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Precision farming practitioner, village sarpanch to address IIT alumni meet

Shyam Ranganathan

Rural transformation tops the agenda of PanIIT 2008, which will begin on December 19

— Special Arrangement

EXPLAINING THE FEATURES: Ram Krishnan, chairman, rural transformation track of PanIIT 2008, addressing villagers at Salur about an ‘oorani’ project taken up with the support of IIT alumni.

CHENNAI: A precision farming practitioner and a village sarpanch are hardly the people one might expect to address the annual gathering of successful IIT alumni.

But they are among the 3,000 or so select participants at PanIIT 2008, because ‘rural transformation’ tops the agenda of the conference, which will be held here from December 19 to 21.

PanIIT 2008, scheduled to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, will have six tracks: rural transformation, innovation, education, research and technology, entrepreneurship and infrastructure development. A galaxy of internationally recognised participants, including Nobel Laureates Amartya Sen and Mohammed Yunus, Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn, and management guru C.K. Prahalad, will take part.

Each track will feature interactions with experts, policymakers and field workers and exhibition stalls. In keeping with the conference’s motto of ‘Inspire, Innovate, Transform,’ the rural transformation track has been organised into three sessions on December 19 and 20.

Ram Krishnan, chairman, rural transformation track, says: “If only one per cent of all IITians decide to do something for rural India, it will solve a number of problems.” He wants to use PanIIT 2008 as a means of furthering the work done by various organisations like DHAN Foundation and bring the work of precision farmers like Madhavan of Padappai Farms (incidentally an IITian himself) to a larger audience.

“Recently we managed to mobilise 50 IIT alumni to contribute to 10 water projects with DHAN Foundation, each costing Rs. 3 lakh. The alumni contributed Rs. 2 lakh to each project, while the rest was contributed by the villagers themselves. There is much good work being done, which need the support of the alumni. This conference will provide a place to interact for all these people,” he says.

R.V. Bhavani, director, Food Security, M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, who chairs the first session ‘Inspire-success stories from the field,’ says the presentations of successful field stories will catalyse the change process by raising awareness among other alumni. “On the one hand, there is a wealth of financial resources and on the other we have enormous human resources. The session will provide a meeting ground for both.”

To ensure that the ideas generated at the conference are implemented, senior government officials, policymakers and corporate heads have been invited, besides the workers on the ground such as Popatrao Powar, sarpanch of Hiware Bazaar (called the ‘village of 54 millionaires’ by the organisers), says Ms. Bhavani. “This close interaction will create the desired effect on the ground. Immediate follow-up work will also be done.”

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