Published: 01st June 2021
Meet Hari Kumar C, Calicut University's first faculty member from an ST community
We spoke to 30-year-old Hari Kumar C, Calicut's University's first faculty member from an ST community, the Mavilan tribe
Hari Kumar waits for the lockdown restrictions to ease, to receive a certain mail. The mail will be sent by the University of Calicut, the syndicate of which decided to appoint him, Hari Kumar C, as an Assistant Professor in its Department of Commerce and Management Studies, recently. The appointment has undoubtedly left Hari, who is also a PhD scholar in the same department, elated. But more than that, his appointment has historic significance. Half a century since its inception, this is the first time that the university has appointed a faculty member from a Scheduled Tribes community. Hailing from Kasaragod, Hari belongs to the Mavilan tribe in Kerala.
"I am yet to get an official order from the university about my appointment. The triple lockdown is in place in Malappuram and the university's office is yet to reopen. However, I hope to start by the first of June," he says. Even though the lockdown is in place, Hari is yet to go home. He is currently living on campus, a place where he has spent the past few years of his life - pursuing his MCom degree, MPhil and then his PhD. Prior to this, he studied at the Government Brennen College in Kannur. "I am a product of the public education system. I did my entire schooling in Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya, living in a hostel. I want to work towards ensuring that this system is maintained well," he says.
Hari is a first-generation graduate. His father, a former daily wage labourer, is now a grade IV worker in the Kerala government's health department and his mother is an Anganwadi teacher and his two younger sisters have just completed their master's degrees. "I come from a socially and economically underprivileged background," says Hari. "During my student days, I had to face a lot of hurdles. This is the case for most students from backward classes. A lot of ST students drop out of school. Almost all students, being first-generation learners, have no means to mould their careers properly. Our parents did not know how to guide us. We had no opportunities. It was only after Class XII that most of us think about what we want to do later in life," he says, explaining the reason for SC and ST candidates to stay away from academia and research.
He owes a major part of his success to his teachers and friends, who motivated and guided him, says a humble Hari. Of them, he doesn't forget to thank his PhD guide Dr B Johnson, who heads the Department of Commerce and Management Studies. "After I qualified for the Junior Research Fellowship, I was looking out for opportunities in universities where I could pursue research," he says. "However, I did not know where to apply and what to do. I didn't have the contacts. That was when Johnson sir, who was also my MPhil guide, suggested that I do my PhD in Calicut University, under him," he says. Hari is almost on the verge of submitting his thesis on 'Crowdfunding in India: Problems and Prospects'.
Hari admits that he did not expect to clear the interview for the faculty post. "I still think that I could have done better in the interview. It was my research guide who coached me on what materials to read and how to answer the questions," he says, giving credit where it is due. He knows that he has penned a chapter in history already and he is obviously happy about it. Hari says that he wants to inspire and coach others from backward classes as much as he can. "They must learn to dream. They have the talent and certainly, things will improve in the years to come with more people coming up," he says.