Kolkata completes a chaotic congress with science
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."
"I was so upset with the place they provided that I checked into a hotel myself," said Rajnesh Patel, a scientist who had arrived from Bangalore.
Suranjan Das, VC, cited a lack of coordination between the university and the department of science and technology. "We did our best; it is unfortunate... spot registration increased by 4,000 in two days."
Members of the organising committee felt all registrations should have been online. In fact, some delegates did apply online before the sudden spate of spot registrations.
The first day at Salt Lake Stadium found delegates hunting in vain for lunch arrangements and even water. From the second day, the organisers arranged buses to a venue for lunch. "Even then, delegates had to wait for hours to board a bus. Many made their own arrangements," said Swapnesh Kumar Malhotra of DRDO, who arrived from Delhi.
"Every morning, I had to hunt outside for breakfast as the hotel didn't provide any," said Udai P Singha, professor at KIIT University, Bhubaneswar. "At the venues, they could not even give us the day's schedule. It took me a day to figure out the procedure for registration."
Milan Sanyal, director of Saha Institute of Technology, questioned the way Nobel winners' speeches had been scheduled. He said these should have imediately followed the speeches of the prime minister, the President and the chief minster on the opening day at Salt Lake Stadium. Instead, the Nobel winners spoke on different days at venues. Venkatraman Ramakrishnan and Ei-ichi Negishi spoke at the inaugural function; Yuan T Lee and James Mirrlees arrived later. A speech by Ramakrishnan was held at Bose Institute, where the hall can accommodate around 100.