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Former Vice-Chancellor of Anna University and director of IIT Kanpur, late M Anandakrishnan who was also the Former director of IIT Kanpur (12.07.1928 – 29.05.2021) has authored a book – the Indian education system – From Greater Order To Great Disorder which was released by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin.  Finance Minister P T R Palanivel Thiagarajan received the first copy.

This book was co-authored by CEG alumni and educationist D Nedunchezhiyan who established Technocrats India College Finder, an online and offline education and career guidance portal. The information has now been published as a book for the benefit of students and parents. Nedunchezhiyan said that the sale proceeds of this book would be utilised for philanthropic activities through the Tamil Nadu Foundation.

Anandakrishnan was born on the July 12, 1928 in Vaniyambadi to Munirathnam and Ranganayaki, one among nine children.  After completing his fifth standard from the Municipal  School, young Anandakrishnan studied in the Muslim Higher Secondary School upto SSLC.

Given the family’s meagre resources, Anandakrishnan’s father wanted him to take up employment at the Municipality Office after his SSLC.  But his school teacher R.C. Ramanatha Iyer told his father that the bright student should be allowed to complete his Intermediate studies. Munirathnam reluctantly agreed and Anandakrishnan was admitted to the Vaniyambadi Islamic College and he went on to top the district.  As was the norm then, even as he studying for his Intermediate degree, his marriage was solemnized with his relative Jayalakshmi on August 8, 1947.

Anandakrishnan then secured admission to the Guindy Engineering College for pursuing civil engineering. After completing his education, he joined the Highways Department at Tiruchendur as Assistant Engineer. Soon he moved to a more challenging  assignment at the Highway Research Lab in Chennai.

In recognition of his exemplary service, he was awarded the highest Award of The Order of Scientific Merit from the President of Brazil in 1996

But the stint was short as he received a job offer from the Indian Railways as Class I Officer and simultaneously another offer for higher studies in America along with education assistance.   Anandakrishnan moved to Minnesota University to complete his masters in engineering and went on to earn a doctorate in the field. He returned to India in December 1961.

On returning, he joined the Central Road Research Institute as Senior Scientific Officer and then moved to  IIT Kanpur as Assistant Professor.  He played a key role in the newly established IIT Kanpur during its formative years and later occupied the post of Dean and Director In-charge.

After India’s successful nuclear test at Pokhran in 1974, a new post of a Science Counselor was created at the Indian Embassy in Washington and Anandakrishnan was the first to hold the  post. In 1978, he was selected for the post of Chief of New Technology at the United Nations Centre for Science and Technology for Development.  Later he was promoted as the Deputy Director in the Scientific Technology Wing.

Former Vice Chancellor of Anna University M Anandakrishnan’s 90th birthday celebrations. Seen with M Anandakrishnan, his wife Jayalakshmi

During his tenure in the United Nations Council, Anandakrishnan toured around 72 countries to oversee development activities. After the Army rule was reversed to usher in democracy in Brazil,  he recommended several programmes for the development of scientific trade practices and oversaw their implementation and progress from time to time. In recognition of his meritorious service, he was awarded the highest honour of the Order of Scientific Merit from the President of Brazil in 1996.

In the meantime, there was an offer for him to take charge as  Vice-Chancellor of Madras University.  However, as  the project he had undertaken in China was incomplete, he could not accept the offer .  But on May 9, 1990, he became the Vice-Chancellor of Anna University.  He spent around six years in Anna University till 1996 and twice occupied the chair of Vice-Chancellor.

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During his tenure, several path breaking reforms were carried out in Anna University. He was the one who initiated action for the introduction of ‘Mark Sensor Reader’ for evaluation of Plus 2 entrance exam answer sheets.

It was during his tenure that the ‘Single Window Admission System’ for admitting students to Engineering courses was adopted, which was a unique concept. Instead of filling  several forms , a single form was introduced which revolutionised admissions and students got their admission ratified based on their marks.  The process brought in transparency in admissions and is still being followed today. This was Anandakrishnan’s biggest gift to Tamil society.

In another major reform, he ended the practice of engineering students being allotted their chosen courses only in the second year of the degree.  There were a lot of complaints that the private engineering colleges were demanding money for allotting the chosen courses.  To eradicate this, he brought in necessary notifications to ensure that the courses were allotted in the very first year of admission.  It was during his tenure that the Government of Tamil Nadu brought in 15% reservation in Medical and Engineering courses benefiting those students from the rural areas.

After his tenure as Vice-Chancellor of Anna University came to an end, in 1996 he was appointed as the Vice-Chairman of the Tamilnadu Higher Education Council and served in this post for 6 years. During his tenure, introduction of computer science courses in plus1 and plus2 got a big encouragement. He was also the Head of the Group that decided the syllabus and text books for this course.  He also occupied the pioneer role as Head of the Committee set up to revise the school syllabus in 2017.

He played a key role in the newly established IIT Kanpur during its formative years and later occupied the post of Dean and Director In-charge

When M. Karunanidhi was the Chief Minister, Anandakrishnan was the Executive Committee member of the Task Force created in the government to establish the state’s first IT hub, the iconic Tidel Park. He was also Advisor to Chief Minister (Information Technology and Electronics).

The year 1999 saw the successful conduct of Internet Services Conference for use of Tamil and Anandakrishnan had a major role to play in that too. The introduction of Tamil keyboard got a fillip due to that Conference.  As a continuation of these efforts, a Tamil Internet University (now renamed as Tamil Internet Educational Institution) was formed. After the inaugural Conference in Chennai, to continue organizing such Conferences in Nations populated by more Tamil speaking people, an international body INFITT was established. Anandakrishnan was chosen to head this Organization in 2000.  His dream and effort to establish a Scientific City coordinating the activities of several hi-tech companies in and around the Taramani area in Chennai has still not taken a final shape.

He was the Head of Madras Institute of Development Studies started with the pioneering efforts of Malcolm Adiseshaiah. University Grants Commission, All India Council of Technical Education and several other State and Central Government organizations had the presence and participation of Anandakrishnan. He has also been the President of the Governing Council of IIT Kanpur, where he served earlier for the period 2007-2016. He has also been the President of the Tamil Nadu Wing of the Tamilnadu Foundation and served in various capacities.

In 2002, the Government of India honored him with Padma Sri.  In 2003, his alma mater Minnesota University awarded him the Distinguished Leadership Award. Chatrapathi Sakuj Maharaj University in Kanpur (2010) and Rajasthan Technological University, Kota (2014) conferred Honorary Doctorates on him. .

Despite his soaring achievements on a global level, Anandakrishnan remained accessible to all. He was very keen and particular that there should be honesty and transparency in all activities. Even though he was educated in America and though both his sons were employed in there, he was particular that he should offer his services for his motherland and so stayed in India to carry out his various distinguished activities. Last year, at the advanced age of 92 years, he passed away. As a mark of respect to his contribution, his book was  released on his birthday.

Professor M Anandakrishnan remains a beacon and shining inspiration that despite humble beginnings in a small town, he achieved great heights through hard work and dedication, bringing glory to Tamil Nadu and the country.

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