NO: DELENG / 2017 / 70663
official media partner of national maritime foundation
By SEA AND COAST | 03/05/2017


DG Shipping,

Union Ministry of Shipping

Govt of India


I have often been asked as to what is the real power of an IAS officer. My response: it is the power to enable others to realise their own potential. Each one of us who has achieved our aspirations has undoubtedly benefitted from advisors, enablers, inspirations and circumstances.

I had the occasion to travel into hinterland of Tamil Nadu during my stint in Chennai during the early 2000s. That was a period of expansion of private engineering and technical colleges across the State, a mushrooming of sorts that left me wondering about the quality of education in these institutions.

Many of us were skeptical about the standard of the faculty, the nature of support systems like internet connectivity and library facilities, and the skill sets of the graduates.

The institutions had good basic infrastructure - abundant land, model buildings and playgrounds.

The college was invariably run by a highly educated lady of the family that owned the institution, and catered to about 3000 college students and another thousand or so students of feeder schools.

The evident upside of these colleges that came up in the interior areas were manifold - fast forward evolution of infrastructure that included piped water supply and power supply, generation of a wide spectrum of employment, and mammoth improvements in hygiene and sanitation.

What struck me to be the most significant consequence of the institutions, however, was the effect of the institutions on women's empowerment.

Invariably, the colleges ran a Master's course in Biotechnology, which was popular among women. Located in regions where the parents are loathe to send their girl child to high school on account of the distance, it was a pleasant surprise to see that over 80% of the Biotechnology students were females.

I had the occasion to visit a couple of these institutions on the invitation of the proprietors.

During one such visit, I found that students had opted to stay back in the hostel during the vacations.

They mentioned that they were reluctant to go home as the latter had no toilet facilities.

This attitude spurred the parents to construct toilets, way before the Swaccha Bharat Abhiyan had been ideated.

As for the girls in rural areas choosing to go for higher studies and hostels, the parents were satisfied that the environment was supportive as it was run by their “own” people (as against an impersonal government institution).

I wondered, though, how so many graduates and females at that would find employment in their chosen field.

The women were nevertheless confident: "We will find jobs, in fields other than biotechnology if not in our own domain.

And if we do not find jobs, this education has enabled us to be aware of the world, exposed us to science and technology, and empowered us to educate our children better". Kudos to them!