Window Seat | Mrinal Chatterjee | 2.9.18

University-Community Linkage

On 24 to 26 August 2018 Odisha Vikash Conclave was held in Bhubaneswar which discussed several aspects of development and attempted to devise a roadmap for development of Odisha in particular and the country in general. The conclave saw wide participation by civil society players and academia. Political leaders and bureaucrats also participated enthusiastically.  There were altogether 19 tracks, or call it subject domains of discussion including one on University- Community Linkage, which I attended as a participant.

The points I made were:
1. University-Community Linkage could be a win-win situation for both. Universities could be interface in technology transfer to the community, which is the need of the hour in India.
2. Research conducted in universities and Institutes can harvest traditional knowledge and integrate with modern technology and/or marketing for the benefit of the community. The community can benefit from technology integration and marketing skill upgradation. Consider for example promotion and marketing of black rice, which is considered more nutritious and commands higher price at the market. Research organisations can do more research on making better yielding seeds. University departments teaching marketing can upscale the marketing skill of the farmers.
3. Community could be made an active stakeholder of the University. It might help in the infrastructure development of the university- if handled properly. A robust alumni association is an asset of any institution. Look at IIMs and IITs. An institutional framework can harvest the emotional connect with the alma matter and gain financially and otherwise.
4. It could integrate the students more with the real issues of the community. At least they can appreciate the issues. On the other hand for the community- it could be a ‘feel-good’ scenario.
5. University-community linkage could be institutionally integrated in the syllabus, so that students are involved. It could also be academically/professionally incentivized to draw more participation.

However, it requires some dedicated teachers and community-minded students to harvest the real benefit. Without that, the linkage will only produce results on paper and not on real field.

Sketches from my recent visit to Gopalpur on Sea

Gopalpur in Odisha is a small seaside town, about 16 km from Berhampur with a glorious maritime trade history. During the days of Kalingas it was known as the port of Paloura from which traders sailed as far as Java, Bali and Sumatra and piled up wealth dealing in silk and pearl. Later it was a transit point to export sugar and cheap labourers for the tea gardens of Assam in north eastern India. As road and rail transport became more convenient and safe the maritime movement decreased pushing the town into desolation. , The crumbling walls and the pillars of an ancient jetty together with some crumbling bungalows are witness to its swinging maritime past.

It was a small, sparsely populated town with a deserted- almost lonely beach. This, ironically was the prime attraction of Gopalpur: a beach without a crowd, where you can walk for miles without meeting anyone except the local friendly fishermen.

This was Gopalpur- – when I last visited it- some ten years ago.  There were few hotels. The town slept early. As I went there last week, I found it to be crowded and dirtier. The beach side had titled area with steel handrail- but dozens of street dogs roaming free and litter piled everywhere. It seemed Gopalpur, a pretty and rustic girl had suddenly turned old and wore garish makeup- which has cracks.

Rows of plastic chairs have been put on the narrow beach of Gopalpur by the vendors selling ‘masala mudi’ and other food items. There is hardly any space for walking freely. I remembered the days when we used to walk freely on the beach. No longer. Commerce has ruined that freedom.

Gopalpur has had several houses standing on the beach so close to the sea that waves reach them. Some of the houses are in precarious condition. It may fall down any time, any day. Seemed like the old houses waiting stoically for the inevitable.

I like to collect shells at the sea beach. At times you get small conchs too. I found one, it seemed. As I picked it, it felt lighter and the texture was also different. On closer inspection it was found to be a plastic conch. Probably used on the ‘bahungi’ of a kanwadia, who carry water to the Shiva Temples in the month of Shravan. Now who can even think of finding a fake conch on a sea beach!

Gopalpur has changed. Plastic conch on its beach- is an apt metaphor for the change.

Tailpiece 1: What went wrong?

When we were young, beautiful actresses like Sridevi were marrying old guys like Boney Kapoor.

Now when we are growing old, beautiful actresses like Priyanka Chopra are marrying young men like Nick Jonas.

Saala samajh nahi aa raha galti kahan ho gayi

Tailpiece 2: False Prediction

Met office employee arrested. He was falsely predicting rain and asking wife to prepare pakodas for him.


Mrinal Chatterjee a journalist-turned media academiciabn lives in Dhenkanal, a central Odisha town. He is presently editing a book/monograph on Gandhi as a Journalist and Editor to be published around October 2018. [email protected]


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