CSIR institute reopens in Kashmir after 25 years

CSIR institute reopens in Kashmir after 25 years

Research laboratory was shut down owing to militancy

CSIR institute reopens in Kashmir after 25 years

Almost 25 years after it was virtually shutdown due to the onset of militancy, a research laboratory in Kashmir has sprung to life with state-of-the-art facilities and a team of 10 young scientists and 20 Ph D students.

They have been entrusted with the task of creating an aroma industry in the state.
Investing for the future, the Centre has sanctioned 60 additional posts of scientists for the Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine (IIIM), Srinagar, where scientific activities came to an end in 1989 following the kidnapping of its then in-charge, A K Dhar, who spent almost two months in captivity at the peak of militancy.

The incident triggered an reverse migration of scientists, who within a few months were transferred to IIIM’s parent laboratory in Jammu and other Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)–the parent body of IIIM–laboratories.

Only one scientist and two technicians were left at the institute, which in its hey days contributed immensely in the growth of mint as a cash crop across India. Most of the laboratories and training centres were shut down.

The campus, located in the heart of Srinagar, was taken over by the Central Reserve Police Force, Indo-Tibetan Border Police and Jammu and Kashmir Police. As the political situation in the Valley improved, the CSIR with support from the state government began reviving the institute. The tag of a conflict zone, however, was not easy to erase. The IIIM, for instance, wants to have a 400 MHz nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) machine for analytical chemistry. Tenders were floated five times.

But not a single international company that manufactures these machines were willing to supply in the Valley, though they did not have a problem in providing the same to the IIIM parent branch in Jammu.

“I had to write an undiplomatic letter to the Ministry of External Affairs asking how companies can get away with this excuse though the Indian government recognises Jammu and Kashmir as one state,” said Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who was present at the ceremony here on Saturday.
Ultimately, the NMR machine and other sophisticated instruments were delivered.

The institute, says its director Ram Vishwakarma, has one of the finest chemistry laboratories in the country. About Rs 11 crore was spent on instrumentation and Rs 30 crore on the laboratory in the last five years. More expansion, including a student hostel, is in the offing.

The institute plans to set up two biotechnology parks in Jammu and Srinagar, a large science centre in Srinagar with facilities to make products from medicinal and aromatic plants and a training centre on leather technology for rural women.

“We identified 15 plants containing nutraceutical molecules, which will be further developed here,” said CSIR Director-General Samir K Brahmachari. The Valley’s only research institute also intends to set up a children’s science museum where kids can come and play with the exhibits to experience first hand the wonders of science.