Recently the Belgian government honoured A C Muthiah (ACM) with the award of Order of Leopold II for his long service as the Honorary Consul General of Belgium at Chennai. Muthiah functioned in this capacity for 25 years till Belgium established its own consulate in Chennai a couple of years ago. Belgium (population 11.2 million and per capita income $ 40,456) is one of the six founder nations of the European Economic Community in 1957. This prosperous country, at the heart of Europe, has the headquarters of the EEC and its Parliament. Belgium has been known for its precision machine tools and steel industry.
For some two decades from 1970, SPIC in the joint sector was registering frenetic pace of growth. In the 1980s, under Muthiah’s leadership, SPIC group expanded setting up a large number of industrial units – Tuticorin Alkali Chemicals, Tamil Nadu Petroproducts, Manali Petrochemicals, SPIC Heavy Chemicals, SPIC Pharma, SPIC Electronics, Mac Industries… Their fortunes declined in the post 1991 liberalisation era.
ACM was different from the normal crop of business leaders of the state. With a liberal endowment for science, he set up the SPIC Science Foundation (SSF) and assembled a strong team of scientists and managers under Dr S Parthasarathy. Stalwarts like M D Nair, C S Seshadri… functioned as part of SSF. I remember Muthiah making a munificent grant of Rs 2 crore for the Centre for Biotechnology of the Anna University to stimulate research in the emerging area of biotechnology.
The Chennai Mathematical Institute (CMI) founded and nurtured by Muthiah has evolved as a premier institution with liberal support by Shriram Group’s R Thyagarajan who has bequeathed around Rs 15 crore of his own funds and those of his close associates. Cognizant’s Vice Chairman Lakshmi Narayanan who had joined CMI as a trustee is further expanding the corpus. Infosys has provided Rs 30 crore for the CMI.
The renowned mathematician C S Seshadri, who moved to Chennai from Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), obtained for CMI liberal funding from the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), Department of Science & Technology (DST) and the Ministry of Human Resources Development. Remember Rajeeva L Karandikar who was presented by CNN-IBN as an expert in analysing pre-election polls of the 2014 general elections conducted by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS)? He heads CMI as Director and referred to the thrust areas of CMI as data analytics, computer science and theoretical physics, apart from efforts to excel under-grad and PG education in mathematics.
The rich facilities created at the Siruseri complex are in need of additional space. CMI is looking for land for expansion and also to expand the corpus to Rs 100 crore dreamed by RT to take it among global level research and teaching institutions in the fundamental science of mathematics. -SV