Tribute to an Academician

Amit Gupta
Prof. (Dr) Rakesh Kumar Gupta Ex-Vice Chancellor Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, Jammu breathed his last at Max Hospital, New Delhi after an illustrious career and professional service spread over a period of more than 38 years.
He worked very hard during his lifetime and such was his commitment to society that he struggled and fought with strong will and determination and recovered from a major accident miraculously three years back. With his sheer hardwork, dedication and devotion he became Director Research and then Vice Chancellor SKUAST Jammu last year. He was serving as Director Research and also contributed a lot on professional and social front during tough COVID times which was appreciated and admired in the society on various professional forums and social functions. During the fag end of last year he suffered a serious ailment against which he again fought very hard however this time destiny had some other plans and he breathed his last at Max Hospital Delhi. Prof (Dr) Rakesh Kumar Gupta was born to Lt Kewal Krishan and Lt Urmil Gupta (both educationists) at Jammu on 27th January 1960.
As a boy he was tough and workedrelentlessly during his lifetime to achieve innumerable accolades and appreciations in terms of distinctions, scholarships, awards (both academic and research at international, national and state levels). He studied during his early years in Government Schools being from a lower middle class family, however he was brilliant in academics and completed BSc Agriculture from Meerut University(UP) in 1981, MSc Agriculture in Plant Breeding, Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana in 1984, PhD Agriculture in Plant Breeding, HP KrishiVishvidalaya, Palampur, HP in 1989 with scholarships (JRF/SRF) and topped in various exams he appeared. Sh. Gulab Singh his mentor and teacher said ” R K Gupta was a man made of steel, an excellent motivator, researcher and orator who devoted his life for research, academics and social activities, losing him is a great loss to community of researchers and his research capabilities will be remembered by all who are associated with him directly or indirectly”.
His professional contributions can be gauged from the fact that he had 66 research papers in his name, wrote 130 articles in reputed journals of national and international levels, wrote 11 research books and delivered 54 lectures and participated in 20 Radio/TV talks and guided 30 students for PhD and MSc degrees. He was instrumental in developing 06 varieties in vegetables and 05 varieties developed by him have been notified by Central Sub Committee on Crop Standards, Notifications and Release of Varieties for Horticultural Crops, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmer Welfare New Delhi. He had identified 130 varieties/ hybrids for various agro-climates and included same in published Package and Practices of Vegetables for Jammu region. He remained associated with various Prestigious International Institutes like Nottingham University, Nottingham, UK; School of Agriculture, Sutton Bonington, UK; Department of Plant Science, Cambridge, Kent University, Kent; National Vegetable Research Station, Wellesbourne, UK for academic and research co-ordination and remained their resource person. He was also awarded fellowship in Biotechnology at University of Nottingham, UK.
He remained key resource person in various institutions/universities across the country for academic pursuits. He remained as Dean/Coordinator in Faculty of Basic Sciences, Head of Department in Vegetable Science & Floriculture, remained Group Leader in Biotechnology and also remained instrumental in educational planning and institutional building leading to establishment of New Faculty and new PG Programs. He took various initiatives in academics leading to starting of two new PhD programs and four MSc Programs in SKUAST Jammu. He established Low cost protected structures and strengthened Lab under Centre of Excellence in Vegetables in Division of Vegetable Science and Floriculture. He established Seed Farms /Experimental Farm at Chatha, Chakroi, Maize Centre, Udhampur, Vegetable Farm, Karlah, Kud. He pioneered and established first Plant Tissue Culture Laboratory( Centre for Biotechnology) SKUAST at Jammu centrewhich is now transformed into School of Biotechnology.
He remained instrumental in planning, monitoring and management of research program of Faculty of Agriculture, Faculty of Veterinary Sciences & AH and Research Stations/substations. He remained expert for various committees for planning and development of employment program for post-graduate/graduate in J&K State, as member of committee framed for draft new agriculture policy in 12th Five Year Plan in J&K State, as national level expert in academic assignments, as expert of Selection Committee for interviews in the direct recruitment of Professors/ Associate Professors/ Assistant Professors in subject of Horticulture and Vegetable Science at various State Agriculture Universities.
Throughout his service career, he was known for his impeccable integrity and humane nature. In recognition of his lifetime work, as recently announced by SKUAST Jammu in an obituary congregation, Broad bean variety (Broad bean-01) developed by SKUAST-Jammu under the leadership of Late Prof (Dr) RK Gupta will be released on his name. As stated by his family and colleagues, he used to say ” life is short and we need to make most of it”. His lifetime achievements will always remain an inspiration among students and researchers.