Hub of research

Print edition : September 08, 2006

Bangalore has emerged as one of modern India's most important centres of higher education and research.

THE NIMHANS LIBRARY and Information Centre.-

FOR more than half a century, Bangalore, an intellectually vibrant city, has been a centre of excellence as far as educational, scientific and research institutions are concerned. Many of these institutions came up as a logical sequel to the presence of public sector enterprises such as Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Bharat Electronics Limited, Bharat Earth Movers Limited and the Indian Telephone Industries, established in the 1950s as part of the country's drive towards self-reliance. The numerous professional and degree colleges that have sprung up in the past two decades have ensured that there is always a ready pool of technically qualified people for the specialised institutes to use.

The modern State of Karnataka and the erstwhile princely state of Mysore have laid a strong emphasis on education, a fact that helped these institutions in no small measure. The Maharajas of Mysore started an engineering college in Bangalore as far back as 1917.

Even before that, after the British took control of the administration of Mysore state in 1831 - citing the `misrule' of Krishnaraja Wodeyar III - and made Bangalore its capital, the city made rapid strides in education. In 1858, the Bangalore High School, which later became a first grade college and was in 1875 designated as Central College, was started in the city's Cantonment area. Bishop Cotton School and St. Joseph's College were started in 1865 and 1882 respectively. In 1873, a philanthropist, Rao Bahadur Arcot Narayanaswamy Mudaliar, started a school, the forerunner to the present R.B.A.N.M. Institutions, where Bipin Chandra Pal, the famous Congressman, served as principal.

In 1909, Viceroy Lord Minto approved the Vesting Order to constitute one of Bangalore's oldest institutions of scientific study and research, the Indian Institute of Science (IISc). The brainchild of Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata, the IISc came into being after the Dewan of Mysore, Sir K. Sheshadri Iyer, persuaded the government of Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV to donate 372 acres (1 acre = 0.4 hectare) of land for it. In July 1911, the institute's first batch of students was admitted in the Departments of General and Applied Chemistry and Electrotechnology.


Among the premier institutes of higher learning and research in Bangalore are the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced and Scientific Research (which conducts research in pure sciences), the National Law School of India University (NLSUI), the Raman Research Institute (founded by Nobel laureate Sir C.V. Raman in 1948 with funds from private sources to conduct basic research in selected areas of physics and astronomy), the Indian Institute of Management (one of India's best-known management schools), the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (primarily a research and development institute involved in the design, development and deployment of advanced computing), the Coffee Board (promoting the expansion of the coffee industry), the Central Silk Board (promoting the growth and development of sericulture and silk), the Central Silk Technological Research Institute (providing research and development support in post-cocoon technology), the Institute of Wood Science (conducting training and research in wood science and technology, non-wood forest produce and tree improvement) and the Central Power Research Institute (promoting applied research in power system technology development).

There are also institutes such as the National Dairy Development Board (created to promote, finance and strengthen farmers' cooperatives), the Central Poultry Organisation, Southern Region (where the emphasis is on rural poultry development), the Indian Institute of Horticultural Research, the National Tuberculosis Institute (which conducts intensive field research in epidemiological, bacteriological, sociological and operational aspects of tuberculosis and its control), the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (devoted to research in astronomy, astrophysics and related physics), the Institute for Social and Economic Change (research and training in the social sciences), the Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (innovations in the science and business of medicinal and aromatic plants), the National Institute of Animal Nutrition and Physiology (research on birds, livestock, feed and milk) and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (which researches areas in applied mathematics) and the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (which assesses and accredits institutions of higher education in the country).

Bangalore's geographical location - well away from the country's international borders - makes it a suitable place for defence research (and production) facilities. Premier defence-related institutes such as the Indian Air Force's Institute of Aviation Medicine (which monitors the health of India's military and commercial pilots), the Aircraft Systems and Testing Establishment (which trains pilots and undertakes experimental and production testing of various aircraft), the Software Development Institute (which develops software for defence applications), 26 Equipment Depot (which manages the inventory of aircraft spares and other items for the IAF), the Aeronautical Development Agency (which develops the light combat aircraft Tejas) and the Defence Institute of Quality Assurance (which trains programmes for personnel in quality management) have made Bangalore their home.

NIMHANS OFFERS GAMMA knife surgery.-

Several key units of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) are located in Bangalore, the most notable being the Aeronautical Development Agency, the Electronics and Radar Development Establishment, the Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, the Centre for Airborne Systems, the Defence Bio-Engineering and Electrical Laboratory, the Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification, the Defence Avionics Research Establishment and the Gas Turbine Research Establishment.

Bangalore is home to NIMHANS, India's premier establishment for patient care and academic pursuit in the fields of mental health and neurosciences. In its 150-odd years of existence, the autonomous institution's name has undergone several changes - `lunatic asylum', `mental hospital' and so on - reflecting the changes in society's perception about mental health and people with psychiatric and related problems. After all, it is only in recent times that it has become an accepted fact that between 2 and 3 per cent of the Indian population have some degree of psychotic disorders.

As NIMHANS Director and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Dindagur Nagaraja says, if this large section is to be provided with timely and effective psychiatric care, mental health care should be provided by not only specialised institutes such as NIMHANS but also general hospitals.


Explains Nagaraja: "If common and primary [psychiatric] problems can be taken care of at the community level, it will leave NIMHANS with more time to offer quality and effective treatment to people with more serious neurological problems." Today NIMHANS has three integrated objectives: providing clinical care to patients, developing human resource and undertaking clinical sphere-based and community origin referral in the field of mental and neurosciences. Over the past five years the quality of manpower and infrastructure at NIMHANS has improved in leaps and bounds. One of its recent acquisitions has enabled the Institute to offer gamma knifesurgery, which is the recognised and preferred treatment for brain tumours, arterio-venous malformations and brain dysfunctions such as trigeminalneuralgia. This is an alternative for patients who do not have the option of brain surgery since it removes the physical trauma and most of the risks associated with conventional surgery. NIMHANS has so far performed 45 such surgeries, charging a maximum of Rs.1 lakh.

NIMHANS has modernised its laboratories, including its transmission electron microscope and scanning electron microscope and has installed a neuro navigational system, which enables surgeons to approach a lesion with accuracy without disturbing the surrounding tissue. It has acquired a 3T high-end MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) system and digitised and networked all the electroencephalography laboratories to a central server. The Institute, with 945 beds including 150 in the casualty department, is planning a 250-bed casualty ward, a computerised tomography (CT) scanner, operating theatre and an intensive care unit.

NIMHANS has established a centre dedicated to psychiatric and neurological rehabilitation, which is one of its kind in India and disabled-friendly. NIMHANS, which holds workshops and symposiums regularly to train doctors in psychiatric care, played a key role in the psycho-social rehabilitation of the victims of the tsunami in 2004 and the Kashmir earthquake in 2005.

In its 19th year of existence, the NLSIU is India's premier institution for undergraduate and graduate legal education. Established in August 1987 through a gazette notification issued by the Government of Karnataka under the National Law School of India University Act (Karnataka Act 22 of 1986), the NLSIU was the result of a 13-year struggle and cooperation between the State government, Bangalore University, members of the judiciary and senior members of both the Bar Council of India and the Karnataka State Bar Council.


With the Karnataka Act 22 of 1986 providing for complete administrative and academic autonomy, the school is by and large managed by the Indian legal fraternity. Vice-Chancellor Dr A. Jayagovind says the School is unarguably the best example of Bar-Bench cooperation outside the administration of justice. The meetings of the general council, which is the supreme authority with the power to review the broad policies and programmes and suggest measures for the improvement and development of the school, are presided over by the Chairman of the Bar Council of India. The council has the Chief Justice of India and a host of Supreme Court and High Court Judges as its members. The school's autonomous status has given it a lot of scope for innovation and experimentation in the pursuit of excellence in legal education.

From modest beginnings when it functioned from an old building on the Central College campus of Bangalore University, the NLSIU moved into its own 18-acre campus in December 1991.

Six other States have started their own law schools based on the NLSIU experiment. In addition to a five-year undergraduate course with 80 seats, the NLSIU, a fully residential school, offers post-graduate courses such as Business Laws and diplomas in Human Rights, Environmental Law, Ethics and Medicine and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). Admissions are made on the basis of an entrance test. The School also offers reliable distance learning programmes, optional seminar courses and one-credit courses.

V.S. PRASAD, NAAC Director.-

It has exchange programmes with the University of Singapore and the Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, Canada. The NLSIU has been in the forefront of research projects funded mainly by the Central and State Departments of Women and Child Development, the United Nations agencies and the World Bank.

Says Jayagovind: "Two of the Law School's important research centres are in the areas of Child and Law [which undertakes short-term research projects in child and labour rights for the Ministry of Juvenile Justice and the Dutch NGO Hivos] and IPR [which mainly works for the Government of India's Centre for Biotech]." The school also conducts week-long training programmes on corporate governance and administrative law and orientation programmes for officers of the administrative and postal services.

The NLSIU has a budget of around Rs.4 crores, but Jayagovind proudly says, it is an entirely self-financing institute: "Besides the Rs.50 lakhs that was given at the beginning by the Karnataka government and the Rs.1 crore from the Infosys Foundation for the construction of a library, we have financed our activities purely by the fees that we collect, and from our distance education and outreach programmes."

C.N.R.RAO, JNCASR founder.-

"I would liken the role of the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) to that of a diagnostic centre," said V.S. Prasad, the soft-spoken Director of the NAAC, and a well-known educationist. "We assess the performance of institutes of higher learning, the reasons for their success and limitations. We have our own parameters, just as diagnostic centres have. But it is for the hospital, in our case the institutions themselves, to treat the problems."

This succinct summary of the role and function of the NAAC does not, however, capture the many achievements of the institute in promoting excellence in higher education ever since it was established in 1994 by the University Grants Commission as an autonomous body headquartered in Bangalore.

With a mandate to assess and accredit institutions of higher education and to promote self-assessment by these institutions, the NAAC has succeeded in instilling quality consciousness in them. In all, 128 universities and 2,878 colleges have won NAAC accreditation.


An institute that wishes to be accredited must first meet the NAAC's eligibility criteria. It is then assessed on the basis of the following seven criteria: curricular aspects, teaching-learning and evaluation, research, consultancy and extension, infrastructure and learning resources, student support and progression, organisation and management, and healthy practices. The NAAC gives criterion-wise scores and prepares a detailed assessment report. If the overall score of the institute is more than 55 per cent, the institution gets accreditation for five years. These institutions are then graded on a nine-point scale.

Self-assessment and appraisal is an important aspect of the NAAC's mission. "In evolving criteria for assessment we are constantly addressing two issues - are our instruments of assessment good, and are we assessing the right things?" said Prasad. This is particularly important in the context of the changing higher education scenario in India, with a wide range of education providers, especially those in the private sector, entering the area.

"Our most important achievement is creating more awareness of the importance of quality," said Prasad. "Secondly, our assessment procedure has made these institutes create their own data base of their operations, which becomes a platform to improve upon. Thirdly, our quality assessment activities, in which over 5,000 persons are engaged, have resulted in a cross-fertilisation of ideas. Finally, the NAAC assessments weigh in decisions made by external agencies on these institutions."

There are many challenges ahead for the NAAC. In India the proportion of persons in higher education is only 8 per cent of all those in the age group that must be provided higher education, against the international standard of 20 per cent. Several Asian countries have achieved this minimum of 20 per cent. Raising the quality bar in higher education is a challenge that the NAAC, which has recently moved to a spacious new campus near Bangalore University, is well poised to do.

C.V. RAMAN, who founded the RRI-

A relatively recent addition to Bangalore's constellation of research institutes, the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR) has rapidly established itself as an institution of excellence. Started in 1989 by the eminent chemist and institution-builder C.N.R. Rao, the centre was conceived as a smaller, more agile and effective counterpart to the larger institutions in the area. "When the opportunity came to set up the centre in the centenary year of Jawaharlal Nehru, I offered to build it," said C.N.R. Rao, who took a brief break from an intense session with two of his Ph.D students on a Saturday morning to speak to Frontline.

The centre is located in Jakkur on the outskirts of Bangalore. Its campus is an elegant blend of stone and granite architecture set in a landscape of gardens, leafy glades and bamboo copses. Though its faculty at 26 is small, the compact physical environment fosters the spirit of interdisciplinary research, which is the desired goal of the institute.

"We have four areas of focus in the centre - advanced materials, molecular biology and genetics, fluid mechanics and atmospheric sciences, and evolutionary biology," said C.N.R. Rao. "In the area of molecular biology we have research on three or four diseases like malaria, AIDS, epilepsy and cancer. There is also research being conducted on deafness. We have even found important cures and possible vaccines. We have isolated a new gene for hereditary deafness."

Professor C.N.R. Rao's own work in recent years has dealt with synthesising and understanding compounds with novel electronic and magnetic properties. There is increasing research emphasis on materials with small-scale structures, the area captured by the catchphrase "nanoscience". A new nano lab is under construction at the JNACR. A variety of research initiatives in this area at the centre have had a world-wide impact, such as polymer-based electronic devices developed at the institute. Materials research, using clays with spherical and tubular shapes to control the catalyses of chemical processes, is another instance of the work done in this field.

The work of the theoretical groups is closely complementary to that of the materials scientists. Faculty expertise ranges from detailed computations on electronic systems to work on liquids, glasses and bio-molecules. The work of the theoretical group is further strengthened by affiliated faculty at the Indian Institute of Science.

H. BHASKAR, CEO, Central Silk Board.-

The Institute has a strong group in fluid mechanics which is well equipped for both experimental and computational research. An example of the work in this group is the study of the transition of fluid flows from smooth to turbulent, as well as the characterisation of turbulence, a problem that has defied clear understanding since Leonardo da Vinci's careful observations over half a millennium ago.

The molecular biology and genetics unit studies both applied issues such as the characterisation of Indian strains of HIV and malaria, as well as more basic biological mechanisms such as the way information in DNA is transcribed. Another laboratory has located specific genes and mutations that carry the genetic factors associated with profound deafness and with epilepsy in the Indian population.

One of the missions of the institute is to invite distinguished visitors from the best Indian institutes and other parts of the world to speak and interact with faculty and students. The annual lectures named after Linus Pauling, Michael Faraday and Isaac Newton are delivered by Nobel laureates. Similarly, endowment lectures named after Satish Dhawan, Raja Ramana, A.V. Rama Rao, V. Ramalingaswamy and C.N.R. Rao showcase the work of leading Indian scientists. The institute has 43 honorary faculty members.

Attracting young minds to the joy and excitement of science is a mission that the Centre has set itself. "We have a very active extension programme," C.N.R. Rao said. The Centre offers summer fellowships for two months to undergraduate and post-graduate students. Over 5,000 students apply for the 120 fellowships awarded and those chosen are placed with research groups at the Centre or elsewhere. In 2004, the Centre initiated the Project Oriented Chemical Education programme, a special offering for young undergraduates interested in chemistry. It is spread over three consecutive summers for six to eight weeks each year.

Similarly, there is a Project Oriented Biological Education programme for undergraduates, which provide young students with the research tools that will help them in their subsequent work in biology. As part of the Centre's outreach programme, the Educational Technology Unit produces a range of teaching aids and educational material.

India is the sixth largest generator of electricity in the world; it has a large power network and an enviable equipment-manufacturing infrastructure. The Central Power Research Institute (CPRI) has played a singular role in this achievement, although it is something that this low-profile but high-performing body has never sought to publicise.

This premier research institute has made a significant contribution towards fulfilling the development-centred aims and objectives of India's power industry and electrification programme. In the post-liberalisation era, the CPRI continues to act as a bedrock of expertise and ongoing research and as a development centre for the generation, transmission and distribution companies, while also extending its services to the more recent private sector component of the power industry.


The CPRI was set up in 1960 in Bangalore as a centre for applied research in electrical power engineering to meet the requirements of the then growing public sector engineering industry in product development and testing. In 1978, it became an autonomous body under the Ministry of Power.

It is managed by a Governing Council comprising representatives from the Ministry of Power, the Central Electricity Authority, the State electricity boards, power supply utilities and academic and research organisations.

In its core areas of both research and testing, the CPRI has in the last four and a half decades built up expertise and infrastructure of international standards on its 140-acre campus in Bangalore, where its head office is located. It also has campuses in Bhopal, Hyderabad, Nagpur, Muradnagar near Ghaziabad and Thiruvananthapuram.

The CPRI serves as an independent authority for the testing and certification of power equipment. "In the field of testing of high voltage and high power equipment, we are ranked within the best 10 in the world," A.K. Tripathy, the CPRI's Director-General, told Frontline. "Our facilities in Bangalore and Bhopal have been accredited to ASTABEAB of the United Kingdom, a major international accreditation agency which provides certification for equipment tested here." The year 2006 saw another major breakthrough for the organisation when it was admitted into the eight-member Short Circuit Testing Liaison Panel.

In testing and certification, the CPRI's performance has been nothing short of spectacular. In 2005-06, a total of 41,396 tests on 15,764 samples were conducted for 3,124 organisations.

In respect of its financial performance too, the CPRI's record has only improved over the years. "Last year we generated over Rs.41 crores in revenues. Of this almost 70 per cent came from testing, roughly 20 per cent from consultancies and the remaining from field services and jobs from other countries," says Tripathy. By testing their equipment at the CPRI, units such as the Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited, ABB, AREVA and Crompton Greaves reduced their costs by 30-40 per cent, says Tripathy.

"Our testing charges are on an average 70 per cent of the cost of testing abroad." Facilities at the CPRI are equipped to test power equipment up to 400 kV class and dielectric tests on equipment up to 800 kV class. The allocation of funds for testing will be increased from Rs.10 crores during the early years to between Rs.400 and Rs.500 crores in the Eleventh Five Year Plan, so that all facilities to test even higher rating power transformers are under one roof.

The R&D programmes at the CPRI are broadly geared to offer technical support, product development, upgradation of testing technologies and research collaborations with utilities. "We have recently opened a Centre for Collaborative and Advanced Research where we would invite experts from India and abroad to stay, use our facilities and guide research projects. There is a shortage of people working on theoretical and practical needs and we will provide opportunities to bridge this gap," said Tripathy.

He argues that the CPRI is best qualified to conduct research into specific problems of the Indian electrical industry, like the choking of hydroturbines in Himalayan hydropower plants, improving the efficiency of Indian coal which has a 40 per cent ash content, improving the pollution performance of equipment, conducting seismic qualification tests on equipment, conducting real time power system analysis, and other "uniquely Indian" problems.

There is an urgency for public sector undertakings like Powergrid, National Thermal Power Corporation, National Hydro Power Corporation, BHEL and CPRI to identify R&D and work in a collaborative manner in this era of competition.

"All advanced technologies will sooner or later give trouble. The cost of upkeep and upgradation of such equipment is high. We need to enhance our technology absorption skills and reduce our dependence on multinational corporations," Tripathy says.

Consultancy is another major area of the CPRI. In the course of the last year it has rendered consultancy services for institutions such as the Raman Research Institute, TVS Motors Ltd., BHEL, the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and the NTPC. The Institute conducts client meets, workshops, seminars and training programmes to exchange information within power utilities.

The outlook for the CPRI is bright provided it gets governmental encouragement and financial support. "We are entering the phase where we must absorb, sustain and develop technologies already available and reduce dependence on imported technology. This will not go against the spirit of public-private participation," said Tripathy. The modest achievement record of this 45-year-old organisation does not blind it to the challenges that lie ahead - that of continuous technological innovation, upgradation and development that will give it the capacity to absorb frontline technologies from all parts of the world.

Tucked away in a pocket of sylvan green in the heart of old Bangalore, the Raman Research Institute (RRI), holds its place as one of the premier scientific institutes in the country. What sets the RRI apart from other research institutes in Bangalore - its larger neighbour, the Indian Institute of Science, for example - is that it is a small and specialised institute with a concentration of research areas. The institute has 35 faculty members, around 10 research fellows, and 50 students.

C.V. Raman received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1930. In 1948, he retired from the directorship of the Indian Institute of Science and set up his own institute on a 20-acre campus nearby. The RRI is as much a tribute to Raman's science as it is to his love for nature.

"We are different and try to be different," said Ravi Subrahmanyan, Director of the RRI. "We have tried in RRI to adopt a middle path in respect of our institutional philosophy. People here do their own research but are also knit together in research collaborations. We avoid mega projects in which the whole institute is involved. Rather, we try to initiate small projects that link people and we create management structures to make this happen."

Research in liquid crystals has won the RRI considerable scientific recognition, and this continues as a major area of its research concentration. Liquid crystals are states of condensed matter that display unusual and eye-catching physical properties that have practical application in the cosmetic and "display" industry. From the RRI's Liquid Crystal Laboratory has come path-breaking work, the most recent of which is the discovery of the Undulating Twist Grain Boundary C Phase liquid crystal.

The RRI's strengths outside of liquid crystal and other soft matter research are in theoretical physics, astronomy and astrophysics, and more recently in biology and optics. Continuing in the tradition of Raman's own pioneering work in optics the Institute is setting up state-of-the-art laboratories for research in quantum interactions of light with matter.

The astronomy and astrophysics group at the Institute has built and operates three major radio telescopes. These are located on the campus, in Gauribidanur, 80 km north of Bangalore, and in Mauritius. In recent years, the research in theoretical physics has broadened and ranges from themes in cosmology to material physics.

Where does the RRI go from here? An exciting new research collaboration with the Indian Space Research Organisation has been initiated recently by the RRI. "The first proposal is to build a small satellite to measure the polarisation of x-ray sources in the sky," said Subrahmanyan. "The second is to build a telescope that would work in space. This would be carried by a 100 kg satellite that will splinter in space to form an array of antennas to make astronomical observations and calculations in space."

The Raman Institute and other research groups in the world have built such arrays of antennas on the ground, but it has never before been done in space.

Silk, the product of a unique collaboration between nature and human endeavour, is surely one of the most enduring emblems of India's culture. In its long journey from cocoon to lustrous fabric, the silk thread is touched by hands of varied skills through several stages of transformation. India is the second largest producer of raw silk in the world after China and the only country to possess all the four varieties of silk - mulberry silk and the vanya (wild) varieties known as tussar, eri and muga, and their many local variants. This has given birth to an extraordinary range of weaving traditions in the country.

The silk industry is a major provider of livelihoods. It gives employment to more than 5.8 million people across 54,000 villages, who operate 258,000 handlooms and 29,340 powerlooms.

Exploiting fully the export potential of Indian silk is a major challenge of the era of liberalisation. One of the means of meeting this challenge is by giving Indian silk a unique brand value. For this purpose, the Central Silk Board (CSB), the apex body set up by the Government of India in 1948 to oversee and direct the overall development of the silk industry, established the Silk Mark Organisation of India (SMOI).

Set up in 2004, the SMOI's main objective is the generic promotion of silk by providing the `Silk Mark' quality assurance label. The label can be affixed to silk yarn and all silk fabrics made from 100 per cent natural silk.

"The Silk Mark scheme has been designed to protect the interests of three segments," Vandana Kumar, Chief Executive, SMOI, said. "The first segment comprises the consumers, many of whom get cheated as there are a lot of imitations passing as silk in the market. Manufactures and traders who deal in pure silk form the second. The third comprises the nearly six million stakeholders in the silk value chain - farmers, reelers, twisters and weavers. Most sericulturists are poor farmers, tribal people and women. By building the brand image of Indian silk both domestically and internationally through the Silk Mark label, the interests of these groups are protected. We want to make Silk Mark a familiar logo."

And a familiar logo it has indeed become. Silk Mark was formally launched in Bangalore, Mumbai, Chennai and Hyderabad and has received an overwhelming response from the industry, with 450 members and 380 licensees or authorised users of the tag. Sixteen lakh labels have already reached the market since its launch.

"We are educating consumers about the real value of silk, not just in terms of purity, but also by creating awareness of the human face behind it and its socio-economic value," said Vandana Kumar.

Silk Mark is a distinct label printed on a paper tag that carries a high-security hologram and is numbered and coded in such a way that the authorised user of every label can be identified. The SMOI has introduced several other means of popularising the use and awareness of silk. For example, at the time of the Ugadi festival the SMOI sent mobile testing vans into crowded shopping areas to help consumers test the quality of the silk they bought.

It works with consumer groups, non-governmental organisations and trade groups to spread consumer awareness. Between August 28 and 30, the SMOI will be participating in the Magic Fare, one of the world's largest textile fares, held in Las Vegas where Silk Mark will be showcased as an Indian silk brand.

New initiatives like Silk Mark are part of a recovery phase in the Indian silk industry. "The last two years have seen a stabilisation of the Indian silk industry," said H. Bhaskar, Chief Executive Officer and Member Secretary, CSB.

"Basically, sericulture has still not been secured against environmental factors. We are trying through initiatives like the Catalytic Development Programme to increase the area under host plant cultivation and increase productivity." India produces 17,000 tonnes of silk yarn, which falls far short of the domestic demand, which is 26,000 tonnes. The shortfall is made up by imports from China, which are converted to finished products for export. In addition, roughly 3,000 tonnes of Chinese silk fabric is imported.

"After a quantum jump in mulberry production in the mid-1990s, the four-year drought during 2000-04, in which nearly one lakh hectares of mulberry was lost, combined with huge dumping of silk yarn in India by China, hit the silk industry," Bhaskar said.

Under the World Trade Organisation framework the Government of India initiated anti-dumping measures. In July 2003, the government imposed an anti-dumping duty on raw silk. If the landed price of raw silk is lower than $27.97, the difference has to be paid by the importer as anti-dumping duty. In April 2006, the government imposed an anti-dumping duty on silk fabric. Here the reference price for anti-dumping duties ranges between $2.06 and $6.15 a metre. The duties have revived the industry by stabilising prices.

India's silk industry is poised for new growth. Much of this can be attributed to the sustained research initiatives conducted by the CSB over the years. It has three major research institutes for mulberry silk, located at Mysore, Berhampur and Pampore, and two non-mulberry silk research centres, at Ranchi (Jharkhand) and Lahdoigarah (Assam). Besides, there is a Central Silk Technological Research and Training Institute in Bangalore with a string of extension centres and technical services, laboratories and germplasm centres. These have initiated several research projects to improve the bivoltine silkworm, develop better host plants, and improve post-yarn technologies.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor