A word must be said for the research students working for the degree of Ph. D. All I can say to them is that please re-read what Victor de Mello said during his Terzaghi Oration: “It is not the perspiration and midnight oil of Ph. D theses but by the sweat and blood of on-site professional decisions, taken, suffered, and corrected, that civil-geotechnical engineering practice is anointed.” “Terzaghi too alerts us that “…. Once a theory appears on the question sheet of a college examination, it turns into something to be feared and believed, and many of the engineers who were benefited by a college education applied the theories without even suspecting the narrow limits of their validity.”
There was a time when our seniors were at the vanguard of decision making process at the national level. Today , the IGS is conspicuous by its absence. At least one area about which I can speak with experience and confidence because of my sustained engagement for more than half a century is the area of disaster mitigation and management. IGS missed the opportunity to contribute its thinking to drafting of National Disaster Management Act of 2005, National Policy on Disaster Management 2009, National Guidelines on Landslides and Earthqukes 2005-2009 and National Disaster Management Plan released by the Prime Minister of India on 1 June 2016. It was not an invitee to the first and the second National Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction held in May 2013 and 2016 respectively, not to speak of the Core Committess and Task Forces. With the constitution of TC3 Committee for Geotechnical Interventions in Disaster Mitigation, hopefully this picture will change sooner or layer. IGS , with its nation-wide network of Local Chapters in strong . What is lacking is the Vision, Strategy and a Road Map with a clock and a compass.
India is moving fast on the path of development and even a blind among us could see the unprecedented opportunities to contribute to national development. Many of the major projects on the drawing board or under construction must necessary prove to the nation that they aim at sustainability, integrate development with disaster mitigation and promote environment friendly technologies. For instance, the recently built Chenani-Nashri Tunnel, also called the Patnitop Tunnel in the Udhampur district of Jammu & Kashmir, is India’s longest road tunnel with total length of 9.2 km at an average elevation of 1,062 meters (3,487 feet). Let us ask –what has been our contribution as Geotechnical Engineers and have we been able to document lessons learned and spell out the anticipated geotechnical concerns to ensure trouble-free operation?
The 23 km long and 12 lane Kanpur Over Bridge on NH 2 captures public imagination as one of the largest over-bridges in the Asia. Do we have any plan to learn from the geotechnical experience to add to the pool of knowledge?
India’s experience in building river-road bridges is exceptional. The 5.5 km long, 4 lane Mahatma Gandhi river road Setu built over the holy Ganges connecting Patna with Hajipur is perhaps one of the longest bridges in the world. Have we proposed any strategy to monitor performance of the bridge foundations in real time to ensure its safety at all times?
The 2.7 long Bridge carrying two lanes of road and single railway line over river Godavari in Rajahmundry is Asia’s second bridge. The Bandra Worli Sea Link of Mumbai is India’s longest Sea Bridge. What have the Geotechnical Engineers learned from these?
The greatest of lessons in Geotechnical Engineering lie in the projects located in the areas of fragile ecology and high hazard vulnerability. By building the Chenab river bridge between Bakkal and Kauri in the Kashmir Railway route, India will give to the world its highest rail bridge. What disaster risk reduction measures have been integrated with its design and how do we know that the predictions will match with its actual performance in the coming decades?
My span of life has been long enough for me to witness the change over from the sunnier days of the summit of excellence in soil mechanics to these days of worrisome decay, and discomfiture. May I avail of this opportunity to salute the Indian Geotechnical Engineers who have contributed individually to the national development and international pool of knowledge. Aware of the untapped potential of IGS as I am, I have no doubt in my mind that given the collective will , IGS can make a huge difference on the national scene.
Ph.D ( Engg) ( Lon) ;D.I.C ( Lon) ; C.Eng ( Lon); F.I.C.E ( Lon) ; F.N.A.E ( India) ; F.I.E , F.I.G.S
My entry in to Geotechnical Engineering in 1962 was exiting, adventurous and partly scary. Strangely the choice of the specialization was more to do with study at the Indian Institute of Science which had only two specializations then, viz., Hydraulics and Power and Soil Mechanics and Foundation Engineering. The former was a two year program while the latter was for only one and half years. Who doesn’t want a post graduate degree in less time? Geotechnical Engineering was taught by two faculty members, C N Nagaraj and B V Rangnatham, who graduated from Imperial College. We were thus academic grandchildren of Skempton, Bishop and Henkel. IISc once again was so enchanting, I decided to pursue Ph.D. rather than go to practice or teaching as some of my classmates have done.
The field was exciting because it was new, even the PG program was hardly four years old and no doctoral degree awarded. Scary because the first few theses submitted for Ph.D. were rejected and we were not sure what is expected for a thesis in the new and emerging sub-discipline. Only few text books were available which we could purchase, Theoretical Soil Mechanics by Terzaghi, Soil Mechanics by Taylor, Applications of Soil Mechanics by Terzaghi & Peck, Soil Mechanics (HMSO). Geotechnique, J. of Soil Mechanics & Foundations (ASCE), Sol-Soils (in French), CGJ and Soils and Foundations (Japanese Society journal) were the journals available at the time. Proceedings of ISSMFE were great source of literature. The Boulder conference on Shear Strength was a big compendium of work available at that time. It was exiting to go to the library on Thursday night after 9 pm to check the latest issues of the journals and discuss the most interesting article the next day.
The last fifty odd years have seen enormous growth in the subject and Geotechnical Engineering has matured in to a subject in its own right. Characterization of ground by several probes, various methodologies for testing soils in the laboratory, analyses methods using sophisticated analytical and computational methods, monitoring performance of constructed facilities, new sub-areas such as Environmental Geotechnics, Geotechnical Environmental Engineering, Geotechnical Earthquake Engineering, Waste materials such as Flyash, waste tyres, etc., have been added to our repertoire of topics.
There has been proliferation of post-graduate programs in GE and we have a very large number of courses to justify the colleges to have PG programs and the concerned faculty having to justify their specialization. The quality appears to have suffered. In the 1960s we had the latest developments at that point of time being taught. Sadly, people have been perpetuating the same outdated knowledge and transmitting the same to the students. Quality seems to have suffered at the cost of quantity.
I have been extremely fortunate to have met and interacted with several luminaries as you called or people who have contributed significantly to the growth and understanding of GE. It is said that six degrees of connectivity is sufficient to connect any two people in the world. For me it is mostly first or second degree of connection with most of the founders and luminaries, be it Terzaghi, Casagrande, Skempton, Bishop, etc. (two degrees) and most others (Peck, Morgenstern, Meyerhof, Henkel, Fukuoka, Lambe, De Beer, etc. (first degree).
After fifty five years in the profession, I wish I can be more sanguine but except for few very talented practitioners the scenario in the country is pathetic. The investigation agencies and the teachers in most colleges baring few in IITs and few NITs are abysmally more of quacks rather than professional. We have not progressed beyond liquid and plastic limits. I am yet to see most laboratories measure even the specific gravity correctly. In the recent 6th IYGEC at Trichy, several researchers have reported angle of shearing resistance (almost all people persist in using the term friction angle or angle of friction even though Taylor in 1950s had established that shearing is because of frictional resistance between the particles and energy spent for volume change).
As stated earlier, I have been blessed and could interact with several stalwarts and to list them all would require a big tome. We should salute the pioneers from India, Dr Pius Cuddou and Sri Melkote, students of Terzaghi, Dr Verghese, student of Casagrande, Dr Ramaiah and Prof. Jagdish Narain, students of Leonards, Dr Purushottam, Prof. Dinesh Mohan, Prof. Katti, etc. I met Arpad Kezdi and K R Datye while at IISc, and Ted Davis and Harry Poulos at Sydney while being a post doctoral research fellow. It is while being in Australia that I could meet several others, viz., Schofield, Peter Wroth, Bill Lambe, etc. Subsequent sojourns to various countries of the world made it possible to meet who is who in GE. I would like to mention Hormoz Poorooshasb, Norihiko Miura and William van Impe with whom I had the privilege to work. In India, we had a great camaraderie and synergy amongst our generation, A Sridharan, T S Nagaraj, K S Subba Rao of IISc, Sashi Gulhati and TRM from IITD, Nitin Som from Kolkatta, R K Bhandari, Shamsher Prakash, Gopal Ranjan, Swami Saran of Roorkee, Yudhbir and Kameswara Rao from IITK, etc.
IGS should concentrate on improving quality in teaching, research and practice of GE. It is a wish list that is easily said than done.
During my undergraduate studies, earlier to 1958, no mention was made regarding Soil Mechanics and Foundation Engineering. The design of an earth dam was very simple. A straight phreatic line was to be drawn in the dam at a slope of 4:1 starting from the MWL in the reservoir meeting the upstream slope. If the phreatic line cuts the down stream slope, a berm of 1 to 2m wide at 1m above the point of intersection was to be established and the dam slope modified by continuing from the berm parallel to the phreatic line. As far as the foundations of buildings were concerned, their depth and size were decided based on PWD provisions or the minimum depth was provided as per Rankine’s Theory.
I happen to visit A.P. Engineering Research Labs. (APERL) at Red Hills, Hyderabad after final year exams. In the Soil Lab, I was fascinated to see some one conducting Atterberg limits, another performing triaxial test with the gear box of loading machine at the top and a foot pump to maintain the cell pressure. A third person was carrying out slip circle method of analysis with slices for an earth dam and drawing ΣN and ΣT force diagrams to estimate factor of safety for the circle considered. All this was something new and did impress me. I therefore decided to take my practical training of 6 months in this Lab itself. Luckily later on, I was posted in this Lab on a regular job as Research Assistant (J.E.) during my training period itself. I learned elements of Soil Mechanics by reading books and listening to what was being explained by Sh. Kosnam to Shri B. Anjaiah, who was my classmate and also posted with me in this Lab. Anjaiah retired as the Director of APERL.
A solid looking and ever-bubbling Sridharan joined the Soil Mechanics Lab after completing his M.E. at IISc. His presence prompted me to go for PG Programme. I could not apply soon since the scholarship was just Rs. 75/- per month per student after sharing it equally among the students. It was totally inadequate to maintain my family. Sridharan went back to IISc to brighten his career through research and teaching. When the scholarship was increased to Rs. 250/- per moth, he informed me and I applied for the admission. I had three years experience in the lab and field tests. Most important was that the scholarship amount was more than my salary then.
After getting admission, I had tough time in pursuing my case to get relieved by the Chief Engineer (General), PWD.A Government Order (G.O) was issued for granting extraordinary leave without pay ; to maintain my service I had to execute a bond to serve the Govt. on my return from M.E. studies. On 14th Aug. 1961, I was relieved by the Director, APERL. On my way back home I went to see my brother-in-law. There I was informed that my mother just expired. A telegram was sent to Prof. Govinda Rao to permit me to join the programme a few more days late. After three days I went to IISc and approached the Professor, who was then in the Hydraulic Lab. The moment I mentioned my name, he immediately recollected my case, consoled me and advised me not to worry for the delay, to go back home to complete all the formalities and come back to join the PG programme. It was a great relief. I admired this Professor, who had a very charming personality with lovely big eyes and possessed fatherly helping attitude. I continue to remember him as a loving and caring person. I lost almost a month of my study; slowly and steadily caught up to fall in line with the rest of the class.
Our M.E. (Soils) batch was of 13 students, notorious and easy going, the leader being Vishnu Ji Pandey. He was a faculty member at BIT, Mesra. Once we all decided to cut Sridharan’s class – Foundation Engineering. Only RJ Srinivasan did not cooperate and sat in the class. We all went out of the campus and roamed near a power transmission tower which could be easily seen from the Soil Lab’s front door. We were enjoying peanuts and throwing a glance now and then towards the Lab. Just before the period was to over, we all reached the Lab and found Sridharan standing at the entrance with a fuming face. He let me slip in and then started scolding the rest with the threat to stop the scholarship. After this we never dared to mass cut any class. Often Chegu Vijay Kumar and Shahane used to copy Mr. CN Nagaraj, Sridharan and T Nagaraj. In fact in their presence during a picnic at Nandi Hills, they did enact their ways of walking, talking and gestures in the class. It was all taken sportingly. When ever a holiday comes during the exam schedule some of us used to go to Majestic Circle to watch a movie. I used to watch movies on holiday even during my Intermediate and B.E. exams. Every day as a ritual, the soil group used to go out of the campus for 1 to 3 hrs and have fun.
Since I knew Sridharan well, we used to meet near the hostel or on way to the hotel. Once he did mention to me that one who understands shear strength generation in soils is a master of the subject. I took this as a very good piece of advice from him. Sridharan often used to mention about Prof. BVR(BV Ranganatham) who was at Liverpool, UK for his Ph.D. He talked very high of Prof. BVR, looked as though Prof. BVR was indeed an authority in soils. I did accept Sridharan’s impressions about Prof. BVR in toto.
After completing the course work at IISc, I rejoined APERL and the service there was counted towards the practical training period requirement of M.E. Degree. Soon APER Labs were shifted to Himayath Sagar and accommodation was also provided to us there. Prof. Govinda Rao visited these Labs, during the period when he was the President of Institution of Engineers (I.E). When he saw me in the Soil Lab, he remarked in the presence of the Director, some chief engineers and other senior engineers accompanying him. “What is wrong with you? You seem to be satisfied with your M.E., come to the Institute for Ph.D., you will get the scholarship”. In the presence of all, it was a bit embarrassing. I had to nod my head and bow to acknowledge his advice – infact, I pretended. I did not expect him to remember me. I did realize later on that he always cared and encouraged his students.
I was not keen to go to IISc knowing fully well that Sridharan and Nagaraj were progressing essentially on their own and also the fate of the first Ph.D. thesis submitted. It was just a matter of luck that I happen to see an advertisement of Commonwealth scholarships with in a few months after the Professor’s offer. I applied and was finally selected for UK for doing Ph.D. under special regulations at the University of Birmingham, i.e., I must submit my work after one year, and it should stand by itself as an M.Sc. thesis by research. If cleared, I will be allowed to continue for Ph.D. Programme. I did inform Prof. Govinda Rao about my selection and he wrote back a very encouraging letter. Some of those who were selected for scholarship indicated that they have already developed theories and going to UK to conduct some experiments and submit their Ph.D. theses. I did feel quite uneasy and unsecured on hearing about their research and teaching experiences /capabilities.
Dr. TK Chaplin, who had his education at Cambridge, was my guide from 24th October 1964. During meetings he invariably used to remind me that he was mainly available for discussions and I must solve my problem myself and show progress. This approach ultimately proved to be beneficial to me to think in my own way, develop the work and show definite progress. I had no other choice. At the end of the first year, I submitted my work. Prof. JTKL Nash of King’s College, London, who was also Secretary General of ISSMFE, was my external examiner. My work was cleared and permitted to continue for Ph.D. on the similar lines. After 6 months or so Dr. Chaplin gave me a jolt that there was no point in my continuing, if I do not produce a theory to justify my experimental results. This put me off totally – in fact I was bombed. The only way left was to continue to work harder to find some acceptable solutions to the response of the particulate mass in triaxial compression. I dug into all the literature once again on the behavior of spherical particulate mass including those of Prof. Rowe’s stress – dilatency approach, his and Prof. Horne papers in Royal Society and that of Prof. Wittke. I was lucky to consider unit cells of different modes of packing of spherical particles located at the periphery of an axi-symmetrically loaded test specimen undergoing radial deformation. I could evolve a few expressions to justify the test results, except for the densest packing exhibiting brittle failure (block mechanism) as considered by Prof. Rowe. The concept of order- disorder developments was used to explain the development of stress-strain response curve and also Ko-condition under low stresses (i.e., without crushing at the contacts of particles). Entire concept of crushing and its effects on the engineering properties of granular materials including the flow of contact material for soft materials (like leadshot) was worked out. When all this work was presented to Dr. Chaplin, he defused the bomb and coolly said “You better write your Ph.D. thesis”. This was indeed a very consoling and also an unexpected surprise. This relieved me of the stress and strain I have been going through for over two months or so. Soon I completed the thesis work but was not allowed to submit as per the regulations of the University; Ph.D. thesis was to be submitted after one year from the date of permission to proceed for Ph.D. (short by 1 to 1½ month). This gave me time to visit some of the universities in UK including Building Research Establishment. The Ph.D. viva was conducted by Prof. Nash in November 1996 and I was cleared. Instead of flying back home immediately to meet my wife and son (he was just 14 days old when I left for UK), I decided to attend the convocation in early December 1966 and receive the Degree in person. The approval of Dr. Chaplin and the British Council came out without any hassle with scholarship for the extended period. Assuming that I may not get a chance in future to visit UK or any other country, instead of flying, I decided to travel by sea from London to Bombay. It had been a great experience of 18-days sea travel touching a few ports and going on local tours on this voyage.
During my 2nd year at Birmingham, Prof. Govinda Rao visited London to attend a meeting of standards on hydraulic structures. I went to see him to pay my regards. Earlier, on one or two occasions I did inform him about my progress on Ph.D. work. It was a great day to have sat with him to have snacks and tea in a restaurant near Trafalgar Square. It looked as thought I was destined to experience this rare association. He was an extremely friendly person and talked about various aspects of life. I realized that he was terribly humane in all his dealings. In later life, I tried to emulate a few of his many great qualities, as I perceived them. It was unfortunate that I did not have much contact with him except that he taught us a course on permeable foundations of hydraulic structures. During this period I used to wear slightly tinted reading glasses. Once he remarked in the class; “I do not know why you put on coloured glasses”; paused and then said, “I will not forget you!” Possibly for this he remembered me when he visited APERL. All his Ph.D. students, Sridharan, Nagaraj and Prof. BVR must have been lucky to have been associated with him.
After my return to India, I reported back at APERL but soon I was surrendered to Chief Engineer (General) for a suitable posting. It looked as though I was not wanted in APERL or may be over qualified for the Labs. Because of my M.E. and Ph.D., I lost salary increments during these periods and upon return from UK, my salary was fixed at the minimum of Assistant Engineer. After pursuing my case at CE(General) Office, I was posted in Irrum Manzil office to look after the PWD stall at the exhibition grounds, Hyderabad and get printing of articles and reports written by CE(G) and others. I was put under Dr. J. Purushotam during this period. I was not prepared to rot at this place and started looking for an escape route. Soon an advertisement from IITD appeared and I applied. I was called for interview and offered a lecturer post in the scale of Asst. Prof., since I did not have any teaching experience. I would be getting from this offer double the pay I was receiving at Hyderabad. So I readily accepted the offer.
Getting relived from the service from PWD was a major problem again. I had executed two bonds with A.P. Govt., one for M.E. and the other for going to UK. I had to serve PWD for 5 years or so after return from UK or pay Rs. 8000/- or so. In fact I also had to execute another bond with the Govt. of India to return back to India to serve after Ph.D. When my full case from M.E. to post Ph.D. was presented to the Secretary, PWD, (of course through proper cannel) he took a very sympathetic view; he himself was an engineer – I was told. A letter was issued to CE(G) to relieve me pending decision of the Govt. I personally took the letter and submitted to Dy. CE, my immediate administrative boss. I was relieved and my journey at IITD started from 23rd June 1967. I did receive a few letters from A.P. Govt. to make payment but never responded and the case seemed to have been closed.
Before appearing for the interview at IITD, I did visit the Soil Labs and felt happy to see the facilities established under UK Collaboration by Prof. Henkel, whom I met, when he lectured at IE, Hyderabad Center. He was to accompany Dr. KL Rao to Srisailam project. Soon I settled down to work on crushing phenomenon under high stresses, modeling of rock fills, design of true triaxial apparatus to simulate all three-principle stresses covering plane strain and extension tests.
While I was at IISc, Sridharan brain washed me about Prof. BVR so much so that at IITD, I often used to talk very high of him to Shashi. Shashi and myself went to attend Talwara Conference of the Society at Beas dam in November 1968. We both were sitting in the bus then Shashi asked me that why I did not wish Prof. BVR, who was sitting just in the next front row. I asked Shashi who was Prof. BVR; he stared at me and smilingly pointed to the back of Prof. BVR. I then immediately got up and introduced myself. Though I did not meet him personally earlier. I did seek Prof. BVR’s advice through a letter on what was to carry and what not to carry to UK with me. During the Talwara conference, I also met for the first time Profs. D. Mohan, Shamshere Prakash, Jagdish Narain and Ananda Krishnan, Dr. Madhav, Dr. Raju and a host of other geotechnical engineers.
The true triaxial apparatus was patented and Nation’s Inventions Award was received – First one to receive in the geotechnical community. Also during the silver jubilee celebrations of IGS at Kurukshetra in December 1973, the paper published in the IGS journal with the experimental data obtained from this equipment got me Silver Jubilee Award for the best paper published during 1947-1973. During the session on “Perspective in Geotechnical Engg.” at Kurukshetra, I was sharing the dais with Dr. KL Rao and Sh. Rai Bahadur Kanwar Sain, former Chairman CW&PC and also a senior of Dr. Rao. Dr. Rao quietly told me in Telugu that Sh. Sain was a big man in the profession. In fact in the inaugurate session Dr. Rao presented me the Silver Jubilee Award.
When I was still a lecturer (late 1968), I submitted a document for National Inventions Award. Knowing this, professors from two leading institutes in early 1969 asked me to give copies of this document so that my case could be considered for an Asst. Prof. Post. I decided to continue to work at IITD irrespective of already delayed promotion, which was promised after a semester teaching. By running away from a problem, it is not solved, it still remains. I continue to work harder and received recognition at the National Level, clouds cleared and bright sunshine was visible. I was Asst. Prof in November 1969 through a selection committee though this post in geo-technical engineering was not advertised.
Since all the geotechnical faculty was working mainly in the Soil Mech., I decided to diversify and started working in the area of Rock Mechanics (RM). From 1971 onward, I started design and fabrication of some equipment, some procured and assembled for testing rocks; started an elective course in RM for UG students. Made a programme to visit UK universities for 13 weeks, where Rock Mech. was being taught at PG level and active research was in progress; also to visit some Soil groups at Cambridge, Imperial College, Birmingham and Building Research Establishment. This visit materialized in early 1973. My visits particularly to New Castle-upon-Tyne (Prof. Pott was a consultant to Kolar Gold Fields) for 3 weeks and Royal School of Mines at Imperial College (Prof. E. Hoek was heading the group) for another 3 weeks were very rewarding in understanding what was being taught and what basic equipment was needed and also collected as much literature as possible. It was indeed an unforgettable experience to have met Prof. Hoek, Prof. Goodman, who was on sabbatical leave and Mr. Bray; also a visit to a deep excavation (about 300m deep) in South Cornwall.
After coming back to IITD, designed and fabricated some more equipment for testing rock specimens including a simple triaxial cell for soft rocks upto 150kg/cm2. Already one high pressure maintaining set up was available in the Lab and used mainly for testing soils to study crushing phenomenon; one more was procured for rocks from UK under collaboration. Prof. Dogra was very understanding and extended all help for developing Rock Mech. He even agreed to depute SC Goel, an Associate Lecturer in CE Deptt. to Royal School of Mines for PG Programme to accelerate development of Rock Mech. at IITD. Goel was a fresh B.Tech. from IITD to be appointed as an Associate Lecturer. Unfortunately after completing his PG programme, he joined a Copper Mining Co. in Zambia and still working there. This resulted some set back in starting PG programme. The geotechnical group worked collectively in developing a four-course minor specialization in RM and offered it, first time in 1976-77 session. A full-fledged ME. Programme was also simultaneously developed and students (Civil and Mining) were admitted from 1977-78 session. It was not easy to get this programme through Board of PG Students in IITD. Two Professors from Applied Mech. were dead against for the programme being planned in CE Deptt. They preferred it to be in the Applied Mech. Dept. A committee was constituted with them, me and an engineering geologist from the CE Dept. When the opposition persisted, the geologist siding the other two professors, I decided to quit the committee and submitted my own report to BPGS. My action was not anticipated by the other members; but Prof. Saranjit Singh, Head CE Deptt fully supported me on this. Finally, it was cleared by BPGS in favour of the CE Dept.
During the years when rock mechanics activities were being worked out, I got involved in INSSMFE activities and got elected to Society’s Executive Committee in late 1971. The Society name was changed to IGS at IIT Bombay Conference in 1970. Prof. D. Mohan was the President of the Society and during the AGM, I proposed for the change to cover activities related not only to soils but also rocks and engineering geology. After discussion the AGM decided to re-name the Society as Indian Geotechnical Society and the journal of IGS started with a new volume number.
All the activities of the National Society were then looked after by the Secretary, CBIP and the Secretariat was located at the Curzon Road barracks, New Delhi. A crisis developed in the later part of 1974 and all the IGS material was packed and put in the corridors of Curzon Road barracks to be removed from the CBIP premises. I was contacted and told about this, being a member of the Executive Committee. Prof. Prakash, who was then the President, and Prof. Mohan were informed and requested to rush to Delhi. With the good offices of Professor Jai Krishna, IGS was temporarily shifted to Institution of Engineers (IE, Delhi Centre) and I was entrusted with the responsibility of resetting the IGS and look after all aspects as the first Hon. Secretary. I tried all that I could to restore full functioning of the Society, without affecting my primary duty at IITD. Almost every day in the late afternoon I used to go to IE. The AGM was to be held at REC Warangal along with a National Seminar. After searching all the 40-gunny bags, I could place my hand on a recent file. In November 1974, I issued AGM notification along with agenda. The personal at IE Delhi Centre were helping in running the Society on payment basis. The finances of the Society were very tight (less than Rs. 30,000/-). The October 1974 journal had to be edited and got printed with all the running around to the press, etc. Single handed I was able to bring the issue though late.
The 5th ARC was to be organized at IISc in December 1975 with Prof. BVR as the Organizing Secretary with myself coordinating all the other activities at Delhi. The abstracts received were screened jointly by Prof. Prakash, Prof Ramaiah, Prof. BVR and myself in the guest room at REC Warangal soon after the Exe.Committee meeting on the eve of the inaugural day of the Seminar. Prof. BVR and myself were sharing a room. I could not sleep late night after completing the selection of the abstracts, since Prof. BVR was sleeping comfortably producing unbearable loud snoring sound. I decided never to share a room with him in future. During discussions in that night, both Profs. Ramaiah and BVR showed keen interest to contest for the Presidentship of IGS. Prof. Prakash as president and myself as Hon. Secretary discussed and decided to request both of them to go for a morning walk and decide who should contest for the Presdentship. Surprisingly they came back agreeing that Prof. Ramaiah will contest the election. Prof. Ramaiah was accommodated on the dais and an announcement was made in the inauguration of the seminar. He was elected for the session 1975-1977. I continued as Hon. Secretary of IGS.I was appointed as a professor in mid-1975. Mine was the quickest promotion in the Dept. from lecturer to Professor in just 8 years.
For the 5ARC, participation of Israeli delegation was a crucial issue. Prof. Leonards would cancel his participation if the Israeli delegation was not allowed. Prof. Nash, Secretary General of ISSMFE informed us that 5ARC will be derecognized if the Israelis are not permitted. So chasing of Israeli case at the Home Ministry and External Affairs Ministry was taken up actively and also getting funds for 5ARC from the DST, the Nodal Ministerial Dept. for IGS. Unexpectedly the activity turned out to be successful. The Dy. Secretary of Home Affairs was very helpful and assured me that the Israeli delegation will be issued visa at the Bombay airport and will be allowed to participate in the 5ARC. He gave his home phone number to contact in case any problem arises. Prof. Katti was requested to see that they do not face any problem and to receive them personally. We were informed by Prof. Katti that they were through. This information reached when the Executive Committee meeting was over on the eve of the 5ARC. That was a great relief for every one of us for the smooth functioning of 5ARC. During 5ARC the Asian Regional Societies decided to support India for the Vice-President of the Region. Prof. Mohan’s name was finally proposed and later on at the ICSMFE, he was elected to represent the Asian Region.
All the activities of 5ARC went on well. But for the volume 2, which got delayed beyond the limits of tolerance. The settlement of finances of 5ARC was not done.What happened to the funds, no one knows. Prof. BVR’s clarity and command on the subject was unquestioned. As an Associate Professor he used to be in the selection committees for Directors of National Labs. What really brought his very steep and fast withdrawal from the activities at every level was beyond comprehension. This was really a loss to the geo-technical activities in the country. Once Prof. Mohan and I met Prof. Satish Dhawan at the IISc and requested him to put a word to Prof. BVR. Even this did not bring out any result in settling the accounts of 5ARC.
Soon after 5ARC, I paid visits to Dr. A N Khosla, our First President and to Dr. KL Rao, who was the past President, with the registration material and souvenir. Dr. Khosla held positions of Vice-Chancellor of University of Roorkee, Chairman CW & PC and Governor of Orissa. We read about his hydraulic solutions to permeable foundations of water retaining structures (taught to us by Prof. Govinda Rao). It was a memorable evening, I had with Dr. Khosla. In spite of his advanced age, he came, sat sufficiently long, offered tea, enquired about the Society and went through the souvenir. To know more about me, he made a note on my article on the “Geo-technical Education and Research” in the souvenir. When I requested for his permission to allow me to leave, he insisted and came out to see me off at the gate located at the far end of the house. I nearly melted by his courtesy and gestures. I did feel that he was a highly cultured and extremely humble person in spite of his achievements. After that I went to see Dr. K L Rao. I met him in his study room; he looked into the registration material and enquired about the Society and 5ARC.
Prof. BVR was out of picture to contest for the post of President of IGS. Looking at the candidates names being floated, I was strongly advised by my esteemed and trusted colleagues at IITD to contest for Presidentship of the Society for the session 1977-79. With the rigorous campaign and support of well-wishers, I was elected. The secretariate of IGS was still functioning from the premises of IE (Delhi Centre).
I started giving more attention to establish teaching and research actively in rock mechanics. A collaboration scheme with Imperial College was worked out, Prof. ET Brown visited us for a week and the collaboration was finalized. A Varadarajan, GV Rao, CGP Narayan, KK Gupta and JM Kate visited Royal School of Mines for three months each. Their exposure did help in expanding and enriching the rock mechanics PG programme. KG Shama joined the CE Dept. in the structures group but was finally attracted to work with geo-technical group in the area of Rock Mech. Varadarajan and KG Sharma both working in finite element, boundary element and coupling of these methods of analyses gave good boost to the research and consultancy works in rock mechanics. Steadily more testing facilities were created like high capacity testing frame to take up to 500t vertical load and 100t horizontal load to test large rock specimens up to 0.5 x 0.5 x 0.5m3 in compression, direct shear or triaxial conditions. A triaxial cell and pressure maintaining system up to 700kg km2 was procured under UK collaboration. Later on, servo controlled stress or strain and post peak controlled system, large direct shear and true triaxial systems have been added. Presently all the rock testing equipment including drilling machines for rocks are being manufactured by HEICO. KS Rao basically an engineering geologist, who did Ph.D. with us in rocks, particularly strengthened the geological aspect of rocks and contributed to the overall development of rock mechanics along with Varadarajan and KG Sharma.
IIT Delhi geotechnical group decided to host an IGS Conference – “Geocon – India” in Dec 1978 with Shashi as the Organizing Secretary. New and innovative standards were established. The conference was a great event as far as IGS was concerned. For the first time a Honorable Prime Minister of India inaugurated an IGS Conference. The Honorable Prime Minister Shri Murarji Desai inaugurated “Geocon–India” at IIT Delhi. When we were having the Executive Committee meeting at the IE (Delhi Centre), a telephone call was received from PM’s office. His PA, Shri Gupta, conveyed that PM was agreeing to inaugurate the Conference at 8.00 am rather than at 9.00 am (during December 1978 winter), since he had to attend to the Parliament. As a fool, not immediately and gladly accepting the suggestion, I request the PM’s PA to give me a few minutes to get back to him so that I could inform the Executive Committee which was in progress. The members stared at me and laughed , I rushed back to phone and expressed how grateful the Society will be to the PM agreeing to inaugurate the conference. After the inauguration, when I mentioned that an exhibition of instruments and equipment fabricated in the country is also organized, he was magnanimous to visit the exhibition and met persons at the counters, in spite of his getting delayed. His presence was a memorable event in the history of IGS. In 1986, another conference was organized by the IITD group. It was a “Conference with a difference” to get answers to specific questions in geotechnical engineering.
I delivered the IGS Annual Lecture on “Stability of Rock Mass” at the IGS conference held at the University of Roorkee in December 1985. It covered all the research work carried out in rock mechanics till then at IITD. I was indeed grateful to all those present for giving me a standing ovation.
The Secretariate of the National Committee (Society) of International Society for Rock Mechanics (ISRM) was established and nurtured by Shri CVJ Varma, Secretary General, CBIP. A constitution was drafted and I was elected as the President and served for about 6 years. My interaction with many experts in rock mechanics out side the country increased. When the UNDP project in rock mechanics materialized with CSMRS, most of the rock mechanics experts also visited IIT Delhi. They included Profs. Hoek, Franklin, Kovari, Bieniawski, Attewell, Farmer, Dr. Barton and others. During my tenure as President of ISRM (India), I was elected as Vice President of ISRM for Asia. This enabled me to have sufficient opportunity to visit other countries to attend Board and Council Meetings, also Conferences / Symposia and met eminent men in rock mechanics like Profs. Wittke, Fairhurst, Brown, Hudson, Sakurai, Barla, Stephenson, Kaiser, Natao, ven der Marwe and many others. I have served as Vice-President of Clay Mineral Society of India, International Tunneling Association (I) and Indian Society of Engineering Geology, in a similar capacity.
Dr. Krishnaswamy, Director General GSI, wanted a short course to be conducted in rock mechanics for the senior officers of GSI; it was first conducted at IITD. Later on, I lectured to them at Lucknow, Hyderabad and Bangalore a few times. Similar short courses have been conducted under QIP for teachers and also to officers of state research labs and practicing engineers through CBIP in various states over the years. Even at Kathmandu, Nepal a workshop/short course was also conducted. Adequate literature was passed on to the participants for use in teaching or for use in practice. Through workshop, a document was produced for offering a course in rock mechanics to UG students; it indicated the contents and time allotment for each topic as a guideline for implementation. During this period I was a Research Coordinator for the rock mechanics projects funded by CBIP. I have also served on the Technical Committees of ISSMFE and two Commissions of ISRM and attended the Council Meetings of these Societies.
The PG programme in Rock Mechanics is being successfully conducted ; 41st batch of students will be admitted in July 2017. More than 30 Ph.Ds have been awarded in the area of rock mechanics to civil & mining engineers and engg. geologists. A large number of papers have been published in International and National journals and conferences. The group of IITD served on the Editorial Boards of 4 International journals. I was also one of the 12 International Advisory Board members for the “Comprehensive Rock Engineering”, 5 Volumes edited by Prof. Hudson (current President of ISRM) and published by Pergamon Press, UK.
Realizing the potential and commitment of the IITD group, the Executive of IGS decided to entrust organizing of 13th ICSMFE with Shashi as the Organizing Secretary. No effort was left unexplored to make a successful bid for this conference in the Council Meeting held at Dublin, Ireland. All the literature to be distributed in the Council was carried by me to Dublin and Shashi and Smt. Rashmi Ji joined from their Europe tour. Our presentations were well organized, delivered and received. Against Australia, India was voted for organizing the 13th ICSMFE at New Delhi in January 1994. Some members of Indian Community at Dublin helped in full measure in organizing an evening party to all the Council members of ISSMFE and guests. Soon every effort was made to involve almost all the active geotechnical engineers in the 13th Conference. The group at IITD suspended their consultancy activities for over an year. The 13th ICSMFE was a great event for IGS and boosted the finances, laying a strong foundation on which the Society stands firm and high now. Many countries confessed that they could not have organized so meticulously planned activities and as grandeur as the 13th ICSMFE. The Conference was indeed a “Red Magic Carpet Conference”. The credit for the unimaginable success and enriching IGS by involving most geotechnical engineers was due to Shashi. The time he spent constantly planning, meticulously detailing without losing sight of the overall objective of the ICSMFE; maneuverings and flawless execution are something that most of us did not realize. As members of IGS we all owe him a lot. Smt. Rashmi ji’s contribution has never been in a lesser magnitude in organizing some of the non-technical activities of the Conference. It was amazing, whoever was entrusted with a task, accomplished superbly and contributed to the success of the Conference.
All the Special Lecturers during the Conference including my Heritage Lecture on “Monumental Structures in India” were well received by the international geo-community. I deliberately choose this topic to bring out how soil mechanics and foundation engineering was practiced in the ancient, medieval and post independence periods in India, including the developments in the construction of earth dams. No mention of these developments in India is not mentioned whenever such topics are covered at the international level. This prompted me to bring these developments in black and white.
In Soil Mechanics I came in contact with Presidents of ISSMFE such as Profs. Fokuoka, Broms, de Mello, Morganstern and others namely Profs. Sutherland, Bishop, Nash, Burland, Wroth, Scott, Leonards, Habib, Pender, Ishihara, Chandler, Oveson, Brauns and Drs. Parry, James, Arthur, Green, Vaughan and others.
After my retirement in mid 1996, I continued in emeritus capacity. I was chosen to be the first Emeritus Professor for Prof. Dogra Chair instituted at IITD. On completion of 65 yrs i.e. mid 2001, I decided not to continue in any emeritus capacity so as to get more time for compiling all the research output in rock mechanics in the form of a book and also for the industry involved in rock engineering activities.
What stands out most prominently is that during my voyage I had the opportunity to meet some very remarkable people.
During my third year of undergraduate study at MIT in Cambridge Massachusetts, in 1959-60, the instructor in my course on Soil Mechanics was a very enthusiastic Professor. Apart from being knowledgeable, as Professors usually are, his love for his subject, for his research, for his consultation was amply apparent. He had an amazing sense of humour, a zest for life and a concern for fellow beings. For Dr. T. W. Lambe, soil was not the dirty material we step over all the time, it was an assemblage of particles that lived a regulated life with laws that all the particles respected. I was bowled over and for three years thereafter chose to be associated with Dr. Lambe. He supervised both my Bachelor’s and my Master’s theses. He was at that time interested to explore the behaviour of soil particles in a state of partial saturation and he introduced me to the art of engaging in cutting-edge research. During these three years, I also got to know Dr. C.C. Ladd who was then just a young lad and what a lad - knowledgeable, friendly and astute.
From Dr. Ladd, I learnt great lessons not only about “soil chemistry and soil structure” but also about ‘life’. For my UG study at MIT, I had a full tuition scholarship for all the four years. When I applied for a scholarship for my Masters programme, it was turned down. Dr. Ladd who was in-charge of reviewing the applications for financial aid said that MIT had already spent a lot on my UG education – I should pay for my Masters education and offered me, instead of a scholarship, Research or Teaching Assistantships. With an Assistantship, it would have taken me two years to complete my Masters instead of one year. My parents chose to bear the extra financial burden but wanted me to finish in one year. So grumbling away to Dr. Ladd, I enrolled without financial assistance. During the winter break, Dr. Ladd asked me if I wanted a job for the holidays with a consulting firm doing routine laboratory tests. To lessen the burden on my parents to whatever extent I could, I immediately said yes. And, while everyone was having fun over Christmas holidays, I was determining Atterberg’s Limits and grain size distributions of sample after sample. After the vacation, Dr. Ladd called me and told me to keep a record of the time I spend working on my Master’s thesis and that from their sponsored research funds, I would be paid for this time at a handsome hourly rate. Surprised, in American lingo, I asked, “how come?” i.e. “why?” Dr. Ladd explained that he had offered me the job during the winter break to determine whether I really needed financial assistance, whether I was willing to work for it or just wanted it on a silver platter. Since I worked all through the vacation, it became clear to him that I needed it and was willing to work for it. So on his own initiative, he worked out this new arrangement to help me financially. Had I refused the job during the winter break, I would not have been paid for the time I spent on my thesis during the second semester and lost a lot of money. Clearly, God helps those who help themselves.
My initiation into professional work was during summer jobs in the US – on a highway project in Washington DC, on the construction of an earth dam in New Hampshire, on site investigation and piling work in Colorado. And after returning to India in 1962 at the age of 21, it continued at the Ramganga Dam Project and then on soil investigation and construction of foundations for the multi-storied building at the IIT Delhi.
When I joined the IIT at Delhi, the faculty in Soils was Dr. C. R. Gangopadhyay, Prof. B.K. Kaul and Prof. D.J. Henkel. Dr. Gangopadhyay and Prof. Kaul were like elder brothers and Prof. Henkel’s expectations were not that one should do one’s best but that one should do the best. A great set to start my academic career with! We set up the Geotechnical Engineering Laboratories at IIT Delhi and began the M. Tech. programme in Soils Mechanics and Foundation Engineering. I began my Ph.D work under Prof. Henkel’s guidance. But just as I got started, he left and returned to the UK.
There was rapid turn over of the Soils staff at IIT Delhi, Mr. Yudhbir, Mr.Opjit Ghuman, Mr. C.K. Jain joined and so did Dr. V.V.S. Rao and Dr. N. Som. Prof. Kaul, Dr. Gangopadhyay and Dr. Som left for greener pastures, Mr. Yudhbir, Mr. Opjit Ghuman, Mr. C.K. Jain for further studies and Prof. V.V.S. Rao who had thought that working in Soil Dynamics would be adequate to cater to his dynamic personality discovered that it was not. He was an entrepreneur at heart and soon left IIT and in due course established Nagadi Consultants and developed it to gain a national presence. The time I shared at IIT Delhi with all seven was enough to build a life-time of friendship and mutual respect with each of them and we value the relationship.
I continued to work on my Ph.D thesis with some nominal long distance guiding from Dr. Jagdish Narain at Roorkee University, but in actual fact, I was my own guide as I delved further into the intricacies of soil in a state of partial saturation. The research progressed slowly since I was also actively engaged with a whole host of activities within and outside the IIT Delhi. When it finally finished, I came into contact with Prof. B.V. Ranganatham – a virtual giant on the Indian Soil Mechanics scene. He was my external examiner. He approved of my work and was instrumental in having the examination process conclude satisfactorily so that I was awarded my doctorate by IIT Delhi in 1973.
The soils group at the IIT Delhi stabilized soon with young Dr. T. Ramamurthy and even younger I becoming the ‘seniors’. In due course we became a very strong group with a team spirit that must have been the envy of many both within and outside the IIT Delhi. This group included Dr. A. Varadarajan, Dr. G.V. Rao, Dr. R. Kaniraj, Dr. K. G. Sharma, Dr. K.K. Gupta, Dr. J.M.Kate, Dr. Manoj Datta and Dr. K.S. Rao. What was fantastic about the group was that we all encouraged each other to excel. Dr. Ramamurthy and I could have focused on competing with each other and could have dissipated our energy and, through self-centered machinations, the energy of the whole group. But we did not. We cooperated with each other. We encouraged each other. We derived happiness from each other’s success. We respected each other’s strengths and organized always so that we complimented each other in all the endeavours we undertook. Dr. Ramamurthy’s commitment to research and to the rest of his multiple activities was always par excellence. I carried on working on partially saturated soils for a while and then with Dr. G.V. Rao’s collaboration explored the realm of Off-shore Geotechnics. Dr. Ramamurthy began to develop the area of Rock Mechanics and eventually succeeded in starting another M. Tech programme. Dr. Varadarajan and Dr. Sharma were our mathematical wizards. For creative assistance, we had Dr. Kaniraj. Dr. Gupta had multiple interests and was there for everyone. Dr. Kate was the expert in field testing. Dr. K.S. Rao worked with Dr. Ramamurthy and Dr. Datta with me. Each of us grew. The group grew. We all shared in each other’s happiness and successes. I do not recall a single instance where we had any kind of acrimony; never had we to resort to harsh words. It was literally a “one for all and all for one” team.
Contributing to and supporting the Indian Geotechnical Society was one of the group’s primary professional interests. When the IGS suddenly found itself without a Secretary and the secretariat without a home, Dr. Ramamurthy rose to the occasion and took over the Secretary’s responsibility. The Indian Geotechnical Society had others as well who have nurtured it for decades and continue to do so. Foremost among them was Mr. H.C. Verma of AIMIL. I would have thought running such a successful instrument manufacturing company would leave its head with little time to spare and it amazed me over and over again because Mr. Verma gave the IGS of his time so generously. Generously again, he would support it financially. IGS owes an enormous debt to Mr. Verma for his unqualified patronage. Sardar Resham Singh left AIMIL and started HEICO and thereafter IGS had two patrons to count upon. Both AIMIL and HEICO now under the stewardships of Mr. Arvind Verma and Sardar Jattinder Singh continue to support IGS with the same generosity as their respective fathers.
Indian Geotechnical Conferences were and are held annually and they were occasions to catch up on new developments as well as to catch up with old professional colleagues and meet new ones. It is at these conferences that I met the venerable Dr. Dinesh Mohan, the ebullient Dr. R.K. Katti, the ever purposive Dr. Shamsher Prakash, the ever so gentle Dr. M. R. Madhav, the urbane Dr. V. S. Raju, the crisp Dr. R.K. Bhandari, Dr. N.V. Nayak with his broad vision, Dr. M.D. Desai with his clear focus and many others. I have the fondest memories of the IGCs and I religiously attended them. They were serious affairs, relatively simply organized. They were, however, not memorable events. We at the IIT Delhi and the IGS Delhi Local Chapter decided to organize an annual conference that would also be a memorable event and we did: GEOCON-India in 1978. Not only was its technical content of the highest order but so was everything else – the exhibition, the field trips, the cultural events, the hospitality. Mr. Morarji Desai, the then Prime Minister of India came to inaugurate GEOCON-India. The Geotechnical Engineering community of Delhi had come together, willingly giving of their time, to make the Conference a pace-setting one. I as the Organizing Secretary was also looking forward to having my father witness this event and derive pleasure from how much the IGS had developed since he founded it in 1948. But this was not to be. My father, Mr. N.D. Gulhati, was Secretary of the Central Board of Irrigation in 1948. He attended the 2nd International Conference on Soil Mechanics and Foundation Engineering in Rotterdam and returned home to establish the Indian National Society of Soil Mechanics and Foundation Engineering and was its founder-Secretary. As I was sitting on the dias at the inauguration with the Prime Minister of India as our chief guest my eyes kept looking for my father among the audience but he was not there and I was most confused. No one from my family, except my wife Rashmi was in the audience. When the inauguration session concluded, Rashmi’s message reached me saying that I must immediately proceed to my father’s home. I did. When I reached there, I discovered that he had passed away early that morning and I was not informed so that GEOCON-India’s inauguration would go on smoothly. Not only did the inauguration go smoothly but so did the entire Conference even though I never returned to the Conference. That the Conference proceeded and concluded without the slightest hitch even though the Organizing Secretary was missing for the entire duration of the Conference says volumes for my colleagues who were absolutely great.
I was not able to treat my father to GEOCON-India but I have the satisfaction that a few months before GEOCON-India, I had completed my book Engineering Properties of Soils and had dedicated it to him. The book was published by Tata McGraw Hill and was highly appreciated. Mr. Suresh Gopal and Mr. Rajiv Beri of Tata McGraw Hill encouraged me to write the foundation engineering part as well so that it could be a text for both the core courses for UG students but I got busy with other aspects of my career and did not get back to writing books until more than two decades later. But both Rajiv and Suresh were there for me in 2007, this time with MacMillan, where Rajiv is the CEO, to publish my book The IITs – slumping or soaring.
Working at IIT was a very rewarding experience. Unlike what many think there was enormous variety in the work. Teaching bright students, developing new courses, establishing new laboratories, consulting, preparing codes for ISI, preparing audio-visual and video teaching resources as well as partaking of the organizational and management responsibilities of an academic institute kept me very busy. Research of course is the mainstay for the academic world. Working on Partially Saturated Soils, I came in contact with Prof. D.J. Fredlund of Canada and we corresponded regularly and met occasionally to discuss our research techniques and findings. Dr. B.S. Satija completed his doctorate working with me and our families have been friends ever since. When I moved to Offshore Geotechnics, we interacted closely with Engineers India Ltd. (EIL) and the Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC). Both sponsored research programmes with us at IIT Delhi. I recall with pleasure my interaction with Mr. S.K.A. Rao of ONGC and Dr. Anil Malhotra, Dr. S.L.Agarwal and Dr. P. C. Rawat of EIL. Dr. Manoj Datta’s Ph.D. thesis and those of others including Dr. M.R.M. Nambiar, Dr. A.M. Deshmukh, Dr. N.U. Khan and Dr. B. Singh generated very useful design methods and research papers. Many M. Tech. students worked in this area with us. Our work received both national and international recognition. Prof. Adrian F. Richards, editor of Marine Geotechnology invited me to be on its editorial board and in the years that followed we became very good friends. Rashmi and I were guests at their home and they took us around for three days and two nights in their boat on the waterways in the Netherlands.
The best part of my ‘voyage’ was bidding, winning the bid and then organizing the 13th International Conference on Soil Mechanics and Foundation Engineering. For GEOCON- India, the geotechnical community of Delhi united to organize a conference of distinction. For the 13th International Conference the geotechnical community of all of India united to create a conference that was so successful that Dr. R.H.G. Parry, the Secretary General of the International Society called it the “magic carpet’ conference. It was indeed magical. Everything went right – even the rain gods were kind and held the rain back for the duration of the Conference and then let it pour during the night after the Conference had concluded. I have the fondest memories of:
how Dr. Ramamurthy and I and Rashmi bid for the Conference in a meeting held in Dublin, Ireland and won defeating Australia;
how Mrs. Gita Choksi and Mr. Henry Ledlie of Thomas Cook helped us to market the 13th International Conference at the 12th International Conference in Rio and later helped us to cajole the big bosses of India Tourism Development Corporation and their Ashok and Samrat Hotels to reach our required level of excellence;
how Dr. A. Sridharan and I more than satisfied Dr. N. Morgenstern, then President of the International Society and its executive at a meeting in Florence, Italy about the progress we were making in organizing the Conference;
how Dr. A. Sridharan, Dr. M. R. Madhav, Dr. T. Ramamurthy, Dr. T.S. Nagaraj, Dr. A. Varadarajan and others ensured that the technical contents of the papers at the Conference were of the highest standards;
how Dr. R. Kapur and Mr. Arvind Verma guided us to market the Conference to public and private sector organizations in India and helped generate funds;
how Dr. K.S. Chawla, his wife Jan, Mrs. Rashmi Gulhati developed a most creative programme for ladies accompanying the delegates;
how Dr. D. V. Singh and Mr. K.B. Uppal organized an exhibition to show case our capabilities;
how Dr. V.S. Raju and Dr. M.S. Pranesh and others in Madras oversaw the publication work;
how Dr. V.M. Sharma , Dr. A. K. Dhawan and Mr. Sanjay Gupta ensured that each technical session moved like clock-work;
how Dr. N. Som and his group from Calcutta organized exciting technical tours;
how Dr. G. V. Rao, Dr. R. Kuberan and Dr. K. G. Sharma made sure that each delegate’s needs were catered to and he/she was felt to feel like a maharaja/rani;
how Prof. S. C. Handa and his group at Roorkee along with Mr. Veenu Pasricha, our alumnus from the Civil Engineering Department at IIT Delhi produced a masterpiece of an audio-visual about development of Geotechnical Engineering in India;
how Mr. Jattinder Singh and Mr. Ravi Sundaram organized to ensure that the traditions of Indian hospitality were carefully observed.
For the period preceding and during the Conference, Mr. H.C. Verma was the President of the IGS and I had the benefit always of his sagacity, wisdom and good counsel. During this period, Dr. R. Kuberan was the Hony. Secy. of IGS and very quietly and conscientiously he kept everything under control. Assisting me as Joint Organizing Secretaries were Dr. Gopal Ranjan and Dr. K.S. Subha Rao. For doing this and this and that and that and everything else as well, I relied on Dr. K.S. Rao. I called on Dr. K.K. Gupta to check how much we could spend on this and that. Dr. Manoj Datta ensured that we academicians did not lose sight of the fact that there was a whole industry working in geotechnical engineering who should actively participate and contribute to the Conference.
The ‘magic carpet’ conference was again an important growth period for all of us. We designed and executed something extraordinary and it not just brought us to international standards but we set a new and higher standard for the international community to follow. And, through this project, we generated a corpus of close to Rs. One Crore for the IGS to put our Society on a firm financial base. A base that has been carefully guarded and developed in the years that followed overseen by many Presidents and Executive Committee members of the IGS that have come after 1994 and especially by my young colleague Dr. K. S. Rao, who took over the work of the Secretary of the IGS and served in that capacity for many many years.
I had moved out of IIT in 1992 on deputation to head Educational Consultants India Ltd. a Govt. of India enterprise. That did not stop me from seeing the ‘magic carpet’ Conference to a successful conclusion but thereafter my focus shifted from geotechnical engineering to the field of education. I did, however, wish to finish a long cherished dream of writing a sequel to my book on Engineering Properties of Soils that covered both the core courses of the UG curriculum. After my deputation, upon returning to IIT, I persuaded Dr. Manoj Datta to collaborate with me. His vision was that the new book should also include material that could support the current undergraduate electives in newly emerging areas and be able to cater to a revised and modernized core curriculum in geotechnical engineering in times to come. We worked hard to realize our combined visions. Neither of us had sufficient knowledge of soil dynamics and so we requested our young but very dynamic colleague Dr. G.V. Ramana to author the three chapters that constitute the part on Soil Dynamic. The final product – Geotechnical Engineering was published, again, by Tata McGraw Hill in 2005 a year after I retired from IIT Delhi. Working with Dr. Datta on this project was an absolute delight. Manoj was my student during his undergraduate study. He took a liking to soils. After his B. Tech, under my guidance, he jumped straight into research and obtained his Ph.D and then from my student and my scholar, he became my colleague at IIT Delhi and we researched together on offshore soils. As we worked together on the Book, it was amply apparent to me that we had gone a full circle and I was now his student and Manoj had become a great teacher.
Our Book is doing well and we hope it will excite many students about soils and some will choose to make their careers in Geotechnical Engineering and that it will assist in generating more remarkable people.
Retired Professor, Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi.
Interviewer: Madhira R. Madhav, Professor Emeritus, J.N.T. University, Hyderabad, India
Madhav: Can you please tell when and how you started the graduate program in Geotechnical engineering? Is the work on expansive soil started as soon?
Prof. Katti: I started my post graduate activities immediately after I returned from U.S.A. I visited Mahuva site where I constructed the buildings on expansive soil. Floors had heaved up, walls and roofs had cracked. I felt sad. I started working on stabilization of black cotton soil with chemical additives and on basic properties of soil and soil fraction using X-Ray, D.T.A. and Gravimetric analysis. IIT started M. Tech. programmes right from day one. Without Russian expert Prof. Bose encouraged me start M.Tech. programme in 1959. It was the second P.G. programme on the campus in temporary sheds. I was the first Ph. D. in India in soil mechanics and foundation engineering. The Director (Prof. Bose) permitted me to start M. Tech programme in soil engineering as I had helped in guiding 13 M. Tech. students, at Iowa State. It was a three semester programme, of which two semesters were meant for course work and one semester for dissertation. Five students joined the programme in the first year. Programmed research on expansive black cotton soil was initiated soon after as part of dissertations. I established soil storage, soil mechanics, foundation engineering, soil stabilization, soil physics, soil chemistry, and earth dam laboratories in the newly constructed building. Ample space was available to conduct large scale experiments. I published papers in Highway Research Board or Industrial Research journals. Annual general meeting of Indian National Society of Soil Mechanics and Foundation Engineering was held in 1960 with CBI&P research session. I came in contact with engineers facing problems in river valley projects especially in Black Cotton deposits area. I also started taking part in the activities of ISSMFE.
Madhav: You were probably the first Geotechnical consultant. How this opportunity did arise?
Prof. Katti: Atomic energy commission faced problems of subsurface exploration and design of foundations for Tarapur Atomic Energy Power Station, one of the most important national project. Tarapur Power Plant foundation problems were referred to IIT Bombay in 1960 as I had worked on Enrico Fermy Atomic Power Project along with Prof. Davidson and my co-worker Dr R L Handy. The report for all the aspects was submitted to the Department of Atomic Energy in 1961. The report was forwarded to Bechtel’s the turnkey contractors for constructing the Power Plant. They in turn sent it to Boston. Boston sent a query regarding, Specific gravity. They said that they have never come across specific gravity of 2.81 in US. I conducted heavy mineral and light mineral analysis and sent the reply that Hematite content of our soil is higher than Boston Blue clay which had a specific gravity of 2.67. Bechtel’s then relied completely on our report. This showed that Indians could do soil testing of internationally accepted standards. I encouraged Indian companies to set up soil testing facilities with equipment manufactured in India. In 1964 Mr. Karpa of Bechtel complained to Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) that they are not getting the rocks at foundation levels as described in the report. DAE asked him to meet me directly and get the clarification. We visited the site jointly. I told them that I have mentioned that rock will be encountered at R.L. 93 with light house plinth at R.L. 100. When levels were taken jointly by both the parties the rock strata were encountered at R.L. 93 as predicted thus establishing the competence of Indian consultants. The location of heavy reactor unfortunately fell at a point where the rock encountered was tuff and the bearing capacity was just adequate with factor of safety of 3. DAE and Bechtel asked me whether I would take responsibility for the safety of the foundation and after recalculation I agreed to pour the first basket of concrete. The foundations of reactors are functioning satisfactorily till to date even though they have gone through a few earthquake tremors. I told them that if I could be correct in U.S., there is no reason why I should be wrong in India. DAE wanted foundations be designed for zero settlement but I told them that it was not possible to design foundations on weathered or boulder strata at zero settlement and they have to design their mechanical parts to take care of the allowable settlements. USA counterparts concurred with my observations.
Madhav: Prof. Katti can you please elaborate your contributions to research on expansive soils?
Prof. Katti: Large scale failures I noticed in Kakrapara river valley project I programmed the research in the following way:
Analyse the properties of Expansive Black cotton soils and their constituents physically, chemically and engineering wise. This gave a direction for my further stabilization research as the soils contained MT clay mineral with expanding lattice.
Started developing open system and close system swelling pressure and heave equipment and also tri axial testing equipment to measure ratio between axial and lateral swelling pressure and heave These studies were conducted on soil fractions. They were conducted with varying densities and moisture content. These studies conclusively proved that MT clay minerals are responsible for swelling pressure and heave and not sand or silt. Prof Bose wanted me to evolve a method at College of Military Engineering (CME) to stabilize expansive black cotton soil for military purposes. Here to decide about depth to which stabilization should be carried out, my student observed that the change in density took place within 1m to 1.5m and then the density remained the same both during rainy season and summer. This I presented it in conference held at CME and also at IISc Bangalore.
Later large number of people from academic institutions as Ph.D. or M.Tech projects, and immediately applied by Malaprabha authorities in the field. Nalini, my wife used to help me taking down dictation between 3 am and 5 am and in correcting students’ works. She would feed them with refreshments while working late nights. I could not have done so much work in research, development, consultancy, postgraduate education, etc. without her unstinted help and devotion. Extremely divergent swelling pressure tests were reported in one of the meetings of I.R.C. I was convinced that one should study the mineralogical constituents using available X-Ray, D.T.A, Index properties and gravimetric methods. A large number of graduate students based on a scientific approach proved that tests under different conditions gave different swelling pressure in axial and radial directions. We tried to ascertain the depth up to which the swelling takes place. Mr Ketkar, my graduate student, observed that density remains constant beyond a depth of 1.5 to 2.0 m throughout the year. IIT funded earlier research work with large scale models. Large scale models, 1.5 m wide, 3 to 4 m long and 4 to 6 m in height were required to simulate field conditions. Indian Road Congress was active in promoting research in the area of soil stabilization and published a bulletin entitled ‘Research on black cotton soil without and with inorganic additives’. This gave impetuous to our research in the area of black cotton soil.
Madhav: What was your role and contribution to Indian National Society of SM & FE?
Prof. Katti: Some annual general meetings of INS SMFE (later to become IGS) were held with IRC. Papers on soil mechanics were presented on one day during the conference. INS SMFE became an independent body with proper constitution around 1968 or 69. Dinesh Mohan, Shamsher Prakash, Ramamurty, etc. participated in drafting the constitution of IGS. Prof. Ramamurthy, Prof. Gulhati and others participated in the development of IGS. Dinesh Mohan took over as president; he was followed by Ramamurthy and Jagdish Narayan. I took over as president of IGS in1977. I encouraged a large number of people to participate in various committees. Indian Geotechnical Conference (IGC) was successfully held in Bombay In 1970, under the auspices of IIT, supported by several organisations in Mumbai. Subsequently IGC’s were hold in Bombay in 1980, 1990 and 2000. I understand that IGC2010 would be held in Mumbai. This will be a Golden Jubilee conference at Mumbai. I retired from IIT Bombay 20 years ago. The light is kept burning, the torch of Geotechnical engineering taken over by the younger generation. It is encouraging to see the growth of IGS which has attained international recognition and participation. Geotechnical Engineering is growing in all aspects of profession with professionals actively participating in the growth and dissemination of knowledge.
Madhav: Your name is synonymous with CNS (Cohesive Non Swelling Soil) layer. Can you describe its development and application?
Prof. Katti: CNS technology has been found economical for constructing earth dams, foundations of both light and heavy civil engineering structure, roads, retaining walls and irrigation canal structures. CBI&P supported the work with adequate research grants. Malaprabha River valley project authorities conducted field trials and used it for lining of 108 km long canals passing through deep seated expansive soil. CWC, World Bank, USAID and CBI&P approved the technology as a viable technology for construction in expansive soils. BIS has brought out standards. The technology performed satisfactorily for more than 4 decades. The technology was extended for the construction of canal lining and cross drainage structures in Indira Gandhi Nehar in Rajasthan on deep seated bentonite having high swelling pressure and heave. Government of India established several IITs and regional engineering colleges between 1960 and 1970. IITs were expected to work on emerging areas and give support to engineering and science based technologies. I was a member of delegation to visit various universities in U.S.A. and study the patterns of programmes there. I visited several Institutes conducting research on soil engineering in general and expansive soil inparticular under a programme supported NSF. This helped me in formulating post graduate research and educational programmes.
Madhav: Prof. Katti, you were instrumental in developing New Bombay in 1970s. What was your contribution to it and other works?
Prof. Katti: Government of Maharashtra was planning to develop New Bombay area along a coastal stretch. Depth of marine clay varied from 1 m to more than 20 m. The soil has high liquid limit and void ratio making soil-water system close to slurry when the structure is disturbed. The engineers had advised them to avoid the area and develop New Mumbai on murum (residual soil) deposits. I was asked to give geotechnical appraisal for the entire area as I indicated to them that it is possible to construct civil structure using ground improvement techniques and also develop new techniques to construct light to heavy facilities. We developed air photo interpretation techniques coupled with modified pedalogical classification to suit the engineering attributes for the Geotechnical appraisal of the entire New Mumbai area. This also helped in solving offshore exploration and foundation problems, prevented ONGC from abandoning the site for oil exploration and facilitated CIDCO in developing New Mumbai on vast coastal deposits. ONGC found that Sagar Samrat, a fixed exploratory vessel, started sinking more than permissible. Unfortunately vane shear strength of 750 psi was assumed against 150 psi observed by IIT during CIDCO work. Side sonar’s were used to assess whether the depth of soft marine clay was less than 15 m. We succeeded in relocating the rig in a stable location. Subsequently we designed the foundations of six platforms. Cementation Co. helped in mounting the drill on the side of the ship to drill in 90 m of water followed by another 90 m in mud and sand stone or lime stone and retrieve soil samples and test them to obtain design parameters. This again proved the competence of Indian geotechnical professionals in handling offshore jobs. In 1988 just before my retirement, Simplex Concrete piles India Ltd. offered me to be adviser and consultant to help them in bidding for the jobs involving emerging technologies. I agreed to work on their job for three days in a week and devote the remaining time on my research. During this period I brought out treatises on work done by me on expansive soils. I have spent 52 years of my active professional life in various aspects of geotechnical engineering in India. Today mind is still alert but the body is failing.
Madhav: Can you please give a message to our community?
Prof. Katti: No problem in Geotechnical engineering is difficult as it can be solved using principles of sciences and earth sciences.
Tracing the footsteps of Terzaghi in Vienna
This article could as well be a page from my travel diaries. What makes it relevant to the Geotechnical community is its connection with the father of the modern Soil Mechanics, Prof. Karl von Terzaghi. One of the strongest reasons for my deep intent to visit Vienna, the capital city of Austria, was that Terzaghi was born in Vienna and spent a few monumental years of his career in this city. In 1928, The Institute of Ground Engineering and Soil Mechanics of the Vienna University of Technology was founded with Terzaghi as its first Head. The Institute has a long legacy of nurturing many great researchers in the field of Geotechnical Engineering, including Arthur and Leo Casagrande, Leo Rendulic, Wilhelm Steinbrenner and Juul Hvorslev. My dream was materialised through the TC-207 workshop on 3rd October 2016, which took place in Vienna. To my delight, Professor Heinz Brandl, who was the head of the Institute during 1981 to 2008 is a member of TC-207. I got in touch with him through e-mails and expressed my interest to visit Prof. Terzaghi’s lab during the workshop, to which he has kindly agreed.
On the morning of 3rd October, members of TC-207 (ISSMGE Technical Committee for Soil-structure interaction and Retaining walls) were assembled in the festivity hall of Austrian Society of Engineers and Architects (ÖIAV) building for the workshop. This is the same hall where Prof. Karl Terzaghi had presented his consolidation theory for the first time to a large audience outside the Vienna University.
The workshop was conducted by Dr. Michael Lisyuk, chairman of TC-207. Prof. Narendra Samadhiya from IIT Roorkee and I were the two Indians present in the workshop. I had presented a lecture on “Advanced image based techniques for micro level understanding of soil-geosynthetic interactions” and Prof. Samadhiya’s lecture was on “Barrage Foundation Interaction under static loading”. During the workshop, Prof. Brandl showed us the notebook of Prof. Terzaghi, in which he has jotted down his initial ideas of consolidation theory and the postage stamp released by Austrian Government in 1983 in the name of Karl Terzaghi, under the series “Engineers”.
It was too late in the evening by the time the workshop was concluded. My hopes of visiting Terzaghi’s lab were dying by then as Prof. Brandl was doubtful about the lab being open at that time. However, seeing my disappointment, he was kind enough to call his office to open the lab and took me and Prof. Samadhiya to the soil mechanics lab of Karl Terzaghi, where the knowledge of fundamental shear strength properties was disseminated to the world.
The celebrated Terzaghi’s lab of Vienna University still houses all the equipment developed by its early researchers. It’s a visual treat for any soil mechanics lover to go through all these setups and learn how well they are preserved, maintained and still used by the successors of Prof. Terzaghi. There is an array of consolidation cells developed using simple techniques, the first triaxial compression apparatus developed by Prof. Terzaghi and Prof. Rendulic, the ring shear apparatus developed by Prof. Hvorslev, Krey direct shear apparatus with adaptation from Terzaghi and Casagrande and many more. I am sharing the photographs of a few of these setups for the benefit of IGS community.
Apart from the equipment, the Vienna University of Technology has a large collection of Terzaghi’s books, personal photographs, framed research articles, some of his office belongings and his bust donated by Prof. Arthur Casagrande in 1965. I was fascinated by a simple paper cutter which was fabricated by Terzaghi for himself and is still in use. The collection offers insight into Terzaghi's personality, his methods which are simple but effective and his cordial relationship with his associates.
My Vienna trip was very exciting and one of the most fulfilling experiences of life. At the end of the visit, I was in awe for this amazingly brilliant man Terzaghi and understood the reason for his continued dominance among soil mechanics fraternity for a near century.
(Madhavi Latha Gali)