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She has fish-y interests

Dr. B. Meenakumari, Head of the Fishing Technology division in the Central Institute of Fisheries Technology (CIFT), Kochi, is to receive the prestigious Panjabrao Deshmukh Woman Agricultural Scientist Award- 2002 on July 16 at New Delhi. VIJAY GEORGE profiles the lady scientist


HERS IS a story of diligence, drive and innovation. Though she had "never really planned to be in a career that she eventually was into", Dr. B. Meenakumari, head of the Fishing Technology division in the Central Institute of Fisheries Technology (CIFT), Kochi, has put her heart, energy and skills into her field. The hard work has paid off well and, she is the latest recipient of the prestigious Panjabrao Deshmukh Woman Agricultural Scientist Award- 2002. The award carries a cash prize of Rs.50, 000, a memento and a citation, instituted by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), New Delhi. It will be presented to her at the Capital on 16 July, on the Foundation Day of ICAR.

Says the happy scientist, "Of course I am happy to receive this honour. It's indeed a recognition and instils an urge to do something more. Though my job requires me to go for deep-sea cruises, which lasts for weeks, and to work until late hours, I have never felt it was tough being a woman scientist in this field. In fact, my peers told me at the start of my career that fisheries technology is one field where women may find it tough to adjust. I consider that the atmosphere at our institute where we have an excellent team, made me really comfortable. Of course I could not have devoted so much attention without the support from my family. They should have been affected, but I consider myself lucky since they have never really complained."

Dr. Meenakumari got selected as an agricultural research scientist while doing her M Phil in Acquatic Biology and Fisheries and joined CIFT in 1977. Subsequently she completed her PhD from the University of Kerala. She has done pioneering work in introducing and standardising new fishing gear materials and accessories for making fishing easier, more productive and profitable and has also contributed significantly in popularising synthetic twines such as nylon monofilament and polypropylene as fishing gear materials for gill nets. Her other studies include development of modern lobster traps with durable material, square mesh cod ends for the conservation of fishery resources and identifying potential fishing zones with the help of satellite imagery.

Commenting on the good work done by her Institute she says, "I think that institutes like ours have contributed much in developing fishing technology. The rubber wood canoe that CIFT has developed is generating considerable interest."

Distinguished in her field, Dr. Meenakumari has won the Young Scientist Award by Kerala Science Congress for combination wire ropes developed by her using steel wire and synthetic fibres for use as head and footropes in deep-sea demersal trawls. She has also won the Journal of Environmental Biology Prize for her study on `Ecobiology of Fouling in Cochin Backwaters' and is also the recipient of Fellowship Award 2002, instituted by the Bioved Research Society, India and Nature Conservators, India. Armed with such distinctions, she finds no time to read fiction "especially Malayalam" which was her passion.

Dr. B. Meenakumari lives in Thevara with her husband, a chartered accountant and two daughters.

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