Prof N Irabanta Singh: Doyen of Aerobiology from North East India

Prof N Anand *

I have great pleasure and privilege to mention the following about Prof N. IrabantaSingh, former Professor (Higher Academic Grade)/Life Sciences and former Dean, School of Life-Sciences, Manipur University who has served this prestigious Institution for three decades. It is apt to call Prof. N. Irabanta Singh as, Father of Aerobiological Studies in Manipur .

He is a doyen in the subject who started as a humble researcher and rose to the status of the President of the Indian Aerobiological Society. His research pertained to all the States of the North Eastern India namely Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, Mizoram and his own state Manipur.

I would like to highlight the milestones he has crossed in his long illustrious academic journey of four fruitful decades. Dr.N. Irabanta Singh is a native of Imphal, Manipur. He took his B. Sc. (Hons.) and M. Sc., (Bot.). from Gauhati University, Guwahati. He obtained his Ph. D., in Botany with specialization in ecology of the atmosphere (Aerobiology) under the guidance of Prof. Mrs. Parukutty Baruah, a veteran botanist of Gauhati University.

He also holds an M. A. in Public Administration, PG Diplomas in Human resource management and Rural Development, bachelor's Degree in Teaching and Diploma in Higher Education. Dr. Singh has joined the Manipur University as Associate Professor of Life-Sciences in 1984 after working as Lecturer in St. Edmund's College, Shillong, Meghalaya (1972-1981) and Assistant Professor in Microbiology at the Manipur Agricultural College, Iroisemba, Imphal (1981-84).

He was elevated as Professor of Life-Sciences in 1992 and placed in the Higher Academic Grade from 2014. He has served as Head of the Department (1996-98), Chairman, Board of Studies and member of the Academic Council, Senate and Syndicate of Manipur University. Dr. Singh was first a Teacher for 43 long years which was his passion and commitment. He taught Botany, Biochemistry, Microbiology, Biotechnology, Ecology and his specialization Aerobiology.

He was also keen in imparting new knowledge by downloading study material through internet. Dr. Singh was Coordinator of the Bioinformatics Infrastructure Facility funded by DBT in the Life Sciences Department and downloaded more than 250 scientific journals for the benefit of students, research scholars, faculty members and researchers of neighbouring institutions. He regularly organized the refresher courses for the faculty of the Life-Sciences Department to update their knowledge.

Dr. Singh was entrusted various activities connected with the revision of syllabi, starting new courses, conduct of examinations, and evaluation of the answer scripts and selecting the awardees for various prizes. He played a major role in the recruitment of faculty and personnel for administrative posts like Finance Officer, Deputy Registrar etc. in Manipur University and other neighbouring institutions. Dr.N. Irabanta Singh was the Chief Organizer of the East Zone Inter University Festival, a memorable event for all the participants.

The research career of Dr.N. Irabanta Singh is completely focussed on Aerobiology relevant to plant and human diseases. Survey of aerospora of outdoor and indoor environments, preparation of pollen and flowering calendar through aerobiological studies, forecast of fungal diseases, allergens from algal, bacterial, fungal and pollen aerospsora of all the North-eastern States of our country have placed Dr. Singh as a Legendary Aerobiologist of India.

Dr. Singh has prepared a Database of the microbes of the aerospora of Manipur represented by 41 blue-green algae, 35 fungi and 125 pollen types. Dr. Singh's passion has always been to do research on aspects relevant to Human welfare. He worked on bio fertilizer technology for crop-plants using cyanobacterial bio-fertilizers, Azolla-Anabaena symbiosis and use of Sesbania and Aeschynomene as green-manure. His search for alternate food for human consumption led to spotting more than 40 species of wild-types of fleshy edible fungi and technology for cultivation of Pleurotus .

Other important technologies developed by Dr. Singh include, eradication of the allergy producing Parthenium occurring along railway tracks and road-side of highways, mass Propagation of water mimosa (Neptunia prostrate) as vegetables and popularized earthworm biotechnology. He has also developed the technology for management of bacterial disease of Oak tasar silk-worm in Manipur. Dr. Singh always had a research team and has so far guided 27 PhD students and 7 M.Phil students.

Dr. Singh has taken sincere efforts to popularize science and create awareness about the importance of aerobiology, allergy and allergens, crop diseases through fungi, Biofertilizer Technology using BGA and Azolla , artificial cultivation of mushrooms by broadcasting through AIR, DDK and ISTV, Imphal and UGC-Gyandarshan. He carried out several outreach programmes to farmers on bio-fertilizers, mushroom cultivation, green manure technology, vermi-composting and propagation of water mimosa through hands on training and workshops organized with funding from DST, DBT and ICFRE, Dehradun.

Dr. N. Irabanta Singh obtained financial grants to the tune of multiple Crore from Funding Agencies like DBT, ICMR, DST, CSIR, UGC, Min.E.F, ICFRE and AICTE. He has good record of quality research publication with Impact factor range between 0.146 - 3.945. He has participated in International Conference on Aerobiology in Stockholm, Sweden and World Weed Congress at Hangzhou, China. He was recipient of the INDO-USSR Visiting Scientist Award under the UGC-USSR Cultural Exchange Programme.

Dr. Singh was adjudicator of 60 PhD theses from all over the country and was also a recognized Supervisor of Assam University, Silchar. He served as the subject expert to UPSC, Major Research Project selection meeting of DST and UGC and selection committee of faculty of Gauhati and Tripura University. He was an invitee to the 58th Annual Meeting of the Indian Pytopathological Society, North Bengal University, Silguri and a resource person for the Brain Storming Workshop organized by Science, Technology Environment Council, held at Guwahati.

The Indian Mycological society, Kolkata honoured him by awarding 11th Sir E.J. Butler Memorial Lectureship 2012. He also delivered 3rd Prof. Sunirmal Chanda memorial lecture of the Indian Aerobiological Society 2018. He also edited two books namely
i. Endemic bioresources of India-Conservation and sustainable development with special reference to North-East India, 2007 and
ii. Microbial resources of Indo-Myanmar(Burma) Hotspot region - Conservation and sustainable development with Special reference to North-East India,2017.

He also co-authored a book Entitled "Parthenium menace in the Indo-Myanmar Hotspot region- Its impact on biodiversity and management" Published by Lambart Academic Publishing, Germany 2017.

Dr.N. Irabanta Singh in his academic sojourn was bestowed with several accolades, honours and awards befitting his sincere and useful contribution to the Society. He is an elected Fellow of:
(i) Indian Phytopathological Society, New Delhi,
(ii) Indian College of Allergy, Asthma and Applied Immunology, New Delhi,
(iii) International Society for Conservation of Natural resource, Varanasi,
(iv) Indian Aerobiological Society, Kolkata,
(v) Linnaean Society London,
(vi) Indian Mycological Society, Kolkata and (vii) Society of Biology, London.

He is elected Member of New York Academy of Sciences, U.S.A., American Phytopathological Society, U.S.A, Chartered Biologist and Chartered Scientist, U.K. He served as the President of the Indian Aerobiological Society (2007-2010) and was conferred with the prestigious Life Time Achievement Award for his contribution to Indian Aerobiology in the North Eastern India in the 16th National Conference held in Davanagere, Karnataka.

Dr. N. Irabanta Singh is an illustrious academician from Manipur who is a real role model worthy of emulation by the younger generation of students. He is a unique combination of an Administrator and Scientist who has contributed to the development of the Manipur University. He has put the Manipur University in the Map of North Eastern India by his Research Contributions.

I see a major role for Prof. N. Irabanta Singh in enhancing the quality of Higher Education in North-Eastern India. I wish he is bestowed with such opportunity.

* Prof N Anand wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is Emeritus Professor CAS in Botany, University of Madras and former Vice-Chancellor, VELS University, Chennai
This article was webcasted on April 30 , 2018.

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