Scientific researchers and graduate students in the capital, who have begun returning to their institutions for the first time since March, have returned to find labs in disarray, damaged equipment, ruined samples and their work severely delayed, with financial losses. possibly running to lakhs.
Academic researchers and graduate students from science and technology programs began to resume, in phase, their laboratory work after a nod from the University Grants Commission (UGC) in November.
Earlier this month, doctoral fellows from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) returned to the varsity after eight months, to find their labs in disrepair. For example, in a TL / OSL (Thermoluminescence / Optically Stimulated Luminescence) laboratory, used by research students at the Center for the Study of Regional Development (CSRD), soil samples collected from different parts of the country have become useless due to a termite infestation in the building.
Ishita Manna, a doctoral student who was working in the lab before the closure was announced in late March, said the spoiled samples may delay her thesis submission.
“Although the UGC has granted an extension of six months for the presentation of the doctoral thesis, how am I going to complete my research without the soil samples? We collected rare and varied soil samples from different landscapes, such as mountains, including the Himalayas, rivers, and the desert, and found out their age. I collected my samples from Beas Kund in Himachal Pradesh. We cannot go back there at least for the next few months because the roads are blocked due to snowfall, ”he said.
According to the students, the lab doors and cabinets are now infested with termites. “Moss and fungi have started to grow on the walls. We don’t know how to resume our investigative work in this way, ”Manna said.
Moshahid Alam Rizvi, who teaches in Jamia Millia Islamia’s biosciences department, said the inaccessibility of the labs in the first months of the shutdown affected the team and research work at the university.
“In addition to the damage to smaller equipment such as the CO2 incubator and the gel documentation system (used in molecular biology laboratories for compound imaging and documentation)Due to fluctuations in electricity and the absence of personnel to monitor it, our freezers were also affected. These are used to store sensitive chemicals, biochemicals, and living cells brought in from other countries. Financial losses can reach lakhs. Many research projects that were stopped when the closure was announced have been destroyed, ”he said.
The situation was no different at the University of Delhi.
Ratul Baishya, who teaches in the university’s botany department, said work was severely affected as all labs were closed until at least August.
“While the graduate labs were largely unaffected due to maintenance work after July, the lack of staff affected individual labs running research projects. This caused a number of problems, from termites that damaged books and furniture to the destruction of ecological samples that had to be analyzed in a given period. The researchers’ work has been delayed for a year and now they have to repeat the whole process again, ”he said.
In June, a fire in the Ram Lal Anand College computer lab destroyed about 40 computers. “Some of these computers were seven to eight years old and needed to be replaced in any case. Therefore, it is difficult to assess the losses incurred. As there was no one at the university, fortunately there was no harm in life, “said Rajesh Gupta, director of the university.
A JNU school of life sciences doctoral fellow, requesting anonymity, said that students who returned a few months are still trying to repair the damage to their labs due to the prolonged shutdown, and making desperate attempts to get their work back. .
“Many scholars have lost their biological cell line samples (cells grown under controlled conditions) due to the breakdown of minus 80 degrees Celsius freezers when the labs were closed. There was no one to watch over them, so the students couldn’t move their samples to other freezers. It takes years to develop such samples. We don’t know how the students will do their research now, ”he said.
While the students have been claiming that their work has been destroyed due to the “callousness” of the university administration, JNU Registrar Pramod Kumar said laboratory supervisors are responsible for maintaining the labs. “Supervisors have been allowed to open the laboratories and take stock of the situation in recent months. If there has been any damage, the supervisors are responsible for them. “
Milap Chand Sharma, Manna Supervisor and President of JNU Teachers Association (JNUTA), said: “Supervisors have been writing to management about the status of the labs, but there has been no support. In September, we wrote to the administration to allow us to review the labs, but there was no response. “