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A file photo of scientist Yash Pal.
A file photo of scientist Yash Pal.

Yash Pal, scientist and academician, dies at 90

Eminent Indian scientist Yash Pal, noted for his contribution to the study of cosmic rays as well as for being an institution builder, died on Monday night

New Delhi: Yash Pal, the physicist whose interest ranged from cosmic rays to the weight of school bags, breathed his last on Tuesday in Noida. He was 90.

Born in Jhang, now in Pakistan, and brought up in Haryana, Yash Pal did his masters in physics from Punjab University and Ph.D from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US.

From explaining science concepts on Doordarshan as part of a TV series in the 1980s to advocating university reform and pushing for visual elements in school books to make learning fun, Yash Pal was an iconic figure for over 50 years.

A staunch critic of commercialization of education, he fought a case against the Chhattisgarh government in the Supreme Court to shut down over 100 private universities established through a state act. Supreme Court gave an order in his favour in 2005 and declared as null and void the establishment of 112 private universities in the state.

“In the last six decades, Prof Yashpal was a go-to man for most of us. An icon of science and education reform, he asked youngsters in universities and research labs to challenge established norms of truth through science and reason," said Harivansh Chaturvedi, a former director of the All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE).

“He was against corruption in education and his fight against Chhattisgarh private universities is unparalleled," said Chaturvedi, during whose tenure at AICTE in the mid-1990s Yash Pal was preparing a government report called “Learning without Burden" to reduce the weight of school bags from the same office complex.

“RIP Great Scholar Prof Yashpal! the teacher, the voice against overloaded school bags and rote learning, who made science learning a fun," tweeted Delhi education minister Manish Sisodia on Tuesday.

“DST Fraternity Condoles the demise of Prof Yash Pal, the great Indian Scientist, doyen of Science Communication & Former Secretary of DST," the department of science and technology said, after learning about his demise.

Condoling his death, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Twitter, “Pained by Professor Yash Pal’s demise. We have lost a brilliant scientist & academician who made a lasting contribution to Indian education."

Yash Pal started his career as a professor with Tata Institute of Fundamental Research and was the recipient of the Kalinga Prize of UNESCO for the popularization of science in 2009 and Padma Vibhushan award in 2013.

He was the chairman of University Grants Commission (UGC) from 1986-91 and headed several government committees on education reforms.

During his tenure as UGC chairman, he championed the creation of Inter-University Centres and the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics emerged from that vision.

Yashpal pushed for more pictures and cartoons in school books, especially science books, for making learning fun and child-centric as part of the National Curriculum Framework 2005. Yashpal, who headed the steering committee of the NCF, redrew the school curriculum of NCERT.

“Prof Yash Pal loved kids and told many times that child-centric learning is a must to improve education outcome. He pushed for more visualization of text books to make them fun and reduce the impact of rote learning," said Hrushikesh Senapaty, chairman of NCERT.

In 2009, he headed a committee on higher education reform and said in the report that the government must regulate private universities, favoured Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) to give multi-disciplinary education and advocated autonomy for quality institutions.

“We must prevent isolation of study of engineering or management. We should look forward to the day when IITs and IIMs also produce scholars in areas like literature, linguistics and politics. Institutions must be given the freedom to expand and diversify as they see fit rather than thrusting a uniform diktat on all institutions," the Yash Pal Committee report said.

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