Prof. M. D. TELI Endowment Inaugural Oration – 2023 – delivered by Padma Vibhushan Prof. M. M. Sharma, FRS

On Friday 14th July, 2023, the day started with heavy rains, which continued till 12 noon causing the anxiety in the minds of a group of few people at ICT involved in arrangements of a special Function i.e. Inaugural Oration under Prof. M. D. Teli Endowment, to be held in KV Auditorium of Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT), Mumbai. The speaker was none other than Padma Vibhushan Prof. M. M. Sharma, FRS and Former Director of ICT/UDCT.

However, in the afternoon the sky was much kindlier, rains were receded, and by 5.30 pm sharp when the programme started, the Auditorium was packed to its full capacity. Every one was amazed to see such an overwhelming response to this Endowment lecture, and cum what may, all the esteemed invitee’s majority of them being at the helm of affairs of their companies, industrialists and senior academicians made it convenient to personally be present to this function. Thanks to the good follow-up of the organizers, the Department of Fibres and Textile Processing Technology (DFTPT) and the special love and affection cherished by the participants towards Prof. M. D. Teli in whose name this endowment was established by his past students and well-wishers, a unique example in ICT. The icing on the cake of this function was special attraction and respect Padma Vibhushan Prof. M. M. Sharma commands in the audience. He said that he made an exception to give this Endowment lecture, merely because he carried a special love and respect to the dedicated services of Mangesh (Prof. M. D. Teli) and his achievements.

After lighting the lamp at the hands of Prof. Teli, Prof. Sharma, Prof. Pandit, Prof. Kale, Prof. Adivarekar and Prof. Athalye, the program started with “Vidyapeeth Geet”. Prof. R. D. Kale who is the Head of the Department of Fibres and Textile Processing Technology, ICT, then narrated some personal experiences about Prof. Teli and said how meticulously he would guide the students not only in research, but also in their personality development and communication skills. He said, during his period, the Textile Department in ICT became famous at National and International platforms as Prof. Teli did not spare a single opportunity to participate actively in various events and acted as its Brand Ambassador.

Then followed the comprehensive introduction of Prof. M. D. Teli and the newly established Endowment, by Prof. R. V. Adivarekar, the Dean (HRD), ICT and also former Head, DFTPT. Some of the highlights of the achievements of Prof. Teli included: he being 3 times the top ranker in B.Sc. (Tech.) and M.Sc. (Tech.), in the University; served 10 years as HOD, DFTPT and as a Dean, Students affairs and HRD for another decade; also served as Member of Board of Governors of ICT. Honoured with Textile Ratna award, Honorary Fellow of Textile Association, Fellow of Maharashtra Academy of Science, Academic Excellence award for distinguished services to Textile Education, Research and Textile Industry; Acted as Sole evaluator of TUFS (1st Phase) of about Rs. 25000 Crore, from Government of India and Co-ordinator of Rs. 33.33 Crore World Bank assisted TEQIP at ICT which topped the list in best performing programmes run in the Country, etc.; had been Technical consultant to many MNCs and companies in India; visited more than 25 universities abroad and presented his research work in conferences; guided 150 research students including 35 of them Ph.D. (Tech.)/Ph.D. (Sci); Published 350 Research papers including 200 in International Journals; edited 29 Books; authored 6 Book Chapters; obtained 5 Patents; served almost all Textile Research Associations in India such as ATIRA, BTRA, MANTRA, SITRA, CSTRI as either their Chairman or member of Research Advisory Committees. Presently he is serving Co-Chairman, SITEX (DRDO), Chairman CSTRI and expert for ASCI. As co-curricular activities Prof. Teli has been also serving on Board of Trustee of Bahai Lotus Temple, and Bahai Academy which is actively serving the University Teachers and Students of a number of Universities in Maharashtra in the field of Education in Universal Human Values.

Due to his strong belief in “Vasudhaiva Kuttumbkkam”, World is one family right from beginning of his academic career, Prof. Teli assisted every student who crossed his path in terms of financial assistance, moral support in times of their distress or personal guidance about their career path, etc. He treated all his research students as his own family members and thus Prof. Adivarekar, mentioned that legacy of such inspiring teacher had to be continued in ICT. It is for this reason he and his friend, the First Ph.D. (Tech.) student of Prof. Teli, Dr. N. M. Prasad, Director of Chemistar Intermediates Pvt. Ltd., Ahmedabad, decided to establish Prof. M. D. Teli Endowment and this idea was delightfully accepted by Prof. A. B. Pandit, Honb’le Vice Chancellor of ICT. Prof. Teli was amongst a few initial contributors to this Endowment and subsequently they approached other students including the well-wishers. As it is understood this Corpus is open for Donations from people who liked to donate to this Cause, and Donations qualify 100 % Tax exemption. Needless to mention that Interest income of this Corpus fund is going to be used for financially assisting needy but deserving students of ICT.

Subsequently Prof. Pandit in brief said that since Prof. Adivarekar had given complete background of this endowment, and due to paucity of the time he would like the time to be devoted to listening to the talk of Padma Vibhushan Prof. M. M. Sharma. He said Prof. Sharma makes himself increasingly available for sharing his knowledge and that is the hall mark of a true teacher.

Prof. Sharma, appreciated the dedicated service of Prof. Teli to ICT and unique gesture shown by his students, by founding an Endowment in the name of their Teacher. He said he has made an exception to talk in ICT for an Endowment lecture and it was because Prof. Teli approached him to give the same. The topic was also suggested by him.

The Oration of Prof. Sharma on the subject “Sustainability-A boon or bane?” started by his comment that it has been indeed a Boon. He split the subject in water, energy and raw materials. 70% of water goes into agriculture, and it is consumed more by rice and sugarcane production. He said that there is no water balance in rice and sugarcane production. In addition, there is a new band wagon to convert cane juice in to alcohol to be used as a fuel. Not being in conformity with this approach he asked the audience as to how fare is it converting a food item to the fuel, and whether it is proper. Rather we should use bagasse which is a grow waste and if we are able to get a breakthrough technology to covert this cellulosic raw material into alcohol, that will be a more sustainable approach. Coming to cotton textile processing which consumes large amount of water not only in production of cotton but also in processing, he said it’s time to think of limiting the use of water in cotton textile processing, for saving precious water and also reducing effluent treatment load. Water recycling and water harvesting are complimentary to sustainability objectives. In arid areas one could also think of capturing water form moisture in air using adsorptive technology. In chemical industries and Textile processing, Zero discharge is indeed now becoming a new norm. Should we follow the age old water intensive Xanthation process or should we shift to solvent aided process which is more benign? Thanks to the birth of adsorptive technology and it is already developed.

Chemical Technologist and Chemical Engineers have increasing opportunities due to enforcement of Sustainability. Coming to the organic chemistry field, he said most of the earlier chemicals were made from renewable raw material like alcohol. First polyethylene plants were based on alcohol. The first NH3 plant was based on electrolytic hydrogen. We have forgotten these old technologies, but they make quite sense in present conditions as processes based on electrons are benign and require very little energy. So when bane becomes a boon is when waste products are converted as raw materials for newer processes to get value added products.

There was a time, associated gases were burnt in the refineries, which contained Methane, Ethane and H2S. India was dependent on mined Sulphur. But now we are having surplus Sulphur due to the efficient Sulphur recovery plants based in oil refineries. Thus H2S which was considered to be a curse and a bane, now it has become a boon. Similarly, Coal ash is being now used in Cement sector. One can use Coal ash in Zeolites. Phospho gypsum being used in Cement plant and thus this Phospho gypsum otherwise would have been liability in the phosphoric acid plants which is converted into wealth.

Recyclability of polyester is almost established in water bottles’ case. One can think have apparels recycling based on polyester, as it also used less amount of water in processing as compared to cotton. India has no Cobalt, no Nickel, no Iridium, and no Lithium and under these circumstances one should think of sustainability of solar energy as majority of the Solar Panels components are imported in the country. However, wind energy can be helpful. We can place these poles offshore, but we should be able to manufacture 200 m length blades.

Thus by a number of examples Prof. Sharma by saying why Sustainability is a boon rather than bane, and how it provides impetus for scientists to explore newer Technologies.

Then followed presentation of Memento to Prof. Sharma at the hands of Honb’le Vice Chancellor Prof. A. B. Pandit and Prof. M. D. Teli.

Dr. Kedar Kulkarni proposed the Vote of Thanks. The function concluded with refreshment. In all, it was indeed a very befitting function and participants were happy attending the same. 

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