Prof Vinod Vishen, Principal CASET College, in conversation with Irshad Ul Islam discusses the state of IT industry in J&K and the role CASET has been playing in nurturing ICT related human resources in the state.
Vinod Vishen is serving as Principal, CASET College. Before taking over his current role, he was working with Department of Atomic Energy where he was part of the team that wrote the first time-sharing operating system in India.
First of all I would like to know about your professional and academic background?
I started my academic career with graduation from Gandhi College Srinagar & Masters degree in Mathematical Statistics from Kurukshetra University. After that I did my MS in Computer Science, which is equivalent to M. Phil, from the same university. At that time, the course had been just started by UGC and named as Post Graduate Diploma in Numerical Analysis and Automatic Computing. This was the time when Computer Science was introduced in 5-6 institutes throughout India. After finishing my MS, I took up my first job with Department of Atomic Energy in Hyderabad. We had the privilege of being first to manufacture computers in Asia after Japan. This is how my career began. We were reinventing everything there, from making our own compilers to writing operating system code. Infact I remember being member of a team which wrote the first time-sharing operating system in India. Those were times when there was very serious technology restriction in place enforced by the American government. I remember we were not given even computers with memory of 512 kb. So we used to make our own RAMs, Hard discs and Operating Systems. A whole lot has changed since then.
As you are heading one of the premier IT colleges of J&K, would you throw some light on the objective behind setting up this college?
I wanted to set up a college of computer sciences in Kashmir almost from the very beginning because my father had been running a successful school here in Srinagar. So naturally there was desire in me to continue it further and upgrade it to a college and since I was in information technology, obviously that was what I wanted to do here. Those were early days for India in computer sciences. In 1986, I came here and started first computer institute in Karan Nagar Srinagar. Those were the days when there no computer courses such as BCA or MCA existed. Only BE and B.Tech program in Computer Sciences had been started started by IIT’s but that was only two or three years old. Infact the first batch had not come out in India. By 1990 we were doing a diploma program which attracted large number of students. Due to political trouble in Kashmir, I had to leave this place & the institute was closed. I joined IIT Delhi in 1990 as a senior scientist. I was looking for the right opportunity to skip this job and restart the institute. In 1997 I felt the things had gone bit better so I came back and started teaching computer science. I proposed to the govt of Jammu and Kashmir to start a BCA programme in Kashmir. It took about four years to convince the govt and the university. Finally in 2001 we were given permission to start the BCA programme and our first batch passed out in 2005. BCA program has been successful since then. However, the first program I started was DOEACC B Level course, which is our flagship program. We are considered among the very best colleges in the country today for studying DOEACC B-Level.
Now coming to your question regarding objectives for setting up this college, the most fundamental objective was to bring technology to my people. I don’t think there can be a sweeter dream than what I had dreamt at that time. There have been many people here that have helped me and I would like to take the name of Dr. Mehraj ud Din Dar Sahab who was instrumental in getting me the affiliation for the B Level program.
What has been you experience so far running a successful IT college?
I would say I am so happy that I came back here. I have actually found a new life for myself just being here with these young children. For me and all my staff fulfilling the dreams of our students is our main objective. We are very proud of what we have done.
What is your view on IT sector in J&K?
As far as the IT sector in J&K is concerned, there is a tremendous amount of scope here. As IT sector is primarily a human resource driven industry, if you have quality human resource you have the industry. The key problem we are facing here is that we do not have right political environment in which our child could invest their careers, time, and money and establish this industry.
IT curriculum in our state has not been updated for a while and with the result gap has been developed between the academic standards and industry requirements? What is your take on this?
We have to take care of the weaker section as well. Students who come from far flung areas have little computer knowledge and that needs to be taken care of. But we are not silent, new technologies and topics are being implemented in the syllabus slowly.
There has been very less penetration of open source in academic curriculum despite its overwhelming adaptation, why?
Open Source is a new concept in our state, but the good news is that people are taking it very seriously. You will see many government websites developed using open source software & tools. But it will take sometime for its introduction in academic curriculum. Kashmir University has already started a process to introduce open source to students. Even a conference on Open Source is being organised by the Kashmir University in May 2011 in this regard.
During our recent interviews there has been an opinion that IT is going to be a visible in J&K? How do you take this statement?
I personally feel that IT industry is already visible in the state. Government is showing its keen interest and projects like e-governance, SWAN, state data center have been taken up in this regard.
What are the employment opportunities for your outgoing college students in the state or outside the state?
You will be surprised to know that we have achieved 100% job placements for our B-Level passouts outside state. To generate employment opportunities within the state, I would like the state government to get their projects like e-governance etc done through some local partner, so that it can generate employment for the IT graduates.
What are the challenges that IT industry is facing in J&K and what is the solution in your opinion?
I think the biggest challenge that we are facing is the political trouble and its effect on streets. And yes, politics should be kept off this sector to make it flourish.
What are the future plans of your college and how would we foresee your college after 10 years?
We want to develop quality excellence in our academic & professional programmes and introduce new technologies to our students so that they can cope up with the market demand.