Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Recently there was a news item in the media about halwais teaching M.Tech students the art of making traditional food products in Andhra Pradesh and the program deserves full credit for its innovative approach. What is not clear from the report is whether this is a casual phenomenon for grabbing attention or a realistic sustainable program with foresight. Traditional food products, thousands in number, prepared and consumed through out the country are still a grey area with very little scientific foundation and what will come out of such a program is not very clear. If the students are taught the recipes and the preparation methods of a few selected products, what good will come out of such efforts? The program will, of course, help the students to get some idea about these products but a technology course cannot be based on such meager resource inputs from artisans. This is not to criticize the program or the organizers who thought about this but to highlight the enormous logistics involved in designing a course aimed at "technologisation" of traditional food products in the country. Listen to what the organizers have to say about the program:

"The students will be given training on the manufacturing methods of delicious dishes. We will tie up with more firms dealing with food processing in future," JNTU-K vice chancellor Allam Appa Rao said. The V-C claimed that the M Tech course in Food Processing Technology offered by the university was first of its kind in Andhra Pradesh. "Apart from an orientation in engineering, we want to focus on food processing and provide on-field experience to the students," he said. Students would be given training in the making of much sought-after items like 'Pootharekulu', `Tapeswaram kaja', 'Kakinada kaja', and other delicacies. Suruchi Foods, which manufactures Tapeswaram kaja in bulk and sends it to various parts of the country, was roped in to impart training to the PG students. Sources said the university is planning to rope in more SHGs to conduct orientation classes for the students. University director E V Prasad said that they would also go for tie-ups with MNCs like Nestle, Tata Tea, Haldirams and a few others to offer better training to students.

Even collaborating with reputed manufacturers may not serve any purpose except exposing the students to field conditions and making them aware of the industry practices. There are no industry player in the country with adequate technological base and most of them have still small scale operations using manual labor and multiple battery units with very rudimentary processing equipment. One cannot blame the industry for this low technology base because food researchers in the country have not done much basic work to evolve appropriate processes with high production efficiency and this gross neglect is manifested in the sorry state of affairs vis-a-vis the traditional food industry. Another issue is whether such orientation of university students should be at the post graduate level or at the more basic under graduate or graduate level and is it not better if degree courses or certificate courses are designed for turning out competent technicians for employment by the industry? Probably there is a need for evolving an entirely new course in Culinology which combines recipes, preparations and processing aspects vis-a-vis traditional food products. Nonetheless, the JNTU-K deserves some credit for their new initiative in the area of traditional foods.


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