Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Rural Industrialization (MGIRI) at Wardha became formally functional on 15th July with the appointment of Dr. T. Karunakaran as its first Director. MGIRI is a National Level Technological Institute to make Indian rural industries globally competitive through innovation, creativity, productivity, quality and entrepreneurship. It will serve as a Science and Technology hub by networking with about fifty Science and Technology institutions including the IITs, NITs and the Indian Institute of Science.
It might be noted that in 1934 Mahatma Gandhi created the All India Village Industries Association in this campus donated by Shri Jamnalal Bajaj and associated Sir C.V. Raman, Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose and industrialists like G.D. Birla as advisers and himself served as its President in 1942. In this sense MGIRI revives the old Gandhian mission of linking the highest of Science and Technology to the rural industries to make them globally competitive.
Dr. T. Karunakaran served during 1997-2007 as Vice Chancellor of Gandhigram Rural University and two terms as Vice Chancellor of Mahatma Gandhi Chitrakoot Rural Development University. Prior to that he spent nineteen years in four of the IITs besides advanced Institutes like TIFR Bombay and INRIA, Paris.
Dr. Karunakaran left IIT Madras in 1988 to become the Director of Rural Technology Centre of Gandhigram and the experience he gained by living in a poor tribal village Valayapatti enabled him to formulate the concept of Technology Resource Centre which has been experimented in a few states.
Dr. Karunakaran’s innovations include the TECHNORACY module to empower SHG groups of Women to become confident in handling technologically complex products and the AGRINDUS model of value addition to agricultural products. He had the unique experience of working in the eighties on the RICHES Project (initiated by Dr.P.V Indiresan, director IIT Madras) as Planning Officer in IIT Madras which later became popular as PURA through inputs from Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.
Dr. Karunakaran was a member, along with Anna Hazare in the Gram Swaraj Committee of Madhya Pradesh and similar one for Panchayat Empowerment in Maharashtra. He was in the Executive Council of the Association of Commonwealth Universities, advisor to Flensburg Universities, Germany and member of many responsible committees in India and elsewhere.
His ideas and adventures form a prominent part of a recent (2000) Penguin Book, Bapukuti, by Rajni Bakshi wherein his biography is presented along with veterans like Baba Amte, Aruna Roy, Medha Patkar and others.