When asked about one’s situation in day-to-day life, particularly in Mysuru, the most commonly heard response is “managing somehow.” Most managers, vested with the onerous responsibility of foreseeing problems in their set-up and solving them without passing the buck to their employers would respond the same way to the friendly question. However, that kind of a wishy-washy reply and mindset dictating that standoffish ethos on the part of the individuals in charge may prove detrimental to the health of their establishment and its public image in case of publicly funded institutions. A case in point presents itself this week in the city. One is obliged to dwell on Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI), Mysuru, which has made front-page news in this daily yesterday for all wrong reasons. In fact, it may be more appropriate to remark that the national institute, which formally took birth in the city in October 1949, has been making news, on and off, for some time past, the centre-figure in the despatches being its Director himself.
Many in the city can testify that CFTRI, one of the 39 research institutes under the umbrella of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India, has witnessed glorious days in the past until recently, thanks to the pioneering research of scientists resulting in many now-well-known technologies in the field of Food Science and Technology that have been gainfully utilised by entrepreneurs both in India and other countries.
Public image of institutes such as CFTRI, particularly with decades of history, is bound to experience high and low views. The Heads of CFTRI and staff of its various Departments, until recently, did manage to earn adulation in circles of their profession, namely research and development as well as food processing industry, locally, regionally, nationally and also globally. Their successful research efforts have made the country self-reliant in the field of innovation, having developed processes for instant mixes for the land’s traditional dishes, value addition to plantation produce such as spices, baby food based on buffalo milk, to name a few, apart from training youth to be competent food scientists and technologists.
Over the past five years, the ambience within the CFTRI witnessed a disturbing makeover, quite contrasting to that of the past six-plus decades. A pro-Kannada outfit took umbrage at the clutch of staff-unfriendly acts attributed to the just-transferred Head of the Institute, while the city’s cognoscenti with their avinaabhaava (I-can’t-be-without-you) connect with the Institute chose to be passive witness to the goings. The CSIR has moved its Head to its Head Quarters, reportedly in public interest. His successor is required to lead the staff of CFTRI from the front to be future-ready in their research projects.