M. Anandakrishnan, educationist who democratised technical education in Tamil Nadu, passes away

Published : May 29, 2021 20:05 IST

M. Anandakirshnan at the inauguration of the 17th World Tamil Internet Conference in Coimbatore in July 2018. Photo: The Hindu Archives

Prof M. Anandakrishnan, the distinguished educationist who democratised technical education in Tamil Nadu and made it sync with the State’s ideology of social justice, has passed away because of COVID-19-related complications at a private hospital in Chennai in Tamil Nadu in the early hours of May 29. He was 93. He is survived by his wife Jayalakshmi and four sons.

Recipient of the prestigious Padma Shri award and the National Order of Scientific Merit from the President of Brazil in 1996, Anandakrishnan was admitted to the hospital nine days back. However, he did not respond to the treatment.

Hailed as an architect of modern technical education in the State of Tamil Nadu, Anandakrishnan contributed immensely to the technological revolution in the State, especially in computer and allied branches. A former Chairman of IIT Kanpur and two-time Vice -Chancellor of Anna University (1990-96), Tamil Nadu, his contribution to science and technology was immeasurable. He also served in United Nations in New York in various capacities.

As Vice Chancellor of Anna University, he introduced the single window system for admissions to engineering courses in Tamil Nadu. Based on his recommendation, the Tamil Nadu government dropped the practice of conducting entrance examinations to professional courses in 2006, which revolutionised technical education and paved the way for many first-generation graduates from rural areas to enter the portals of higher technical education.

As Vice Chairman of Tamil Nadu Council for Higher Education (1996-2001), he streamlined admissions to professional courses in private collages by forcing the institutions to allot the disciplines at the time of admissions. In doing so, he stopped the practie of private managements fleecing students by making them pay exhoritant fees by allotting disciplines after the admission process was over.

In his condolence message, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin pointed out that Anandakrishnan was behind the far-reaching decision of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) government to scrap the entrance examinations for higher education, which opened the doors of higher education to underprivileged and middle class students from predominantly from rural areas. “Many of them are doctors and engineers today,” Stalin said. He also pointed out Anandakrishnan’s exceptional contribution to the development of using Tamil on the Internet. Anandakrishnan played a big role in standardising the Tamil font for use in computer keyboards.

Anandakrishnan was instrumental in shaping the Information Technology and e-governance policies of the Tamil Nadu government in 2001. He was Adviser to Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, who was the architect of the State’s IT boom. His contributions to higher education in the State were also outstanding. He headed the committee that revised and upgraded the syllabi of the State Board from Class I to XII.

He was known for expressing his views boldly. He even criticised the Governor’s office and the State government for indulging in corrupt practices in the appointment of Vice Chancellors. As Vice Chancellor of Anna University, he told the Tamil Nadu government in 1993 that in the absence of a law, he would go by the Supreme Court judgment on the Mandal quota for reservations, which restricted reservations to 50 per cent. This had angered the then Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, who tabled a Bill in the Assembly to make the State’s 69 per cent quota a law. Later, the Bill was included in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution.

Anandakrishnan was born in Vaniyambadi on July 12, 1928 and completed his Bachelor of Engineering at the College of Engineering, Guindy, in 1952. He started his career at the Central Road Research Institute and in the late 1960s joined IIT Kanpur, where he worked until 1974 before moving to the United States to take up an assignment at the United Nations.

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