For more than 30 years Kashmir’s premier university, Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences or SKUAST, has made several marks with its bag of achievements and accomplishments in the form of awards, ranking, quality research, patents and its immense contribution in the field of agriculture not only in Kashmir but throughout the world. No other institution in Kashmir has been as immune to the periodic disturbances, natural or man-made, as SKUAST has for it survived disasters, calamities and even the recent pandemic. It marched ahead on the road of progress, and one name that undoubtedly is linked with its growth and achievements is that that of its incumbent Vice Chancellor Prof Nazeer Ahmed. Unfortunately, most people in Kashmir are unaware of the actual worth of this institution and the contribution of those who made it all possible.
The success of SKUAST and contribution of Prof Nazeer are almost parallel. Consider the personal achievements of the man behind this institution. Recipient of 36 awards including 10 national awards, with fellowships from five national and international societies, Prof Nazeer has been the monolith in the strong foundation of SKUAST. His publications exceed 900 with many that were internationally acclaimed. More than a dozen patents in last 10 years only bear his name. Be it research, academics, leadership or new technologies that have changed the production figures in the valley over the years, Prof Nazeer has remained mostly an unnoticed public figure, a figure people should know and remember for what they owe to him.
About the SKUAST and where it stands today, people should take some time and read the details. The university has three mandates – HR Development, Research and Extension and Academics. In each mandate there is a long list of what the university has achieved, which is surprising as most of the institutions have been affected by turbulent times in the last three decades. The agriculture department, forest department, Horticulture and Fisheries – quality human resource has come from SKUAST only. It has produced scientists, patents, varieties, incredible research work and through its extension programs changed the agri-economy of this place. It has 25 research centres including a High Altitude Research Station, MoUs with universities in the United States, Europe and Australia, foreign students enrolled from different continents, state-of-the-art labs, Residue Analysis Labs, Veterinary Complex, and the list goes on. For its patents, varieties, research and technological contributions, and knowledge-sharing, SKUAST is the single largest contributor in Kashmir’s agri-economy. Its contribution is estimated at Rs 10-12000 crores. SKUAST has externally funded projects that fetch funding even from outside. As an institution it has been a challenger to IIT, its ranking has been gradually improving, from 27th place it got down to 13 and is expected to surpass its past records.
Here is more to give you an idea. SKUAST has been able to produce honey which in quality is only next to New Zealand. Cumin or zeera production at Gurez is famous and so are high density plantations, technologies that have increased the yield of saffron. It has a KVK or a mini-university in every district of Kashmir (14 in total). The institution bagged 6 Raman fellowships which in itself is an achievement. This year the university has already submitted 12 patents. Its contribution in academics, courses its offers, students, faculty, programs are all par excellence.
So how should we see, value or rate our own institution whose name is better known in the world than by our own people? What opinion should we form about those who have been able to achieve all of this? Should we allow few elements in the society to denigrate something that great? Do we lack that sense of appreciation to even acknowledge the efforts and pains of those who build this institution?
I talked to many people – officials, students, teaching and non-teaching fraternity in order to find out the answers about SKUAST’s success. I found that SKUAST works like a close-knit unit wherein people associated with this institute think of each other as members of a larger family. From a Class IV employee to its VC, the same feeling is shared. There is an elevated sense of belongingness. They are workaholic, it doesn’t matter for them what happens in the world – floods, pandemic or violence – they just keep on working.
I am reticent and cynic most of the time, courtesy journalism, but I as any normal person have an opinion and a sense of judging matters. I am not here to praise SKUAST or its VC or any officials to skies, but to find answers to questions that matter to all of us. Why can’t we write a few lines of appreciation for something or someone who truly deserves, when we can come out with barrages of criticism on even mere assumptions? How can we help to make the institutions stronger and better, especially when we are at the losing end on every front? How can we really pay for the service of someone whose contribution no matter how small or big it is has changed our lives?
It is very easy to pick on something, but it apparently is hard for us to appreciate someone else. In my opinion, if that is how we go about everything then we don’t deserve anything good. Here is one man we must have reserved our appreciation for, but what have we done? And for what?