERVO lubricants and creating a business of this order.
A New Dimension
India embarked upon economic liberalization and in 1990’s lubricant market was thrown open and more than two dozen international lubricant manufacturers including, Mobil, Shell, Exxon, Total, Elf and others entered Indian market either directly or through Indian collaborations. This situation created an entirely new dynamics in lubricant business. It was feared by our marketing division that IOC would lose heavily on SERVO business since we had no experience of global business and product quality of foreign oil companies would be superior to SERVO grades. They thought it is wise to enter into collaboration with Mobil again to meet this new competition. Other Indian public sector companies were also following this path. Despite objections from R&D centre, IOC marketing division entered into Mobil marketing collaborative agreement. Under this agreement IOC would allow Mobil to market their products through IOC retail outlets and IOC engineers would provide support to this business. The idea behind such an arrangement was that wherever IOC has to compete with MNCs and SERVO cannot withstand quality and price level, IOC will offer Mobil products. Now Servo was put to direct competition against Mobil in IOC’s own retail outlets. Mobil brand also had an advantage that in India every lubricant is called MOBIL oil. This was due to IOC previous association with Mobil. There was also a perception that Mobil products are superior products. This was a great challenge to scientist and at one point of time it was thought that this could be the end of SERVO journey.
Somehow, we scientists were not convinced with this theory and immediately set out to redesign our products for the forthcoming challenge. We quickly reviewed all the lubricant quality levels, cost effectiveness and reformulated all the products to be ready to face the new competition, not witnessed earlier. Marketing division also took some initiative and redesigned SERVO containers so as to provide new look to the products. I think this crash programme was completed in about six to nine months’ time. When Mobil products and other company’s products were launched in India, we did lose some business initially. However, in about two years’ time it became clear that MNC’s lubricants are unable to replace IOC SERVO, despite their several marketing initiative such as price reduction and other strategies. Even Mobil started complaining that IOC is not providing them enough support in marketing their products. Finally, when the initial joint venture capital was exhausted, Mobil agreement was unceremoniously terminated, since IOC was not interested in putting more capital into the loss making business of MOBIL. Mobil then started creating new infrastructure to market their products independently. SERVO came out as a winner in this whole game which we earlier thought otherwise. This is also a fine example of “How to convert a disadvantageous perception into an advantage”. At this point of time we thought that if other companies are operating in India why not IOC go out to other countries and market our Servo products which have inherent strength. IOC teams then gathered to carry out more aggressive business not only in Indian market but also entered other neighbouring countries to gain more ground. SERVO is now available in Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Middle Eastern countries, Oman, Bhutan, Mauritius and still expanding. We provided country specific lubricant formulations to meet the local requirements.
Secret of this success
I now ponder over to think how this could be achieved in a short time frame. When the first change from Mobil to Servo took place, it was in a rather protected environment since all the foreign oil companies were nationalized and our competitors were only public sector companies. Now after about 15 years, the situation was reversed, the whole sector was thrown open to all the players and we were supposed to float along with over two dozens of lubricant manufacturers from all over the world. Our marketing division’s fears were not completely hypothetical; they wanted to play safe that in case Servo oils are not able to compete, at least they would have an international brand with them to carry on the business. Internally both R&D scientists and even marketing technical service engineers were not happy with the idea that IOC should be marketing Mobil products again and this time against Servo which they build up with their hard work and dedication.
We proved time and again the advantage of a dedicated Research and Development facilities and created lasting business for the corporation by simply converting knowledge into products and processes. This, however, required strong leadership, dedicated teams, strong will to succeed and encouraging work culture, which of course was provided by IOC. The role played by IOC marketing technical service teams and manufacturing plant executives is also commendable in this entire work. Most people in Indian scientific world do not know that a research centre of Indian oil created new technologies and developed enormous business. This is because all oil lubricants are similar looking liquid products and general masses cannot distinguish their quality and performance by looking at the products. It is also not aircraft or rocket or missile or satellite technology where one can feel the obvious difference, but none of these or any equipment can operate without a lubricant. Lubricant technology works silently inside equipment, reduces friction, increases life, saves energy, reduces down time and it is important for the development of country.
Product Development Dynamics
A new product development activity, whether for consumer market of for industrial application, has to begin with the customer. This focus on customer has to remain throughout the development cycle for a successful evolution of a product. The customer is the king and he knows the application of the product better than anybody else; although he may not be fully aware of the technical aspect of the product. Lubricants constitute large numbers of products with different physico-chemical and performance properties to meet the requirements of diverse equipment such as automotive engines, turbines, hydraulics, gears, compressors and machine tools etc. In each of these categories, there are different designs and severity levels under which such equipment operate and thus need different lubricants. Several OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) have designed their equipment around a particular lubricant and thus demand a specific product for their machinery. Different countries have also evolved lubricant specifications such as Japanese (JIS), German (DIN), France (AFNOR), British (BS), Russian (GOST), European (ACEA), US (API and MIL), Indian(BIS) etc. Often equipment originating from a particular country may demand their country specification products. Indian industries have imported equipment from all over the world and these have to be lubricated by a specific product demanded by the manufacturer and user. Under these conditions it is a challenge to develop lubricants to meet such diverse requirements in India. ISO has been making efforts to harmonize Industrial lubricant classifications and standards for global application. This is a good effort and at least all industrial oil viscosities are now according to the ISO classification. Earlier different oil companies and OEM were demanding lubricants of different viscosities.
During our initial days in R&D centre, our senior founders have finalized the mechanism that is required to be followed for the development of products. This mechanism is still followed with grand success. Any product development research activity begins with the identification of the project or product which needs to be further elaborated with detailed planning. Projects are identified as short term and long term. The short term projects are invariably initiated by the technical services group of marketing division, who require this product for definite customers and their equipment. In such cases marketing engineers have a fairly good idea of the type of product required, its specification, performance characteristics, application, cost, demand, competitor product and equipment details. At this stage customer feedback can also be obtained about their needs, problems and any improvement required in the desired product. This exercise is very important for the successful launching of the product or process. It would be a surprise to many that 90- 95% of the lubricant products developed by us through this exercise have been successfully commercialized. However, the developed products have to be continuously improved to meet various customer needs. Till now more than 3500 such lubricants have been developed and at a given time about 500 products are manufactured and marketed. Assuming a product life of five years, on the average about six generations of each product have been developed so far. This gives a tremendous feeling of satisfaction that R&D initiatives in the field of lubricants have been immensely successful in generating a profitable business for IOC in a fiercely competitive market where more than two dozen national and international companies are currently operating. Product development is a cyclic process, necessitating repeated experimentation with different options and alternatives till we achieve a satisfactory level.
I think the failure and delays in large research projects of national interest such as the “Kaveri engine’ for Tejas Light Combat Aircraft and Main battle tank to name a few, is mainly due to the faulty project planning and inadequate coordination with the users and other stake holders from the very beginning. This must be a lesson for the future projects of national interest to speed up the development process.
However, good team work, focussed attention and leadership of high calibre are also required for the success of the project. This developmental model would be applicable to all products and processes R&D activities across the industry and must be followed in our industrial research organizations. This model extensively utilizes the knowledge available in various books, journals, patents and from personal interactions with other industry personnel during various conferences and meetings. However, there are always certain technological issues that need to be resolved within the organization and require systematic scientific experimentation to resolve such issues. These have to be very carefully planned and investigated and will form important part of the development activities. For example, if a new property is to be imparted to the product, it must be investigated, why this property is deficient in the base oil and how this can be improved by using a particular chemical compound without changing other desirable properties and in what dosage. If this dynamics is properly understood, lubricant development takes place smoothly. Lubricants are to be used in various equipment of different design, using different metals and elastomers. These equipment then operate under different loads, speeds and environment. Such conditions also must be understood properly. This is specifically more important with newly development products since their behaviour in such equipment could be unpredictable. Many products developed with much hope, due to the initial encouraging results, may fail and give rise to some unexpected problems which cannot be easily handled. Therefore, due caution is required in the development process. The key is, failures must be investigated seriously to learn lessons and success in development must be repeated several times before claiming it.
The development of futuristic and innovative products has to be left to the scientists themselves during the initial investigative stage. Exhaustive international patent search must be carried out to ensure that the work would not violate any existing valid patent. Marketing and production can be involved only when the commercial development activity begins. In any case at a certain stage this model has to be used to finalize the final product.
Most oil blenders follow either of the two approaches to develop lubricants:
1. Formulation recommendation is obtained from the commercial lubricant additive manufacturers, which is usually in the form of an additive package containing a mixture of several chemical components together in balanced proportions. This is a quick approach and has the advantage of getting performance tests carried out by the additive manufacturer.However, the development cost is built in the price structure of the package itself. In such an approach, one has to always rely on the additive manufacturer for any performance related issue and improvement in product quality.
2. Product formulation is developed with individual performance chemical additives. This approach is more scientific and involves elaborate knowledge of additives, base oil properties, their interaction and exhaustive testing protocol followed by field trials. I prefer to follow this second approach, where there is flexibility of product modification and cost and quality optimization.
Initially I was looking after the development of Industrial oils and additives in the research and development centre of Indian Oil Corporation. Industrial oils constitute a large number of products for variety of applications in turbine, hydraulic, gear, compressor, machine tool and other miscellaneous equipment in industries such as power plant, steel plants, cement plants, textile mills, fertilizer, mining etc. In order to make our products cost effective and high performance, I took the second route of developing the whole series based on individual additive components and then went on improving the products continuously. This approach made SERVO products most competitive and made them unbeatable with respect to quality and customer service through technical service group of marketing division. This resulted in virtually capturing Indian market share. I must emphasise that the contribution of our marketing division technical services has been tremendous in getting this market share and they also showed confidence and faith in the capabilities of Research and development. Marketing technical- R&D and users worked like one team to promote indigenously developed SERVO products. I also travelled extensively along with marketing teams to convince our customers about the superior quality of products through exhaustive presentations and discussions. Repeated discussions and presentation to the end users/customers and satisfying them about the product quality by extensive testing and even generating additional data according to their requirements, ultimately developed confidence in them and SERVO acceptance became a reality. No other oil company could match this interaction and product quality. This is the real secret of the success of SERVO. When I look at the system of product development in CSIR, my previous organization and IOC, the distinct difference was this multi stake holder’s interaction right from the beginning of the project selection. I emphasize repeatedly that this aspect is extremely important in product development processes. Due to this interaction customers developed such a faith in the research and development centre of IOC that they will refer the development of new products or their problems which no other oil company could develop or solve. Let me cite a few examples:
1. One of the fertilizer plants has been using high quality turbine oil for the lubrication of the bearings of turbo compressor handling ammonia gas. The problem was that the oil after some use was turning red and the customer was replacing oil at this stage. No other oil company could solve this problem or could understand as to why the oil is turning red in colour. When this problem was referred to us, I visited the plant and saw the application and lubrication system of the plant. I also observed that ammonia gas is leaking into the oil through the seals and oil was degassed to remove ammonia. This was the regular practice in the plant since the ingress of ammonia was unavoidable. After the plant visit, I tried to simulate ammonia compressor conditions in the laboratory and found out the real culprit responsible for this problem. This culprit was then changed with another chemical compatible with ammonia and the problem was resolved for ever. We thus became sole supplier of this new oil to all the fertilizer plant using ammonia compressor. This is a simple example that if we understand and investigate customer problem properly, we get an opportunity to develop a new product and new business.
2. There is another exciting story about the development of steel plant roller bearing oils called Morgan bearing oils. Steel rolling plants use very heavy rollers mounted on bearings of Morgan design to reduce thick steel sheets into thinner sheet and water at high pressure is sprayed onto the surfaces to take away frictional heat generated during the rolling process. These bearings are lubricated by high viscosity oil circulated through a centralized system. Due to high pressures, water enters the oil system and need to be separated out from the oil by centrifugation and settling. For this the oil must have inherent good water separating characteristics. These oils were imported from a single source by each steel plant and there was a saying in industry that India cannot produce such oil as these require very special base oil which is often clay treated. This problem was now referred to us and I visited all the steel plant rolling mill along with my marketing colleagues and saw their system and oil requirements. I realized that the prime requirement of the oil is its capability to separate out from water quickly and bearing lubrication is taken care by the oil viscosity. We designed certain experimentation to simulate steel plant rolling mill condition and came out with new oil with specific chemicals to impart good water separating characteristics over a long operating time. After exhaustive and prolonged discussions/presentation to the steel plant it was agreed that they will provide yet another chance to us to try out the newly developed product. When ultimately the new product was tried in the plant, our oil was found better than the imported oil and gradually all the steel plants shifted to IOC oil and it became a virtual monopoly for us. This development, however, took 3 to 4 years’ time.
3. Yet another example is the development of several grades of compressor oils. Before 1970’s these equipment were, generally lubricated by oils meant for some other applications. Reciprocating compressors, due to the similarity with an engine (cylinder and piston) were lubricated with engine oils. Rotary compressors were lubricated with turbine and hydraulic oils. Screw compressors with anti-wear hydraulic oils. With several fires and explosion in the compressors due to the formation of deposits in the exhaust valve in reciprocating compressors, newer specifications were developed in Germany and also by ISO. In India we were the first to develop separate compressor oils for each application and new business was created for IOC. Later on synthetic compressor oils, refrigeration compressor oils were also developed for specific high performance applications.
There are numerous example of such nature and I can go on narrating details about the story behind the development of each product, but these three examples are sufficient to explain that proper understanding of customer issues through investigation can lead to the development of new products and business for the company. Successful products can be developed only if the scientists understand the customers/users, their needs; their equipment and operating conditions well. Since the choice of raw materials, chemical additives, testing and evaluation parameters all depend on this understanding. This is also the way to develop business through research and development. Every young research technologist must understand and imbibe these basic fundamentals of product development. Young scientists or researchers recruited from universities after their Ph.Ds. do know how to carry out research, but do not have the desired orientation for industrial research. This orientation towards industrial research or towards a specific project is very important. Even new technical staff members must be properly trained and made aware of the organizational objectives and their own role must be clearly defined. This orientation should aim at to convert them from pure scientist to technologist. I devoted considerable time with my young scientists and technical staff to train them for the specific needs of IOC. As we progressed in our efforts and started handling more complicated products such as rail road oils, marine oils, synthetic oils, bio-degradable oils and energy efficient oils, more laboratory facilities and manpower were placed. Most of the group leaders also moved to the higher positions and I also had additional rotational assignment. By mid-1980’s I was looking after the development of automotive oils. Here, we started the development of rail road and marine oils based on individual additive components as I had been following for the development of industrial oils. In a couple of year, these products were developed and introduced with OEM approvals. These projects were accomplished by two bright young scientists and their teams.
Young fresh Ph.Ds. scientists recruited from universities do not have any prior industrial experience, but are bubbling with energy and ready to take up responsibilities. These young scientists have to be moulded by careful training and discussions. Initially, when I used to talk to them, most were not very comfortable in joining product development activities involving the development of lubricants, which was a completely unknown subject for them. They, as usual, were more interested in working in the area of analytical chemistry or some fundamental aspect of petroleum. I could understand this since I have myself passed through this dilemma. I would tell them the objectives of Indian Oil Corporation; describe the SERVO story and how we have taken over the business of Mobil through research and development. I will also tell them that our job in this research and development centre is to convert knowledge into products and processes and company convert these into business and finance through which we are paid and the organization is funded. Therefore to justify our presence in the organization, we have to provide new products to the company through our research activities and if we fail to do so, the company fails and our own growth is inhibited. However, if we succeed and company improves business, our own growth will be unlimited. Through repeated deliberation, young scientists would get convinced and start their development work with great zeal and ultimately succeed. In my opinion it is not necessary that somebody should be IIT graduate or a foreign or top university degree holder for successful research. Most of my other colleague scientists (including myself) have been average people with average background, but once they were properly initiated and focussed programmes allocated, all of them did excellent work. I have all praise for my team members who accomplished the assigned tasks in a strict time frame. Some of the group leaders who worked with me in the product development activities are Shri B R Tyagi, Dr A M Rao, Shri K C Jayaprakash, Dr R T Mooken, Dr V K Chhatwal, Dr Mrs Faiz Waris, Dr Deepak Saxena, Dr Sarita Garg, D M Chaube, C B Semwal, Dr K P Naithani, Dr B Basu, B S Rawat,Dr SSV Ramakumar, Dr S K Majumdar, Dr E Sayana, V P Deshmukh, N Raju Iyer, Subhash Chand, Khazan Singh, Dr G K Sharma, Shri M C Sachdeva, Fakira Singh and many others.. Sri N R Raje and Dr R K Malhotra were also part of this Lube technology group and later they occupied the position of Director R&D. Some of the senior members of the team Lubricants and fuel development are Dr J S Ahluwalia (former head R&D), Dr G Jayrama Rao, P K Goel, K S Anand, K C Mehta, J R Nanda, N S Ramanathan, K P Nair and J M Sagar. There are large number of other scientists from divisions such as Analytical, Tribology, Engine testing, product development and coordination divisions who contributed to this development activities. Their names are provided in the internal technical reports and published papers or patents etc. The entire work was carried out by the dedicated teams and none contributed less than others. Some names may be missing in this list due to the limited scope of this book, but their contribution is fully appreciated and without their efforts success could not have been achieved. Each and every member of IOC R&D centre fully contributed to the best of their ability in the scientific pursuit.
In research, success is not assured; failures are common and these must be viewed in right perspective. Failures must be investigated critically, since these provide us an opportunity to learn more and do more. The failures must be accepted gracefully and confidently since success is hidden in it. It is said that Edison failed several hundred times before he could make an electric bulb and each failure made him wiser and nearer to the solution. On the other hand, if success is achieved in any research activity, one must try to understand how and why and repeat the work for confirmation, before rushing to publish or making it public. Consequences of over enthusiasm in research are generally self-defeating and there are plenty of examples of such over enthusiasm in scientific world. Lessons must be learnt from such incidences.
Development of synthetic aviation oils have not been taken up seriously due to an IOC- Balmer Lawrie joint venture with Nyco France to manufacture and market such oils in India. However, several synthetic oils have been developed for industrial and automotive applications. The other area where adequate work could not be carried out is the development of lubricant additives. I was initially looking after the development of additives, but this was limited to the evaluation of chemical additives, identifying different sources to obtain most cost effective products. It was planned that after the development of all required lubricants, we shall take up the development of additive technology to make Indian oil at par with other international oil companies like Exxon Mobil, Shell etc. who also possess lubricant additive technology. I had completed my ground work and literature search to take up additive development. By the time we completed initial lubricant technology development, it was around 1985 and the centre had gone for restructuring. Development groups were reorganized. I was assigned higher responsibilities to look after other areas of research. New scientists, who took over additive development had new perspective and concentrated on the development of certain specific additives. IOC, however, entered lubricant additive business through the equity participation in Lubrizol and Indian additive company (a Chevron affiliate company). Thus the business of synthetic aviation oils and lubricant additives was acquired by IOC through collaborative equity participation. However, there was no shortage of programs and we moved on to newer projects of national interest in the areas of energy efficient, high performance and long life products. Every field or subject offer tremendous scope for research and one should not feel bad about changing the subject through re-organizations. In fact this provides opportunity to look at new subjects from a different angle and may leads to greater success, if taken up with positive bend of mind.
In the mid 1980’s, the centre in its second phase took up the development of refinery processes, pipeline transportation and chemical additives. New scientists and new director R&D joined the centre. Some of the prominent names are, Dr P K Mukhopadhya as director, Dr A K Bhatnagar, Dr S Ghosh, Dr R P Verma and Satish Makhija in senior managerial cadre, followed by many young scientists to take up the new areas. A separate Chemical engineering division was created for initiating refinery and pipeline related research. I shall not discuss this aspect since this was not my field. However, I must conclude that in due course of time Dr Ghosh, Dr Verma and Shri Makhija (pipeline transportation) and their respective teams did commendable work and several refinery processes were developed and commercialized in Indian refineries and pipe line divisions. Dr Bhatnagar specifically started looking after the developments of Greases, synthetics, chemical additives in addition to other areas. He later occupied the position of Director R&D and made efforts to improve R&D infrastructure and initiated newer areas of research and development. In yet another phase, work was initiated in the field of petro-chemicals, nano-technology, solar energy, alternate energy and bio-technology and the centre continue to develop several useful technologies. Recently I witnessed the introduction of a nano-technology based LPG (Indane Nano-cut) for metal cutting operation, during the 44th foundation day celebration of IOC R&D centre on 10th March 2015. This is the first nano-technology based IOC product to be introduced in the market and perhaps first of its kind anywhere in the world.
The new work also required new man-power and some of the scientist from our group were then transferred to meet additional work requirement of new disciplines. IOC as a general rule has been quite strict in increasing man-power unless absolutely necessary. To cope up the work with reduced man-power, I decided to go ahead with the laboratory automation. There was no restriction on the purchase of laboratory equipment, so I decided to automate test equipment by importing new ones from various European and American sources. All the long running tests which were managed through three shift work (with minimum 7-8 scientific staff) were automated. All the manual laboratory tests run for monitoring field testing oil samples were also automated, saving another 4-5 scientific staff. For this purpose a new auto-lube testing laboratory was created. Thus within 2-3 years we were running our laboratory with minimum scientific personnel with even higher output. This was possible with the application of automation technology and by creating new improved laboratory set up with greater accuracy and precision. Subsequently this knowledge and information was also utilized to upgrade and automate refinery laboratories as well. I found this second phase of IOC R&D (1985- 2000) extremely exciting, challenging and could contribute to the newer areas of development, I was assigned to.
In 1987, I was deputed to attend STLE (society of Tribology and lubrication engineers) conference in California USA and found several interesting research papers describing the development of sulphonate grease, bio-degradable environmental friendly lubricants and synthetic oils. Such products were then at the development stage. We immediately started these developments. Sulphonate grease and aluminium complex grease development was assigned to our grease group. Biodegradable product development was started in the industrial oil group, but the main issue was to set up a new laboratory for testing biodegradability as per the CEC procedure. Dr M P Singh who had just joined us as a research officer was assigned this task and he created the facility quickly. For the first time in India, we had several bio-degradable lubricants. A new synthetic lubricant group was created and in the next 2-3 years we had the entire desired products. The development of sulphonate grease won an innovation award from the ministry of petroleum and natural gas. Other greases such as Rail road grease, chain grease, aluminium complex and lithium complex greases were also successfully developed in a time bound manner and introduced in the market. These products are continued to be used by various customers with great satisfaction. Subsequently several awards also came our way for developing energy efficient products, marine oils and rail-road oils. I used to tell my young scientists deputed to attend international conferences that please try to get at least two good ideas to be implemented in our organizations. I myself followed this principle.
Quality and environment management systems
As we moved forward, need was felt to improve ourselves by introducing quality and environmental management system. In early 1990’s, no research organization has gone into quality systems. I took up this responsibility and trained each and every personnel to understand and introduce these systems through expert consultants. Initially there were oppositions and many felt that this would be a wasteful exercise for a research centre. But once scientists understood the systems, everybody participated and introduced both these systems. IOC research centre was perhaps the first research centre in India to have been certified with both ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 management and environment systems. Both these systems brought in improved quality in our day to day work and everybody became more environment conscious. Dr M C Jain provided specific impetus to these projects and coordinated the activities well.
International and national seminars
Scientists love to attend conferences and seminars to present their work before the larger community and get newer ideas for further research and development initiatives. Till 1990’s there was very limited scope within India to attend international seminars. Conferences outside India could be attended by only a few selected senior scientists. We decided that it is better to create opportunities in India for younger generation to participate in scientific conferences of their interest. Several initiatives were started in IOC to organise Indian society for analytical scientist (Delhi chapter), Tribology society of India, NLGI (India chapter), ISFL (International seminar on fuels and lubricants), CIMAC and SAE conferences in India with international participation. Petrotech was also started by IOC/ONGC under the aegis of ministry of petroleum and natural gas covering both up-stream and down-stream subjects. Through these seminars/ conferences large number of Indian scientists and technical personnel were exposed to international scenario at a very low cost. These initiatives had long term benefits to Indian scientists and technologist in improving their knowledge and confidence level in handling larger projects. Dr Bhatnagar supported these initiatives and took keen personal interest in such activities. There were large numbers of senior colleagues who actively participated and supported these programmes. I was fortunate to have been actively associated with some of these initiatives and happy to see the desired results. Scientific community in India in the petroleum sector today is of very high calibre and can develop solutions for any problem encountered in the industry. These seminars and interaction therein have definitely played key role in developing research and development capabilities of Indian scientists. This is also the right time now to start innovations and take Indian technologies around the world.
Building a research and development organization
An industrial organization is comprised of people with certain equipment, producing products at certain cost and then selling those in the market at a higher cost to generate funds for the organization. This fund is distributed between employees and also used for further organizational growth. The cycle keeps on going and if any one of these malfunctions, imbalance is created. Successful organizations keep this balance in harmony by effective human resource management and continuous technology development/ up gradation through R&D efforts. It is easy to change or up-grade the equipment, but it is most difficult to find a suitable man-power. Any wrong step in the recruitment of man-power would be harmful to the organization. In advanced countries recruitment take place after multiple layer assessment and even after this, there is a system of “hiring and firing”, if the performance of the person is not satisfactory. In Indian Government and public sector organization, a person once recruited is your life time companion. It becomes the responsibility of the organization to take work from the person and not the other way round. In fact, it should be the responsibility of the individual person to contribute to meet the goals and objectives of the organization. Indian managers find it extremely difficult to cope up with low performing individuals and lot of efforts and energy is wasted in managing such persons, who sometimes enter through the back doors of push and pulls and favouritism of different kinds. Such people are called dead woods and there are large numbers of such woods in Indian systems. This must be controlled for improved productivity of the organization. The R&D organization is thus built around the individuals and great care is required to nurture and motivate them. It is not the building, equipment and infrastructure important which we proudly show off to visitors; it is the human resource, which is relevant and important from the point of research and development activities. In one of the research centre of an oil company in USA, I was introduced to a very senior old retired scientist just working as an advisor, and free to do whatever he wants, as a pioneer who developed one of the earliest prestigious lubricants for the company. Can we develop such a culture in India?
Humans are hungry of recognition and scientists are very sensitive people. The management of a scientific research organisation poses several challenges and needs special skills and care. Recognition by way of sincere appreciation and authorship in the research papers, patent or reports is very important in a research organization for scientists. It must be ensured that any scientists or staff members who have contributed in a particular project must be given due recognition by way of authorship. Recognition in a public sector environment is ultimately determined by promotion and I used to make it clear to all that if the projects are completed in time by anybody in the group, he would also be entitled to the timely promotion as per company’s policies. I then ensured that this really happened to them. These initiatives kept scientists motivated and their research output was then, generally higher than expected.
Leading from the front
To lead a team effectively and to manage a team, are two different activities. Leadership qualities cannot be taught; it is natural and can only be improved or polished slightly with experience and awareness. On the other hand, management is to be learnt through studies and practice and is an interdisciplinary function of planning, controlling, directing and governing corporate resources to achieve the organizational objectives. Mr. Bill Gates is a living example of great leadership qualities, which brought up Microsoft with passion, ability and innovations. The leader must have a very positive way of thinking with a clear vision and the ability to share that vision and knowledge with his team members so that the entire team becomes homogeneous and start following the leader. Leader has also to inspire and motivate team members to provide optimum performance according to the individual abilities. Not all team members are alike; every individual is different, it is the leader’s role to select an individual for a particular role. This requires very frequent interactions with team members to understand their organizational as well as personal needs. I found that taking a regular round of my laboratory, whenever there is time, and talking to individual scientists and staff is one of the best methods to interact and understand team members. You can find out what is going on and if necessary corrections and advice can be provided on the spot. Frequent group meetings are another method to resolve conflicts and coordinating activities of the project. In case of an emergent situation or crisis, leader must not lose his cool and should be able to think constructively and creatively to come out of the difficult situation. Respected leaders are those who possess the capability of protecting their team members under any adverse conditions. If one possesses both leadership and managerial qualities, it is the most welcome scenario.
R&D management is different from general management. It involves several functions such as team building, project selection, project planning, basic research, concept development, technology development/product or process development, pilot plant experimentation, patenting, process engineering, technology demonstration followed by technology transfer. This is then followed up by further continual improvements and overall managing the innovation. After globalization, Indian research is more focused and business driven. This requires knowledge of international market, environmental considerations and intellectual property rights. It is easy to file patents in different countries, but if we do not have a mechanism to protect our IP rights in different countries, it is better not to have a patent. In patent every detail of the product or process is disclosed and a knowledgeable scientist can replicate it or modify the original work slightly to avoid legal implications. Therefore, one must be aware as to how to protect IP rights and technology. Every organization generating intellectual properties must have an effective system to monitor similar technologies being developed globally and a legal system to protect our own technologies. Therefore middle level and senior scientists must be trained in both general management and R&D management systems. IOC realized these needs very early and scientists were sent for several training programs including R&D management. IOC had set up Indian oil institute of management at Haldia, W.B., and later set up a central Indian oil institute of petroleum management (IIPM) at Gurgaon, near Delhi. I was fortunate to attend various programs at both the institutes and also at other important organization such as Administrative staff college, Hyderabad. These programs have helped me considerably in improving my knowledge and managerial effectiveness. Some of the important training programs that I have attended are as follows:
1. Organizational communications
2. Financial management for non-financial officers
3. R&D management systems at ASCI, Hyderabad
4. Human resource development and management
5. Time management
6. Stress management
7. Managerial effectiveness
8. Organizational planning
9. Project planning and management
10. Team building
11. Leadership skills
12. Change- management
13. International negotiations
14. Patenting and intellectual property rights
15. Technology forecasting
16. Quality management systems
17. Total quality management
18. Environment management systems
19. Lead assessors for QMS and EMS
20. Value based management
21. General management at Tata management center, Pune
22. Transactional analysis
23. Statistical planning of research experiments
24. Artificial Neural networking
25. Three month program on advance management at Administrative Staff College of India, Hyderabad, Singapore and Malaysia
26. Retirement planning (last program)
Besides these structured programs, several in-house workshops and programs have also been attended by me. In fact every year, senior officers were sent for at least two training programs and two to three technical seminars within India. Depending on the availability of funds every three to four years, scientists were also sent to attend international seminars of direct interest to them for international exposure. Such a wide exposure provided enough opportunity to develop myself and my teams. I also tried to further improve my managerial skills by reading several books available in our library. However, I found that it is not possible to apply theoretical managerial knowledge everywhere in all the organization. One has to develop appropriate methodology for the situation prevalent in a particular institution and modify actions accordingly. Nevertheless, it is quite important to understand basic modern management principles. I developed my typical managerial style focusing entirely on my team members and co-workers, which I found was highly rewarding to all including me. Most of my team members developed well and also progressed well in their scientific pursuit. I am happy to see some of them are now occupying very senior positions in the organization.
I will summarize my managerial methods, which are very simple; derived from basic believes and common sense in the following few lines.
1. Believe that all works and jobs can be carried out by simple thinking and in a straight forward manner. Therefore, do not contaminant your mind to follow negative approaches.
2. Believe that there is no perfect solution or decision in the world of science and therefore, take a quick decision in the interest of the organization at that point of time. Decisions can be changed or modified in the future based on the new information.
3. Think always positively and believe that the word “impossible” does not exist in the dictionary of science.
4. Believe in the philosophy of Nishkama Karm (work without worrying about the end result) of Bhagwat Gita. With self-less work, positive end result will flow automatically and quickly. Such a belief will lead to improved satisfaction at all levels.
5. Believe in yourself, your knowledge and have confidence
6. These first five beliefs must be deep seated in our mind, then rest of the processes follow smoothly.
7. Understand rules and regulations of your organization and follow them religiously. If there is a serious need to change or modify these rules for the benefit of the organization, pursue it through the normal channels.
8. Continuous Self-development for knowledge and expertise is important in research and development
9. Training subordinates and team members is important to achieve success
10. Share knowledge with all colleagues, this improves and fortifies our own knowledge
11. Keep a Teacher- student relationship with team members
12. Lead from the front
13. Be clear of organizational goal and objectives
14. Be useful to the organization; always try to add something relevant during discussions, meetings and interactions.
15. Develop a habit of thinking differently; yet relevant to the subject.
16. Organization- first and the most important and be accountable to the organization
17. Proper project selection and planning by interaction with manufacturer, customers and users.
18. Customer focus, Customer focus, Customer focus – this is most important. If we are not focused to the customer needs, no worthwhile product can be developed. Customer needs are to be understood, since they will not be able to narrate their problems in technical terms. Scientists have to understand their general need and convert these into technical inputs for development.
19. Focus on business through research. Think research as a tool to improve or generate new business.
20. Convert knowledge into implementable products and processes. Lots of products and processes can be developed with the help of existing knowledge available in the literature and some developmental activities, this must be harnessed first. For innovation and newer ideas, separate projects may be taken up.
21. Time management is very important. We do not have infinite time to complete a project. In industrial research, projects must be completed in time. This can be achieved by clear focus and handling one situation at a time.
22. Learn to handle organizational pressure and stress. Stress kills initiative and must be handled with proper techniques such as meditation, Yoga, positive thinking etc.
23. Due benefits to team members must be given to keep them motivated
24. Do not quit easily, convert a disadvantage into advantage
Most of these points are common senses, but the important thing is to apply these senses in actual practices. Let me explain some of these points in details. Beliefs characterize a person and are formed over a long period of time; defining the personality of an individual. Various experiences of life, studies, knowledge, attitude and social environment are responsible for the eventual make up of beliefs. These are the most difficult to change by external intervention. Changes can be made by the individual himself, if he or she is convinced. Research scientist is a knowledge worker and therefore, he has to keep his knowledge of the main subject and other related subjects up-to-date by continuous study. If this is not done one can become obsolete in no time. Ideas can be generated by finding out the work carried out by others in the related subject or through an out of box thinking. As one moves upward in the organization pyramid, newer areas of work are assigned. It is then also necessary that we must have adequate knowledge of these new areas, otherwise one will remain a paper head. This is necessary for effective management of the group and for providing effective leadership. Therefore continuous harvesting of knowledge must be the habit of a researcher. This knowledge then must be shared with colleagues and subordinates equally without any inhibition, whatsoever. Nobody ever loose knowledge by sharing; in fact, it fortifies your own knowledge. Other than the trade secrets or classified information, all information must be shared. Knowledge can be shared during meeting, discussions, presentations and seminars etc. Knowledgeable employee of a company would be much more useful and productive as compared to an organization where the information is not shared properly. Emphasis should also be laid on training and skill development of all employee and appropriate opportunities be provided to them. The training needs of an individual must be carefully identified in consultation with the individual concerned. A strong HR and training department is required in any organization to formulate appropriate programs.
Proper project selection is one of the single most important activities in the industrial research programs. I would categorize such projects into three classes.
1. Products or processes required by the users where competitors have an edge
2. New Products and process to beat the competition and improve market share by incremental improvements
3. Futuristic or innovative products to create new business on long term basis or to generate new knowledge which may lead to new products and processes.
The first two categories of projects must be selected with the involvement of industry’s manufacturing and marketing wing of the organization along with the user or customer. This is necessary since the product after development has to be manufactured, marketed and used by the customer. Without the support of these groups, the product can never see the light of the day. Even during the development stage, the progress must be reviewed with them for any mid-term correction. I have found this model of development very successful. More than 95 % of our projects have been taken through this model and met with great success. The advantage of this system is that the developed product is co-owned by all the groups and they do not have to re-look at the product. When I was working in CSIR laboratories this mechanism of interaction with manufacturer, marketer and user was not available during the planning and development stages and consequently most project; although successful in the laboratory, could not be taken to the commercialization stage.
The third category projects (innovative next generation type) have to be initiated by the scientists and the manufacturer and marketer need to be only informed since they would not be able to contribute at this stage. However, their capabilities and resources have to be kept in mind. Scientists have to ensure that after the development work, the product must be easily manufactured and marketed. If necessary, new manufacturing facilities may be created to bring out the product. While developing a product, several technological and scientific gaps are observed and it becomes necessary to investigate these issues in details. These require systematic studies to understand the science behind the problems. The development of new innovative products has to be handled with utmost care. Young scientists handling the projects are generally over-enthusiastic about such development and it becomes the responsibility of the senior scientists to take cautious view. However, this caution should also not be discouraging to the developers and a systematic evaluation of the product under adverse and severe conditions must be examined. The process must be repeated several times to build up confidence in the new product, since there could be several unknown factors which might affect the product performance. I have seen many good developments going to dust due to such over-enthusiasm and lack of rigorous evaluation and the developers have to face embracement at a later stage. A cautious approach can save such a situation. Failures are normal in research, there is nothing wrong in it, but these should be taken as a part of the development process. My message to the young scientist is that they have to be extremely careful in releasing a new product or process and must study all possible scenarios under which the product or process might be subjected. Even after such a cautious approach there would always be the need to continuously upgrade the product to meet changing customer requirements. In science there is no ‘perfect solution’, the right terminology is the ‘best possible solution at a given time’.
Many researchers are of the view that it is difficult to target the development with time because of the several uncertainties associated with any R&D project. I would say to the scientists that nobody can wait indefinitely for your project to be completed. A time target has to be established utilizing bar chart or Pert/CPM techniques. Large projects can be broken into several sub-projects and action and responsibilities be assigned to individual scientists of the team. This must then be followed with extensive periodic technical reviews for progress monitoring and mid-course correction. In R&D projects technical competence of the scientist concerned attain greater significance. Therefore, proper team selection plays important role. It might be necessary to change or rotate various scientist’s role in the project depending on the individual capability. A system of accountability of all junior and senior scientists must be in place. There is a tendency with senior people to get away from accountability, this situation need to be corrected. In fact, in Indian system, right now there is no accountability of senior officers; they can easily get away with this and enjoy higher positions in the organization by taking away the credit of the work carried out by junior officers and staff. If there is success in research, large chunk of the credit is taken away by the seniors and in case of the failures, the responsibility belongs to the junior working scientists. This system must be changed by dismantling hieratical organizational structure.
I found that lot of precious time of senior scientists is lost in large amount of paper work, meetings, correspondence and communication. I devised a simple procedure to handle this situation. First of all I would be very brief on the telecommunication and quickly come to the main point without wasting time on formalities. Secondly all the papers reaching me would be divided into following five categories:
1. Papers which I can deal or reply immediately without further consultation. These will be replied immediately.
2. Papers which need feedback or data from my group leaders. These will be marked to the concerned scientist with a deadline date for the information. As soon as I get this information, such papers will be dealt with.
3. Papers which can be dealt with by the concerned scientist will be sent to them immediately with observations /comments.
4. Papers requiring long term studies would be kept separately and interim replies would be sent immediately.
5. Papers requiring the attention of my superiors would be dealt with separately and a specific note would be prepared after collecting necessary information.
Such a system kept my table clean by the end of the day at 5-6 PM and unless there were other important meetings after this, I would be, generally in my home with children and enjoying their company. I never had the shortage of time and felt that 24 hours are good enough for exercise, walking, yoga, listening to music or playing musical instruments, shopping, looking after other domestic needs, watching television, playing cricket or badminton with children or flying kites in the season and of course office work and rest. There is no universal formula for managing time, but what can be done is to divide the available time into various activities, handle one activity at a time and learn to take quick decision. Indecisiveness takes away lot of time. There is no prefect decision in the world and if we wait for the prefect decision or solution, it will never be done. The famous Saint Kabir’s saying summarizes time management which says “ The work which you are planning to do tomorrow, do it today and the work which you are planning for today, do it just now, because in a moment the world might be destroyed and you will not get the opportunity to finish it”. Remember that organizations cannot wait indefinitely for solutions of their problems. If they do not get the right technology from their researchers, at the right time, they can import the technology from other sources.
During the long association with any organization there is certain period of time when one feels at a disadvantage due to the several complex issues such as re-organization, restructuring, policy changes, project re-alignment etc. Now in such a situation there are two types of personalities; one will get frustrated leading to the decrease in output and the other would try to understand the changes and adjust in the new situations. Remember not to lose hope, when the sun sets down; the stars come out to provide you direction. Whenever I have felt such situation, I sit down quietly and pose a question to myself as to how to adjust in the new situation or convert the disadvantage into advantage. I will ponder over this for a few hours and work out a plan to cope up the new situation. I must confess that in most situations, it has been possible to find a solution. For each individual the solution would be different, as there is no set mathematical formula to arrive at the solution. I believe that if there is a problem, there must be a solution as well. In fact for one problem there are multiple solutions and one has to decide on the most convenient path with least resistance. There must not be negativity in the solution. The problems must be examined with a positive outlook. For a scientist to be productive, the work must be enjoyed. The moment one does not enjoy the work, creativity and productivity go down. However, one must be open to shift the organization, if the situation does not improve despite all sincere efforts. The job rotation and organizational changes enrich our experience, expertise and usually are more rewarding to our self and to the new organization, if a proper decision is taken. Everybody faces such situation in the career and must be handled with a positive mind set.
In the twenty first century, technologies are changing very fast. Every three to four years these are upgraded or newer technologies emerge making the older technologies obsolete. All technology companies must therefore, continuously improve their technology base. Research and development plays a pivotal role in this process. The scientists must be in dynamic mode, managing these changes and learning and developing newer technologies. Similarly the laboratories, man-power and equipment must be continuously upgraded to match the new project requirements. If this is not done, the dynamism and business of the company will be affected. As the organization grow old, employee retires or leave and proper man-power planning, employee career growth and succession planning is required. In the absence of such a planning, gap areas emerge in the organization. IOC has managed these situations very well and kept the organization dynamic and its manpower motivated. This task is not easy; credit must go to the human resource department and IOC’s top management for planning their business strategies well. I am fortunate to have been associated with the Research and development activities of IOC from the very beginning and have seen several phases of development, each throwing up new challenges. Scientists responded to these challenges very well by developing entire range of lubricants, then high performance products, synthetic lubricants, environment friendly- biodegradable lubricants and then refining, catalyst and pipeline transportation technologies. This has been possible due to the clear goals, inspiring supervisors, trained group-leaders, dedicated supporting young scientists/ staff, full-fledged laboratory facilities, total support of operating divisions of marketing, refining, pipeline, willing customer to try out the new technologies and finally a total freedom to scientist to experiment the way they like. Such a congenial environment when created would automatically ignite the process of research and development.
Currently emphasis is being laid on the development of alternate fuels, solar energy, bio-technology, nano-technology based products and future lubricants etc. Now, a separate energy centre is being envisaged by IOC to work on the new areas to explore alternates for fossil fuels. While working in these new areas, focus remains on the improvement of IOC business in its current core activities. It is being envisaged that by the turn of the next century we have to go away from the use of fossil fuels to arrest climate change. This is a big challenge and world over research is being focused to find the solution. IOC, thus also has to participate in this endeavour and allocate adequate manpower and funds to find the solutions. I am, however, optimistic that our scientists would respond to these needs in a time bound manner and ensure energy security for the country and entire humanity. With IOC current turnover of about 75 billion US$ equivalent, it should not hesitate to allocate at least 0.5 percent of its business income for future alternate energy research. Similar amount can be allocated by the other oil operating companies of India. A consortium of oil companies and other energy companies can pool their resources to generate newer technologies to arrest the climate change on our planet. This aspect is really important and time is running out. We must find the solution at the earliest.
Misdemeanor in scientific world - we must avoid
There are unfair practices, cheating and corruption around the world in all walks of life; be it sports, education, finance, industry, business, science, politics and any other field. We often hear such news and forget. The good news is, however, that most of the people are not dis-honest and wants others to be honest. Cheating is defined as dis-honesty to gain advantage and is the outcome of the tendency to win at all costs. In scientific research, cheating involves fabrication or manipulation of data, hiding certain facts and self-promotion by over claiming and various other unfair practices.
There is a widely reported famous case of young German physicist Jan Hendrik Schön (born 1970) who became famous by claiming breakthroughs in semiconductors. He extensively published in leading journals such as, Nature, Physical Review, Science, Applied physics letter and then went on to receive the Otto-Klung-Weberbank Prize for Physics and the Braunschweig Prize in 2001 as well as the Outstanding Young Investigator Award of the Materials Research Society in 2002, which was later withdrawn. Most of his work was later found to be fraudulent. Several of his papers were then retracted; even his doctorate degree was also withdrawn by his university of Konstanz (Germany). He was employed by Bell Labs, New Jersey USA; after his doctorate degree in 1997. There he worked on electronics in which conventional semiconducting elements (such as silicon) were replaced by crystalline organic materials. Specific organic materials can conduct electrical currents, and in a so-called field-effect transistor (a refined implementation of the transistor effect, which was pioneered in 1947 in the Bell laboratory) the conductance can be switched on or off, a basic function in the field of electronics. Schön, however, claimed spectacular on/off behaviour, far beyond anything achieved so far with organic materials. His measurements in most cases confirmed various theoretical predictions, for example that the organic materials could be made to display superconductivity or be used in lasers. The findings were published in prominent scientific publications, including the journals Science and Nature, and gained worldwide attention. In 2001 Schön claimed in Nature that he had produced a transistor on the molecular scale using thin layer of organic dye molecules. The implications of this work were significant. It would have been the beginning of organic electronics in place of silicon based electronics reducing the costs drastically. However, no research group anywhere in the world could succeed in reproducing the results claimed by Schön. In May 2002, Bell Labs set up a committee under the chairmanship of Malcolm Beasley of Stanford University to investigate Schon’s claims. The committee publicly released its report on September 25, 2002. The report contained details of 24 allegations of misconduct. They found evidence of Schön's scientific misconduct in at least 16 of them. It was found that whole data sets had been reused in a number of different experiments. It was also found that some of his graphs plotted from the so-called experimental data, had infact been produced using mathematical calculations. Schon also could not show any original record of the observations and measurements, stating that his computer hard disc has crashed.
The report found that all of these manipulations had been performed by Schön alone (most papers has several co-authors). All of the co-authors (including Bertram Batlogg who was the head of the team) were exonerated of scientific misconduct. This sparked widespread debate in the scientific community on how the blame for misconduct should be assigned to one author only, particularly when co-authors equally share the credit. This is important for senior authors to be cautious to become co-authors in their junior’s work without full involvement and understanding the work. Schön acknowledged later that the data were incorrect in many of these papers and admitted having falsified some data. Schön went back to Germany and took a job at an engineering company. In June 2004 the University of Konstanz issued a press release stating that Schön's doctoral degree had been revoked due to "dishonourable conduct". This was called the "biggest fraud in physics in the last 50 years" bringing disrepute to science.
Following this episode several journals including Science, Nature, Physical review, Applied Physics Letters and Applied material retracted at least 28 papers written by Schon and co-authors. Concerns have also been issued by these journals about several other papers written by Schon and co-workers.
This should be a lesson for young scientist that one should not misadventure and manipulate data in scientific publications and patents and be sincere in their work. Wrong reporting, data manipulation and over claims are scientific crimes and will be self-defeating in the long run.
American Chemical Society in May 2014 issued following ethical guidelines for the publication of chemical research.
“The co-authors of a paper should be all those persons who have made significant scientific contributions to the work reported and who share responsibility and accountability for the results. Authors should appropriately recognize the contributions of technical staff and data professionals. Other contributions should be indicated in a footnote or an “Acknowledgments” section. An administrative relationship to the investigation does not by itself qualify a person for co-authorship (but occasionally it may be appropriate to acknowledge major administrative assistance)”. A scientist should not proclaim a discovery to the public unless the experimental, statistical, or theoretical support for it is of strength and sufficient to warrant publication in the scientific literature”.
There are examples of leading senior scientists having extraordinarily large number of publication or patents while they are generally mobile, attending conferences and meeting and have virtually very little time to carry out research by themselves. This is another example of unfair practice and is widely prevalent in the scientific world. This practice need to be controlled. I think this can be controlled by changing our reporting and hieratical system and every scientist should be made accountable for the work he himself carries out. There may be an internal committee to decide the authorship and each author may be required to specify their specific contribution in the work with proper records.
Over enthusiasm by way of over claiming a research or development work is another form of cheating to gain award, honours and higher positions. This is extremely prevalent in Indian Government funded laboratories. It is necessary that all claims must be fully verified and justified through pre-determined parameters. For example in sports, sportsman can think of getting some award only after winning a gold or silver medal in Olympic or Asian games or a cricketer only after making certain number of runs/or taking certain numbers of wickets or winning a world cup. A similar accountability may be built in the case of scientists. There are vigilance officers who only try to find out procedural lapses and implicate innocent scientists and officers, not fully conversant with the rules and regulations. We need to take strong corrective actions so that younger generation and good scientist do not suffer. Non-accountability in Indian scientific world is also one of the reasons behind the exodus of many bright Indians now working abroad. Many such scientists at one stage decided to come back to India, but had to go back due to these malpractices non-conducive environment created by senior scientists and administrators. We often criticize that Indian scientists are not Innovative and are not carrying out any cutting edge technology work. I would say that Indians are doing extremely well around the world; everybody recognizes this; provide them similar environment, they will do far better than their counterpart in US or Europe. Why government does not listen and act? There are several reports providing inputs to Government for action. Similar situation is prevalent in the field of education. Most of the Indian problems discussed at the different forums are due to poor accountability of individuals, especially senior personnel. This can only improve through appropriate systems deployment, administrative and structural reforms.
There are also certain real honest mistakes that take place in scientific world, leading to controversies. For example, a scientific paper in which M S Swaminathan and his team claimed to have produced a mutant breed of wheat by gamma irradiation of a Mexican variety resulting in ‘Sharbati Sonora’ claimed to have a very high lysine content turned out to be a mistake made by a laboratory assistant. The case was discussed extensively in the agricultural world [ H. Joseph, Top scientist publishes false data, New Scientist, Vol.64, No 922, pp 436-437] as a classic example of scientific misdemeanor. However, Dr. Swaminathan’s contribution to Indian agriculture cannot be doubted. His work has revolutionized agriculture production in India and this was the case of a real honest mistake.
The lesson learnt from these examples is that whenever, we come across with a new finding of significance, it must be repeated and confirmed several times and various issues connected with the findings must be verified, before a claim is made or the paper/patent sent for publication.
It is argued that cheating in science is not in the interest of the individual scientist himself, since it would be caught one day when somebody else tries to replicate it. But in reality, there are always ways and excuses to explain and provide reasons for non-replication. Proof of cheating, generally comes when the scientist himself or herself fabricates data in such a way that the fabrication becomes obvious. Some other scientists have been caught cheating since their fabricated data was too good to be true. I have come across during my work many fraudulent cases of scientific claims and I could check many of these at the initial stage. Let me give here only one example. One of the scientists was working on emulsified fuel and he was emulsifying water into gasoline. He claimed that he succeeded in emulsifying water in gasoline with certain emulsifiers and the micro-emulsion thus prepared had exactly similar properties comparable with the neat gasoline in all characteristics including distillation. Testing on the emulsified fuel was carried out in the fuel testing group and the claims were verified. Superiors were very happy with these findings and planned a field trial and engine testing and asked the scientist to prepare larger quantity of product for these tests. In the meantime somehow this was referred to me for final go-ahead. I discussed the subject with the scientist concerned and he was very excited and confident about the whole issue. He was about to come out with a breakthrough, that certain amount of water can be mixed with gasoline and the emulsified product is just like neat gasoline in all characteristics. I also discussed with the scientists of fuel testing group and they confirmed that the fuel provided by the scientist behaves exactly like neat fuel. I asked both of them, where the water in gasoline is manifesting in distillation characteristics, it must be boiling near one hundred degree centigrade. They answered that water and emulsifiers are so homogeneously distributed in the micro-emulsion that they are boiling along with the gasoline fractions and no water separation is taking place even in different fractions. I thought this is a great combination of water and emulsifier technology and something new, but I was not satisfied. It was too good to believe. I asked the concerned scientist, if he can demonstrate to me the entire exercise of emulsion preparation and distillation. After a week the emulsion was prepared before me and subjected to distillation soon after. During distillation, water was clearly separated. The scientist said he will repeat the process with a new emulsifier. He was allowed to do that and again water separated during distillation. Now he said the emulsifier has changed he will get a new supply of emulsifier. He was again allowed to do that, but the new emulsifier was never ordered. The scientist was exposed and the company was saved of filing a patent and spending huge amount of money in engine tests and field trials.
Another scientific cheating at the national level was that of Herbal Petrol by Mr Ramar Pillai. It has taken nation by surprise and the news even travelled to USA and other countries. Everybody was curious to know about it. In early 1990s our marketing division in Chennai informed us that one Mr Ramer Pillai (with no formal science knowledge) has produced Gasoline from herbs, water and some ash. I asked for a sample of the product. In the meantime Mr Pillai started demonstrating his process publically and several state governments gave him awards. He became famous overnight. Next he came to Delhi with several of his followers and demonstrated the process in IIT Delhi in the presence of IIT professors and Department of Science and Technology scientists and officials on 2nd & 3 rd September 1996. There he produced gasoline from some herbs/leaves and ash type material. IIT Delhi kept a sample of gasoline produced by Mr Pillai. Next day it was big news in the newspaper. DST was so impressed with the process that they wanted to take a patent of the process and constituted a large committee of senior scientists from different laboratories along with a patent attorney to have a look at the process and patent it. I got a phone call from my refinery director informing me of this event and asked me to go to IIT Delhi immediately and check on the process. He also said that IOC would be interested in this process at any cost and we should not miss an opportunity on an invention like this. I talked to Prof N K Jha and Prof A S Brar of IIT Delhi and took an appointment to meet them. Here in my laboratory, immediately a task force was set up for this invention to be perused. Next day I along with my colleagues BS Rawat and S. K. Jain visited IIT and had detailed discussion with prof. Jha. He explained to me the details of experiment conducted by Mr Ramar pillai. Mr Pillai brought all the experimental vessels from Chennai and charged water along with some green leaves, which he called herbs and some ash and heated the material while stirring. The vessel was then covered with a cloth and removed after sometime. Gasoline was found to be floating on the top of water layer. The materials were weighed and measured. All the quantity of original herb, ash and water were recovered. In addition more than 360 grams of gasoline was also produced. I asked them how to explain the increase in weight and production of gasoline hydrocarbons out of nothing. Prof Jha said, according to Mr. Pillai, Air and carbon dioxide comes from the atmosphere and the herbs/ ash act as catalyst to synthesise gasoline. I asked for a sample of the gasoline produced by Mr Pillai and got about 250 ml sample. To me this appeared to be totally unscientific and unrealistic. I was then sure that this seems to be an act of magic or trick to get popularity and awards/ accolades. The gasoline sample was analysed in the laboratory and it was found to be exactly same as that of gasoline produced by our Mathura refinery and distributed in Delhi area as well. Even the trace typical compounds present in refinery products such as sulphur, lead and mercaptans were also found in Mr Pillai’s gasoline. I submitted a detailed report, which travelled fast to the ministry of Petroleum and natural gas, Department of science and technology and CSIR director general. DST secretary at that time was Prof V. Ramamurthy. After a few days I met him. He said that he has seen my report and asked me if there is business in the Pillai work. I explained to him the actual situation and then he invited me to be present in IIT Chennai next week for the next demonstration by Mr Ramar pillai before the larger committee. I gladly agreed to be present and witness the drama. I was pretty sure that we would be able to catch the magical trick and end this controversy for ever. We all reached Chennai IIT on 25th September 1996. Mr Pillai and his large team also arrived. This time IIT Chennai ensured that all the experimentation is to be carried out in glass containers provided by IIT. A large glass beaker is taken, water was added and Herbs were then added followed by some ash by Mr Pillai. The beaker was heated on a hot plate and stirred. Nothing happened for half an hour. Then Mr Pillai took out a thick metallic stirrer and said that the mixture must be stirred with this paddle type stirrer. After stirring for a while, smell of gasoline was felt. The stirrer was immediately taken out and gasoline was dripping out from the bottom hole of the stirrer. The stirrer handle was hollow and gasoline was hidden in it and sealed with wax. As the stirrer got heated the wax melted and the hidden gasoline dripped from it. Mr Pillai’s game was over. He said no, perhaps the herbs are not good and he will get another set of herbs and repeat the experiment. We allowed him to do that. His team went out of the room to discuss amongst themselves. I asked the permission of the chair to examine the bag left by Mr Pillai in the room and soon recovered two other similar stirrers with wax sealed bottom. There was deep silence in the conference room. Mr Ramar Pillai team came back and said that he is not getting the herb and shall demonstrate the experiment on some other day. I suggested that the next demonstration, if required, can be held at Indian oil research and development centre at Faridabad and we shall make all the arrangements. This was agreed. DST was, however, perhaps satisfied that they have been saved from further embracement. Now these reports reached the Government and they decided to have a parliamentary committee to examine this issue and put a lid over the controversy for ever. The committee decided to have the demonstration at the Indian Institute of Petroleum, Dehradun, and a CSIR laboratory. The parliamentary committee was a high level committee headed by V. Narayanasamy and its one of the prominent member as none other than Honourable Pranabh Mukherjee (now president of India). I was again invited to attend this demonstration as an observer on 15th November 1996. Before the demonstration, Honourable chairman had a meeting with all of us and told details of the methodology to be followed for the demonstration and also suggested that we should not pass on any information to the media at this stage, which was also present in good strength. He said that after the demonstration and analysis of the results, committee will submit its full report to the government. Media was, however, not allowed during the demonstration. The demonstration was arranged in a lecture hall and one of the IIP scientists Dr V K Bhatia conducted it. This time Mr Ramar Pillai took an entirely different route. He brought a liquid material, which was giving the smell of kerosene. This was mixed with a white solid (having a smell of camphor), some herbs and ash and heated up. When these were mixed up, he said the herbal fuel is ready and tried to ignite it with an open flame and it caught fire. IIP finally analysed the fuel and gave its report, concluding that Mr Ramar Pillai’s fuel is nothing but a mixture of kerosene and camphor. None was convinced that herbal fuel can be produced like this. Finally the 38th report of the department- related parliamentary standing committee on science and technology, environment and forests, was submitted on 19th December 1996 providing complete picture of the whole issue and the matter ended here. Ramar Pillai now vanished from the scene. What a national wastage of time and money on such a silly thing? Ramar Pillai, in the meantime had already collected several lakhs of Rupees as rewards from various Governments of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. After sometimes I learnt that he was arrested by investigating agencies for purchasing various flammable materials from the market. However, recently I have also seen some news items that Ramar Pillai is again on his game and claiming that he can still produce herbal fuel and that he is going to file his patent on this process. Patent filing is no big deal, anybody can file a patent on anything; important thing is that the patented process must be workable and useful. It is said that one can file a patent for converting 24 carets gold into garbage; it will be a noble and innovative idea. The question is who will use this process? The lesson learnt there is that a scientist should never think of data manipulation and over claiming any finding because of the simple reason that it will be self-defeating in the long run and truth will come out. If someone finds good and interesting result, it must be repeated several times to ensure reliability and credibility. This is important for the young scientists and they should learn this early in their career.
So in this world a clever individual can fool people, scientists, governments and country for years on such high technology products such as Semiconductor/ Herbal/bio fuel until he/she is caught by their own over-doings. Currently bio-fuel is a hot subject and world over scientists are trying to come out with a commercially viable solutions and large amount of money being invested in various related projects. This example compels me to think that we still do not have scientific outlook and it will take a long time to train our self. There is also another example which proves that Indians can be easily fooled around. This is the famous episode of Ganapati (God with elephant head) drinking milk. I remember I was in office and some body brought the news that Ganapati everywhere is drinking milk. With the application of modern information technology, Ganapati around the world started drinking milk. I went to a near-by temple where Ganapati was being fed with milk and saw the drama. It was a simple case of surface tension, where through capillary forces milk was being drawn. This led to the milk scarcity on that day in the whole country, since Ganapati has drank all the milk. In the evening my wife who is also a scientist told me about this and I demonstrated to her the art of feeding milk through a rough stone piece. The problem is that we do not apply our mind and think independently about an issue or a problem. This is how millions of Indians are being cheated every day through television/ radio advertisement for overnight fortunes or cure for overweight and any personal problem. In the name of so called religion, people are being fooled and cheated everywhere. In this game Government is a silent spectator. They should be pro-active and ban all such activities. If people also develop scientific temperament these things will automatically go away. I feel that science education alone is not sufficient, development of scientific temperament i.e. to analyse the problem or situation in a systematic rational manner with open mind is most important. We can only think of innovation from India, when this scientific temperament is developed in every Indian. This is not an easy task, the complicated society as we are, it will take time. The inhibitions that have gone deep into the society have to be removed. The negative thoughts must be removed from the mind of young Indians and we have to be more confident. Minds of the younger generations have to be channelled towards rational scientific thinking and then the ability to think out of the box for innovation will develop. The process must begin right now from our primary schools and colleges and when the new crops of scientists are produced, say after 20 years, we can think of innovations from India. Till then, we do not have to wait; we can continue to utilize the existing knowledge for the benefit of society by converting it into new products and processes. Great potential exists for technological development in India under this fast changing technological environment and we must not miss this opportunity.
The journey and future challenges
I was seven years old at the time of India’s independence and have grown along with it to witness some of the most exciting time of Indian development. There are people who think that India’s growth during the last six decades has not been satisfactory. I do not quite agree with such a statement entirely, but do agree that the development could have been better. Let us not forget that in 1947, we got a divided country with hardly any industrial or civil infrastructure, not enough food, diseases, illiteracy, extreme poverty, large population and shattered economy. During the seven centuries of foreign rules, our 12-15 generations have been subjected to tremendous neglect. Even before the foreign rules, Indian kings and rulers also did not treat Indian population well and exploited them at every opportunity. The task to develop such a society and vast country was a real challenge in a democratic environment. When I look at myself, during 1950’s we lived in a place without electricity, drinking water supply, medical facilities, modern education and transportation. As our family travelled along with the country’s development, we slowly enriched our life and today we are at par with any of the western country life style, if not better. Our children are even better and enjoying a very high quality of life. This, however, was possible through education and our sincere efforts to develop ourselves, the organization and country we live in and work. The key issue is therefore “Education”. We cannot leave everything to the Government. We as individuals have to make efforts, get educated and keep the desire to continuously improve ourselves. Government has provided enough opportunities for education and we must utilize these facilities. India has made good progress in improving its education system. The number of schools witnessed a tremendous increase after 1947. The Government launched Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (education for all- campaign) in 2001 to ensure education for all children between 6 to 14 years. The Parliament made elementary education a fundamental right for children in the age group of 6-14 years by amending the Constitution in 2002. At independence, India’s literacy rate was just 12.2 % which increased to 74.04% in 2011. Literacy in some of the states such as Kerala is over 90 %. Literacy between youths (15- 24 years) is above 85 percent. Remember, during this period the population also grew from 360 million to 1200 million. Let’s now look at the details of higher educational and research infrastructure in India, which is changing very fast and the data is thus indicative only:
1. Universities in India, - 680,
2. Colleges total - 36,000,
3. Medical colleges/ school- 380
4. Engineering colleges- 5600
5. Indian Institute of Technology – 16
6. Indian Institute of Information Technology – 4
7. Indian Institute of Management- 13
8. National institute of technology- 30
9. Council of Scientific and Industrial Research labs,- 39
10. Indian Council for Medical Research laboratories - 27
11. Indian Agriculture Research Institutes- laboratories - 100
12. Indian Space Research Organization lab, - 18
13. Bhabha Atomic Research - budget of Rs 2000 crores, A total budget for dept. of atomic energy Rs.7600 crores
14. Defence research laboratories (DRDO) - 52
15. Energy/ oil sector laboratories (including ONGC, IOC, BPCL, HPCL, TERI, NTPC etc.) - 33
16. Private-industry research labs. – More than 1500, employing 90,000 personnel
17. Multinational companies research facilities – 1031 in 2013
India’s educational infrastructure is currently developing at a faster rate. More and more Indian institutes of technologies, Indian institutes of medical sciences, Indian institutes of managements, Indian institute of information technology and universities are being set up. Private Universities are being encouraged to make higher level education available to larger number of students. Indian professionals and scientist are in great demand all over the world.
India’s economic growth took place in two phases – first 45 years after independence under a social-democratic system and then the two decades under partially free market economy. The economic reforms and liberalization should have taken place at least a decade earlier, and due to this delay we missed several large opportunities of global manufacturing and development.
The Indian road network has become one of the largest in the world with the total road length increasing from 0.399 million km in 1951 to 4.24 million km as of 2014. Further, the total length of the country’s national highways has increased from 24,000 km (1947-69) to 92,851 km in 2014.
As India needs power to drive its growth engine, it has adopted a multi-pronged approach (thermal, hydro, nuclear, solar, wind, bio etc.) and has now emerged as the third largest producer of electricity in Asia. It has increased its electricity generation capacity from 1,362 MW in 1947 to 112,700 MW in the year 2004 and now to 2, 34,600 MW in 2014. However, the demand is much higher and we have shortages of power.
India has now overcome most of the historical, cultural, social and religious dogmas faced by the people of my generations. In fact, these factors considered earlier weakness, have now been converted into strength to enable to understand the large consumer Indian market and similar economies in developing countries to launch newer products. This robust development has been taking place for the last about two decades. India and other developing economies offer a good market for multi-national companies, a preferred location to understand the market dynamics and proving ground for new products and services for targeting emerging economies. India’s socially and culturally diverse society serves as a laboratory of similar challenges faced in many other countries. It is not possible to understand such realities from developed nations such as USA or Europe. India also offers cost and skill benefit as large number of engineers, scientists and technicians are available at one third to one fourth costs as compared to USA or Europe. India’s weaknesses such as low per capita income, under developed consumer market, and weak infrastructure are now being considered as strength and a new resource for Research and Development activities. One such example is the requirement of a small car for low- medium income group people which constitute a huge market. Every car maker has been trying to develop such a car for Indian requirements. The success of Maruti- Suzuki and Tata Nano cars is due to this phenomenon. With the increase in income of middle class this requirement has now been converted to a small 1000- 1200 cc sedan. This market could not be appreciated by large car makers of USA or Europe.
Just two decades back R&D funding was largely carried out by Government, but now the situation has changed and private sector has larger share. Companies such as Ranbaxy Laboratories, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, Tata Steel, Mahindra & Mahindra, Cadilla, Indian Oil Corporation, Steel authority of India, Bharat heavy electrical Ltd. and National Thermal Power Corporation, are some of the private and public sector companies which are among the topmost spenders in Research and Development.
It is estimated that the gross R&D expenditure in India would be of the order of US$ 44 billion amounting to 0.9 per cent of the GDP by the end of year 2014. According to the Global Innovation Index (GII), India is currently ranked 76th out of the total of 143 countries. There are about 1031 research centres of Multi-National Companies in India as on 2013 and this number is continuously increasing. Some of the important companies having their R&D centres in India are ABB, Accenture, Adobe, Cisco, Citigroup, Cognizant, Ericsson, Ford, General Electric, Google, Hewlett-Packard, IBM Global Services, Intel, McKinsey, Novartis, Novell, Microsoft, Motorola, Oracle, Pfizer, Philips, SAP, Siemens, Philips, Texas Instruments, Toyota Motor, Volvo, Shell, Exxon-Mobil and Yahoo! Unilever, Panasonic, Ricoh, Royal DSM, Abbott, Qualcomm and Sigma-Aldrich. Several companies are also outsourcing research in India such as Alcatel, Cisco, Ericsson, General Electric, General Motors, IBM, Lucent, Motorola, Nokia, Nortel Networks, and Xerox.
This list is continuously expanding and complete information may be sought elsewhere.
Government has announced science and technology plan of India in 2003, envisaging several initiatives to improve science. Indian government support has been responsible for several key developments in different sectors such as agriculture, healthcare, space research and nuclear power through scientific research. For instance, India is gradually becoming self-reliant in nuclear technology through the commercial success of the indigenous reactors like the Dhruva reactor at BARC. The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) is striving to increase the nuclear capacity to about 17,000 MW by 2023-24 from the present level of 5,780 megawatt (MW).
In the current Union Budget of 2014-15, Government established two more Agricultural Research Institutes of excellence in Assam and Jharkhand with an initial sum of Rs 100 crore (US$ 16.26 million) and Identified the technology driven second Green Revolution with focus on higher productivity including ‘Protein revolution’ as a major area of focus. India has developed the world’s second largest gamma ray telescope that will help scientists gain new knowledge on the origin of the universe and origin of cosmic rays that bombard the space. This telescope has been built indigenously by the Electronics Corporation of India Ltd with designs supplied by Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC).
A new scheme has been launched on ‘National Initiative to establish 20 Design Innovation Centres, one Open Design School and National Design Innovation Network in 2013-14. With the improved government support, the R&D sector in India is set to witness some robust growth in the coming years. A new fund called India Innovation Fund has been established with an initial corpus of Rs 500 crore (US$ 81.69 million).
Number of researchers in India
Total number of MNC R&D centres in India
Research expenditure per year, (2009-2013)
Most developed European countries and USA spend 2 to 3 % of GDP on R&D. World total R&D expenses is 1.6 trillion US $ per year and half of this is invested by three countries, i.e. USA, Japan and China. The following data indicate that India has been spending too little and that to on too many R&D projects, with the result that desired output could not be achieved.
1. India, 0.9 % of GDP
2. Israel, 4.2% of GDP
3. China, 1.8 % of GDP, Budget is likely to overtake USA in 2014
4. Korea, 3.7% of GDP
5. Singapore, 2.2% of GDP
6. Japan, 3.2% of GDP
7. USA, 2.8% of GDP
8. U K, 1.77 % of GDP
This low R&D expenditure in India is also responsible for relatively low quality research output. Scientists have been demanding higher out lay for research, but Government could not allocate higher funds. It is now time that Indian Industry should come up and support research and development efforts. The existing laboratories can be restructured with Industry linkages for higher level product development activities. The total Indian research expenditure must be doubled in 5 - 10 years’ time with well-focussed plans. We should achieve a research expenditure of 2 % of GDP by 2030 and sustain it. Indian university research facilities also need to be improved considerable to produce high quality output and specialists. Environment has to be created to take up teaching and research as career by the young students, which has declined considerable over a period of time. During the last two decades there has been a shift towards engineering, finance and management courses due to higher wages and shorter study period involved in these courses. There is a greater requirement of engineers and managers in fast growing Industry. It takes only five years after school (12th class) to obtain a combined engineering and management degree. While a Ph.D. degree can be obtained in about 8-10 years after the school (there years for a bachelor degree, two years for master’s degree and 3-5 years for the Ph.D.). This situation has created imbalance in the teaching/ scientific cadre both with respect to quality and numbers and need immediate correction. Improved teaching /scientific cadre with higher wage structure have to be created to attract bright young minds. All those engaged in research must also undergo extensive training programmes on management of R&D and project planning with regular visits to the industries to understand their research needs. Researchers sitting in the laboratories away from the industry cannot provide meaningful solutions to the problems of society and industry. The academia- research and industry have to collaborate for acceptable solutions. However, pure fundamental and theoretical research of higher calibre may be separately encouraged for long term benefits and for enlarging scientific base. If these measures are taken, Indian research quality and output will improve considerably. It is heartening to note that an Indian Innovation fund of Rs. 5 billion has now been approved, this would go up to Rs. 50 billions in future.
It is interesting that more and more multinational companies are now investing funds in India on product design and research. Currently more than 1000 such small to medium research centres are in operation with mostly Indian engineers and scientists. Large numbers of patents are now emerging from these laboratories. These MNC R&D centres in India, combined with Indian providers of engineering R&D outsourcing, account for about 23% of the overall global engineering R&D outsourcing market. This makes India by far the largest provider of such outsourcing services. Patents filed out of India R&D centres of MNCs have increased from 481 in 2006 to 1098 in 2010. Most patents are being granted for innovations that solve a tough customer problem. The Zinnov research finds that total exports from India in engineering R&D services stood at $16.3 billion in 2012-13, a growth of 10.9%. This is a healthy trend since several projects are also sponsored by these companies to other academic institutions. This process will hasten the integration of Indian science and technology with rest of the developed world. Thomson Reuters predicts that India's research productivity will be on par with most G8 nations within 7 to 8 years and could overtake them between 2015 and 2020.
The scientific world is changing fast and new countries are emerging as science leaders. Other than China, Brazil and India, countries from South-East Asia, Middle East, North Africa and other nations are developing fast. According to Royal Society, science around the world is in good health. Between 2002 and 2007, global expenditure on R&D went up from $790bn to $1,145bn (now 1,600 billions) and the number of researchers increased from 5.7 million to 7.1 million. Over the same period, the numbers of scientific publications have gone up by about 25%. China has already overtaken UK as the second leading publisher of research papers. By around 2020 it is likely to overtake USA. However, Brazil, India and South Korea are catching up fast and are set to overtake the output of France and Japan by 2020. India ranked ninth globally in the number of scientific publications (among nations publishing 50,000 or more papers) and 12th in the number of patents filed. India has also positioned itself as among the top five nations in the field of space exploration.
The quality of research is difficult to measure. The Royal Society used the number of times a research paper had been cited by other scientists in the years after publication as a measure of research quality. By this method, the US again stayed at the top between the two periods 1999-2003 and 2004-2008, with 36% and 30% of citations respectively. The UK stayed in second place with 9% and 8% in the same periods. China's citation count went up from almost negligible to a 4% share. India ranked 17th in the number of citations received and 34th in the number of citations per paper across the science and technology field. This area needs strengthening by improving the quality of Indian research output.
Science and technology have very important role in addressing global challenges and collaboration is necessary so that global solutions are worked out jointly. The more countries are involved in science and technology, the more innovations will emerge.
Country has made good scientific progress in the following areas:
1. Space research
2. Agricultural research
3. Information technology
5. Pharmaceuticals and drugs
6. Down-stream petroleum technology in fuels and lubricants
Most Indians know the success achieved in our space programs, beginning with the launch of its first satellite “Aryabhatta” in 1975. The polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV)-C23 was launched successfully on June 30, 2014, carrying five satellites, one each from France, Germany and Singapore, and two from Canada. GSLV Mark III has also been launched successfully by testing re-entry of crew vehicle, clearing the path for manned space flights. India has been aggressively pursuing both nuclear and missile technology programs. BrahMos missile jointly developed by India and Russia and now inducted into the defence system is the world’s fastest cruise missile. India’s first advance light combat aircraft (LCA) is now ready, although it contains about 40% imported components; including the engine (the indigenously built Kaveri aero engine was not found satisfactory for the LCA). Nevertheless, this is a significant achievement and in future improved versions of TEJAS with Indian engine would come up. India has now come closer to being an independent force to reckon with in the field of nuclear and missile technology.
The agricultural research has, however, great impact on Indian society and improved Indian economy. M S Swaminathan foundation report quantifies the financial impact of agricultural research. It summarizes some of the following advantages as outcome of this public research.
1. Food grain production increased from about 45 million tonnes in 1951–52 to over 260 million tonnes in the current year 2013-2014.
2. Productivity of major cereals increased from 700 kg per hectare in 1961–62 to over 1700 kg per hectare by 2001–02. This productivity is lower than China’s productivity and needs improvement through new research inputs.
3. The net area under irrigation increased from about 21 million hectares in 1951–52 to about 60 million hectares by the late 1990s; gross irrigated area has also increased by over 300 %. Groundwater irrigation has played the lead role in bringing more area under irrigation.
4. Annual milk production alone has gone up from about 20 million tonnes in 1950–51 to nearly 100 million tonnes in 2007. The total milk production in India during 2013-2014 stood about 140 MMT; taking India to the first position in the world in milk production..
5. Both marine and inland fisheries have registered impressive progress: a major contribution to this progress has been made by scientific advances in the production of seed, feed, and induced breeding. Currently 9.4 million MT of marine products are produced annually.
6. Significant progress has been made in the development of affordable drugs for controlling malaria, tuberculosis, leprosy, cholera and other diseases. Small pox and polio have been completely eradicated and leprosy is likely to be eradicated soon.
7. India now has full capabilities to design and build own oil refineries and manufacture high quality fuels, lubricants and other petroleum products. A similar development has also taken place in the steel, fertilizer, textile and other industries.
The list of meaningful achievements brought about by public good research is large and impressive. The impact of such research is not generally realized when indicators based upon technologies covered by IPR are used.
The developments in automobiles, tele-communication and information technology are now quite obvious to everybody and we are world leaders in this field. Life expectancy has been increased from 42 years in 1960 to 62.3 years for males and 63.9 years for females in 2001-2005 and then to 67.3 years and 69.6 years respectively in 2011-2014. Experts attribute this jump to better immunization and nutrition, coupled with prevention and treatment of infectious diseases. Real per capita income between 1950 and 2005 increased three and half times. According to World Bank data, India’s GDP per capita income (GDP per is gross domestic product divided by midyear population) in 1980 was 271 US $ and it rose to US $ 1499 in 2013 (more than five times).
Poverty was widespread in India at the time of independence. The national government focused on a process of economic growth and poverty reduction through the initiation of the Five Year Plans in 1951. Incidence of poverty, however, did not show a visible downward trend for the first two decades. It started to fall from about 55 per cent in 1973-74 to 45 per cent in 1983 and further to 39 per cent in 1987-88. In recent years, official estimates based on large sample survey of households show a reduction in incidence of poverty from 36 per cent in 1993-94 to 26 per cent in 1999-2000.
The growth in education has also been impressive and our educated young people are in great demand all over the world. There is, however, a need to improve the quality level of our higher level institutions to increase the thrust.
These figures are impressive, but everything is not well with Indian Science and technology. In the post independent India large numbers of research laboratories were created to take up Industrial research to support growing industry. These included CSIR (council of scientific and industrial research), IARI (Indian agricultural research institutes), defence research laboratories (DRDO), atomic research, space research, Indian council of medical research etc., etc. While some laboratories have done good work, many lagged behind due to lack of industrial linkages. It is time that we take a stock of this situation and re-organize Indian research into a meaningful system to generate desired research output. We have no dearth of individual scientific capabilities and some of such individuals would excel occasionally. The problem is that of management, systems and creation of appropriate environment for higher level research in areas of priority. If we can improve this, obviously the research quality would improve. Right now this is not in good shape. Most bright young scientists opt to go out to United States of America or other western countries, where they excel in their work. Initially it is thought that they would come back to their country after gaining some experience, but later on it is found that Indian window is virtually closed for them to come back. They do not get any suitable position according to their experience. Even some of the researchers who manage to come back do not feel comfortable in Indian system and eventually go back. Occasionally Indian prime minister or some minister would call upon non-resident Indian scientist and technologist to come back to India, but very little is done to improve the system or provide adequate funds to support their research programmes. The sooner we address these issues associated with research and development in India, the faster would be our development.
Former prime minister of India Dr Man Mohan Singh speaking at the 99th Science Congress in Bhubaneshwar on 3rd January 2012 told delegates that despite increase in science funds, India’s position in world science is declining and have been overtaken by countries like China. A report by the 32 member scientific advisory council, chaired by CNR Rao also indicated discouraging situation in Indian science and advised drastic steps to correct the situation in time. India does not have educational institutions in the world’s top 100. Existing universities have been decayed due to years of neglect. South Korea and China produce more PhDs and scientific research papers as compared to India. The problems are not due to financial crunch alone, but the overall environment for quality research and innovation is missing in Indian institutions. There is a serious crisis of leadership and enough young people are not available to take up teaching and research responsibility. The scientific advisory council suggests that about 1,000 young scientists be sent to advanced institutes abroad for PhD and postdoctoral studies to develop future science leaders. It also recommends removing mediocrity from educational and scientific institutions, eliminating bureaucracy, making structural changes for better administration and creating “a large number of small centres of excellence” around outstanding individuals.
These suggestions sound good but how are these going to be implemented. Implementation of any idea or law in India has been problematic, because it takes the known route of nepotism, favouritism and mal-practices. We have to first formulate a mechanism for implementation of any idea in India then only any change can be planned. I have high hope that the new Government shall take note of it and tackle the issues seriously.
All associated with research must understand the concept and objective of research. The research is for the improvement of society or for solving the problems of Society by generating new knowledge and every researcher must contribute to this objective. In independent India, we could not win a single Noble Prize in science. There is a culture amongst competent Indian scientists to aspire to become ineffective administrators (due to administrative power and political patronage), rather than carry on scientific work that makes the real difference. Merely publishing papers or filing patents are of little value, if these do not have practical applications and new scientific knowledge in them. Most scientists take pride in publishing large number of papers or filing large number of patents, but look at De Broglie’s work, a single page paper could fetch Noble Prize. Can we learn from this example? The emphasis therefore should be on quality rather than quantity. Our scientists must also develop the habit of bold and grand out of the box thinking for innovations by developing higher confidence in them.
I would thus, conclude that scientific efforts in India after independence have provided enough inputs for development. The country has no doubt improved. However, the country and population are large and the development has been slow. Scientists of my period had developed some kind of frustration at some point of time that it is difficult to develop Indian science and technology (during 1980’s- 1990’s) to the level we wanted when we began our work. However, the efforts during the last twenty years have been rather good and lots of developments have taken place despite not too good social and political environment. I feel myself fortunate to have witnessed India’s scientific growth and have been a small contributor in the field of petroleum fuels and lubricant; making India self-reliant in this field. After my superannuation from IOC, I mainly concentrated on technical writing in the field of fuels, lubricant, chemical additives and tribology as I found that there was no Indian author book on these subjects. Following books have been published:
1. Modern Lubricant technology Pub. Technology publication, Dehradun, 2007
2. Advances in Lubricant additives and Tribology, Pub. Techniz publisher, New Delhi, 2009
3. Fuels and fuel additives, pub. John Wiley, USA, 2014
4. Developments in Lubricant Technology, John Wiley, USA, 2014
I think these books will help young scientists to understand the subject of fuels and lubricant properly and would be able to generate new knowledge in the gap areas.
The socio-political environment in India has deteriorated over a period of time with rampant reported corrupt practises and biases which have affected every sphere of life including research and development. Such an environment is not conducive to innovation and quality research. I have myself worked through this system, faced difficulties, struggled and yet survived in it. However, I never got frustrated or disheartened and solved one problem at a time by focussing on it and found way out. I realize how difficult it is for a young scientist in this country to carry on his/her work without succumbing to the system. The systems in India need to be improved and developed in every field to cut down red-tape and corrupt practices. This would also need social re-engineering to change the classical mind set of people to scientific temperament for faster growth. Then the research funds and infrastructure in our universities and laboratories need to be substantially improved since modern research cannot be carried out without the advanced facilities. A national research cadre could be established to promote science and research which will attract young Indians to take up research as their career. I think the present system will undergo a change soon and there would be a correction. It may take some time, but it will happen. The correction has to be at the national level at all fronts. A sort of revolution may have to take place and already there are some signs of such a thing to happen.
The initiatives being taken by the current government make me optimistic that by around 2035- 2040, India will be able to catch up with the western developed countries in science and technology and in certain areas would even be world leader. Energy sector could be one of the areas where India would offer alternate to fossil fuels. My journey with science and technology has been exciting full of challenges and that of satisfaction. I may not be there to see India as a fully developed country but I am now satisfied with the hope and the progress we have already made.
India has achieved good overall progress during the last 67 years under the complex socio-political environment at the time of independence, and now we have to increase the pace of research and development to catch up with the fast changing international technological scenario. We have to ensure that the technological developments are linked with the socio-economic development and help India develop into a country that is amongst the top five most developed countries of the world during the next 20- 25 years. In my opinion it is an achievable target and our young generation of scientists and technologists will do it.