M. Ashraf Shah
The day was coming fast and there was nothing I could do to change it. So, as a pen pusher, I figured the best thing I could do was to pen a tribute to Man with Muffler, who is completing his tenure in May 2023 as Director NIT Srinagar. From my perspective as one of his obedient employees and mentee, Prof Sehgal your absence will be deeply felt. There is well known Vietnamese proverbs that while eating fruit remember the man who planted the tree. You will be remembered always dear Sir.
It is more than half a decade when I received, Prof Rakesh Sehgal along with Prof Anju Sehgal in Nigeen Club, Srinagar where an INSPIRE Internships programme for the bright students of the valley was to be inaugurated. In an altogether unique style of warm welcome, you were garlanded and turbaned by the Hon’ble Vice Chancellors of local Universities, including the Director of SKIMS Srinagar. The un-adulteration of heart and mind was visible from your soft speech and enthusiasm to work was discernible. After the program, you accompanied me, bid farewell to school students who were attending the program and ensured that the students stay and travel is comfortable for entire 5 days, declare your modesty, simplicity and humility.
Prof Sehgal under your leadership, National Institute of Technology Srinagar erstwhile Regional Engineering College Srinagar expanded manifold. Day after day, month after month, year after year, you worked hard to shape the acclaimed culture of integrity, equity, quality and a commitment to the greater good. You deserve a tremendous amount of credit for building the civil infrastructure. Sometimes it is hard to find the right words (even to a writer) to acknowledge and describe someone as wonderful and marvellous as Prof Sehgal.
An exceptional role model and an administrator extraordinaire, the extent of your knowledge ranges from frictional forces to medical implants and a little bit of everything else in between, including some Urdu poetry reciting during my programs! I know that the faculty and students will miss your leadership and your guidance. I vividly remember that during the COVID-19 pandemic, you have ensured that students continued to receive an exceptional education despite many challenges, as we know all. Three things stand out for me in particular where we made significant strides in areas that were meaningful and long lasting.
Breaking the decades’ old paralysed record of recruitments of faculty and staff which as a routine was once in a decade. You did it four times in your tenure, removed the long stagnation of bright faculty, as was desired under the recruitment/ up-gradation policy. So this malady like polio disease was eliminated in NIT Srinagar and you will always be credited for this bold initiative, though the “cooling period” was mis-carried and misinterpreted but mostly by our own people.
An incredible and robust team in administrative set up and choosing a right man for the custodian of records, which used to be fudged earlier as per their whims and wishes. Though there a genuine and strong criticism that funds under different heads fluctuates like binary numbers. It is 0 (zero) for academic purposes and 1 (one) for luxury items like wood carving/ wood panelling and for items like massage chairs/ resting sofas and for replacing frequently roof tops/devenports.
The infrastructure, most of which is in completion stage is probably 1/5th of the infrastructure built in last 50 years, though the partial credit goes to Hon’ble LG for extending all possible help required time to time. I believe, the institution is in need of new campus in some far flung district for its sustainability and expandability. As per enrolment there is a need of 100 smart class rooms and at least 10 seminar rooms.
Along with your many accomplishments, I believe that your tenure will be most remembered for your commitments and dedication. Your leadership and your vision for the institution will move us forward in the years to come. Your commitment to helping faculty and students and providing them with the resources that they need to flourish, distinguishes you as a remarkable administrator and educator. Dr. Babasahab used to Says, “Cultivation of mind should be the ultimate aim of human existence”. These could not have happened without you. It’s impossible to sum up Prof Sehgal’s impact on our institute in a short statement. Of all the directors I have worked, there are few close to my heart including your immediate predecessor Prof Rajat Gupta, Prof M A Wani and Dr M J Zarabi; they all were friends of God.
Enforcing policies and procedures, holding people accountable and handling the most difficult and challenging situations with a quiet, assured confidence, Prof Sehgal approached every aspect of his job with the utmost integrity, always keeping the institutes’ best interest as his guiding principle. It was never in doubt that you truly love this NIT , bringing it within the rank of 50 and ensured sustainable success.
Prof Sehgal, although half a decade was not enough time to learn all I could from you. I’m so very grateful that I was able to spend such a significant part of my headship with you. I’d like to thank for being my inspiration, for helping me grow and become the person I am today. We in the Department of Physics—faculty, staff, graduate students, and undergraduate students—extend our deepest gratitude to you for leadership and support over the past decade. You have been with us to celebrate our successes and you have gone above and beyond to support us when we needed it most. We celebrated small victories, struggled through difficult times and you taught me to approach each new challenge fearlessly – with an open heart and mind and control the emotions during hot hours. Prof Anju Sehgal also deserves appreciations for her support and hold up during our departmental programmes.
Over the last 5 years, we’ve shared long lunches and dinners with a mixture of difference of opinions on many crucial issues, including unjustified fee hike of PG Programs in Science Streams.
I am appreciative and grateful and wish you much happiness in the next phase of your life. Nonetheless, we have been gifted by a great and visionary personality as a Director from the south.
Author teaches nanotechnology at NIT, Srinagar.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.