Kolkata completes a chaotic congress with science


Delegates spent cold nights in a dormitory, shivering without blankets, after the organisers of the 100th Indian Science Congress had registered more than they could comfortably accommodate. They went hungry the first day at Kolkata's Salt Lake Stadium, which lacked arrangements for lunch. And at least one of the various venues where they went to hear a Nobel winner speak, they found the hall too small to accommodate them.

The event, held at a budget of Rs 3.5 crore, concluded this week. It was hosted by Calcutta University in coordination with the department of science and technology, government of India. T Ramaswamy, the department's secretary, chaired the congress. He felt coordination with the university hosts had been a challenge and said there would be a rethink whether such an event can be hosted in Kolkata, apart from a review of the process of registration on the spot.

At the Children's Science Congress, part of the event, some students hoping to make presentations were disappointed by the absence of logistical support. Saleqa Azam of Jammu and Kashmir could not make her presentation on soil conservation because the organisers ran out of laptops.

The fact that it was a centenary event led to record participation, with the number of delegates jumping from 11,000 to 15,000 on the last two days, all registered on the spot. The total was nearly twice the 8,000 who participated in last year's congress in Bhubaneswar.

"There was an unexpected rush on January 1 and 2. Non-registered participants arrived with their families, without prior intimation," said the university's pro VC (administration), Dhrubyajyoti Chatterjee. "Since many had gone through tiring train journeys, we could not turn them back. Because of that, we struggled to accommodate scheduled delegates at decent places. Nevertheless, we did provide a roof over their heads for the night."

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