May 23, 2004 | Financial Express

A century of trust

It is one of the oldest trusts in corporate India. The J N Tata Endowment for Higher Education is 112 years old. From students wanting to go abroad to pursue medicine, law and humanities, the changing times has the trust being flooded with applicants wanting to go abroad to pursue computer science. The endowment set up by the late Jamsetji N Tata ... to lift up the best and most gifted so as to make them of the greatest service to the country, has over the years not had many wanting to return but stay put in greener pastures. 

From a loan scholarship set up to help those with merit and who are unable to study further due to lack of funds, the trust today has several of its applicants able to fund themselves but avail of the scholarship as being a Tata scholar opens doors for them in universities abroad. In fact, says Prof (Dr) Gulistan J Kerawalla, chief executive officer, J N Tata Endowment for Higher Education, most such applicants are able to return the loan almost immediately. 

The Tata Group is commemorating the Century of Trust throughout the year this year by revisiting the soul of Tata. This year is the death centenary year of J N Tata and the birth centenary year of J R D Tata and Naval Tata. The J N Tata Endowment for higher education has had recipients none less than luminaries like former president, Dr K R Narayanan, Dr Raja Ramanna, Dr Jayant Narlikar, Dr J J Irani, Dr Freddie Mehta and others. 

Interestingly, the first grants were given to two women doctors, since women were shy of going to male gynaecologists. The first recipient of the scholarship was Dr Freney Cama, after whom a hospital is named in Mumbai. The J N Tata Endowment Loan Scholarships are offered for higher studies abroad in technology, sciences and humanities. The trust offers soft loans of Rs 50,000 to Rs 1.5 lakh and a grant of Rs 25,000 to Rs 50,000 for studies in various disciplines. 

Dr K R Narayanan says, "The Tata scholarship shaped my personal and professional life," in the Tata Review Commemorative Issue 2004. Recounting his days as a Tata Scholar, he says, "The Tata scholarship played a crucial part in shaping my personal life and influencing my professional career." Eminent nuclear scientist Dr Raja Ramanna recalls how being a J N Tata scholar eased his path while he was securing a PhD in London. 

Professor Kerawalla says, "Earlier a majority of the J N Tata Endowment were from the medicine and engineering stream. We now have sorted out and broadbased the areas of specialisation to include sciences, social science, humanities, etc. In fact there are 597 speciality areas. Since a number of the recipients don't come back though they eagerly say so at the time of the selection process, the endowment has now included mid-career professionals in the selection category. Doctors, for instance, who have a practice or a job at a hospital and want to go abroad for a super-speciality course are also eligible to apply. In such cases, they are sure to come back home and we are sure their education and skills will enrich and benefit the country." 

"The recipients who refuse to come back from foreign lands are those from the engineering, electronics and architecture stream. If the scholarship is from a university in England, one can be sure they will come back as the job situation is difficult there but if the student gets a scholarship to the US, it is rare that they will ever come back," says Dr Kerawalla. If late J N Tata only knew at the inception of the endowment that it would prove to becoming a passport and an Open Sesame for students to migrate abroad several years later, maybe he would have issued a caveat that it was compulsory to come back home.