Walking down memory lane: Memoirs of the first MBM graduate, Class of 1954
THEN: Circa 1954, Bikaner: 23 years young, dynamic, straight out of the college, got selected in Public Service Commission as Assistant Engineer, PWD, based in his home town, Bikaner. It was big news in the local media as he was replacing 58 years old seasoned engineer having experience of 35 years. People of the city were in utter bewilderment as they were apprehensive about how a young lad will manage to navigate the nitty-gritty of Engineering and the bureaucratic labyrinth of a typical government organization?
NOW: Circa 2021, Gurugram: In his career spanning more than 35 years, He not only excelled in PWD, but also served Indian Railways for 33 long years, starting as an Assistant Engineer, and reaching the position of Chief Engineer (Railway Board). He has authored various books and research papers. He received National Award from Railways in 1973 for his superlative work on Track Modernization and was recommended for Padma Shri Award for four years in a row. As of today, despite advancing age, this nonagenarian has been writing another book to share his knowledge and technical expertise of Indian Railways.
Er. Madan Mohan Agarwal has the proud distinction of being roll # 1, Class of 1954. He was the first student to graduate from MBM Engineering College. Let’s look at his journey through the years.
Early life and schooling:
Er. Madan Mohan Agarwal was born on July 31, 1931, in Sardulpur – a small town in the Churu district of Rajasthan. While his parents stayed in West Pakistan (Khevda – Pind Dadar Khan across Jhelum), Er. Agarwal spent the first 10 years of his childhood in Sardulpur under the guardianship of his grandfather, an advocate and social worker. Observing senior Agarwal’s social work had an immense impact on his mind. The moral values and principles inculcated during childhood helped him in navigating the challenges of professional life during later years. As his parents relocated to Bikaner in 1941, Madan Mohan moved to Bikaner to stay with his parents. His father was an advocate. They lived a very simple life as sources of income was meager, and there was a large family to support. Madan Mohan was good at studies and he completed his high school with distinction in 1947. He then joined Dungar College as a Science Student and completed his B.Sc. in the year 1951, securing the first position amongst the entire batch of 20,000 students. Agarwal also dabbled in student politics in Dungar College and was Joint Secretary of the Student Union.
Banaras or Jodhpur…. big dilemma?
The Govt. of Rajasthan at that time used to declare the 1st rank holder of the university as a State Scholar. Agarwal was offered to pursue, free of cost higher education of his choice anywhere in Rajasthan, or anywhere in India if the course was not available in Rajasthan. Since he wanted to do Civil Engineering, which was not available in Rajasthan, he decided to join Banaras Hindu University (BHU) in June 1951. “I was delighted to join BHU as it was the best university in India but my initial euphoria remained short-lived.” Madan Mohan says.
Within 2 months of his joining BHU, the Govt. of Rajasthan started MBM Engineering College in Jodhpur, and Civil Engineering became available within the state. In order to continue being a State Scholar, Madan Mohan had to enroll himself in to MBM Engineering College. While it was a big dilemma, Agarwal’s family was not in the position to afford expenses at BHU, since continuing there would have implied losing the State Scholar status. It is in this manner that BHU’s loss became MBM’s gain. In the first class of 51 students, Madan Mohan was allotted roll # 1, since he was the B.Sc. topper in the batch.
Life at MBM:
Starting out at a new college was going to be quite an interesting experience for Madan Mohan. “There was no college building; we were allotted some space near Jaswant College, where classes used to be conducted. There was only one professor, Er. A.D. Bohra (BHU Scholar) who worked as the teacher, mentor, sports instructor, and also as the Principal. There was no hostel accommodation and we had to stay in barracks meant for horses. It was very challenging for me to adjust to the new environment but I managed to calibrate myself in tough conditions,” reminisces Er. Agarwal.
Real studies started pretty soon though, around December 1951, when a legendary renowned professor of Civil Engineering from Roorkee, Prof. V. G. Garde joined MBM Engineering College as Principal. As a disciplinarian and taskmaster, Prof. Garde undertook a number of initiatives to establish this new college as a top-notch institution. “Prof. Garde prepared the syllabus based on Roorkee University, he persuaded eminent faculty members from across India to join the college, and also established a full-fledged student library. We were told that examinations would be tough and we should work hard. Some students did not take this advice seriously. When the results of the first-year examination were out, 34 students out of 51 students had failed. Fortunately, my name was on the list of 17 successful students. This helped establish academic rigor, and students were diligent from then onwards. Apart from Prof. Garde, Prof. Alam Singh (Civil), Prof. M.M. Mathur (Mechanical) and Prof. Diwakaran (Civil) did exemplary work in the development of MBM Engineering College,” remembers Agarwal.
In 1954, during campus interviews, Rajasthan Public Service Commission selected 17 students as Assistant Engineers in PWD, PHED, and Irrigation department. Er. Agarwal secured the first position in the RPSC interview and was asked to choose his dept. and place of posting. He chose PWD, Bikaner. At 23 years of age, he took charge from Mr. Janak Raj, 58 years old highly experienced engineer, who was retiring. After working for 2 years, he got selected in UPSC and was offered the position of Assistant Engineer in Indian Railways. Over the next 33 years, Agarwal worked with Indian Railways in different capacities, retiring as Chief Engineer, Railway Board in 1989. “As a reward for my devotion and sincere work, I got the chance to work on two foreign assignments. In 1970, I went to Germany for one year to study track modernization of German Railways, and in 1974 I was deputed as Indian Railway Engineer to Zambia. It was great experience for me, and I was able to implement these learning in India Railways too” Agarwal says.
President of India Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma giving the ” Indira Gandhi Raj Bhasha Award” to Er. M.M. Agarwal in the year 1993
SOME MOMENTS OF PROFESSIONAL LIFE
“In professional life, sometimes one has to work on things they don’t like. As a Railway Engineer, on more than 5 occasions, I had to visit accident sites on an urgent basis. It was a horrible experience, with hundreds of passengers lying outside and a large number trapped inside train compartments. We used to arrange for ambulances and medical facilities to handle the situation,” says Agarwal. As Executive Director of Vigilance, Agarwal had the challenging task of investigating, and bringing to justice, Railway officials involved in unlawful activities. During this time, Er. Agarwal unearthed a significant black market for illegal ticketing. After the retirement from Railways, Agarwal joined Indian Railway Welfare Organization (IRWO) as Director to oversee the construction of houses for the Indian Railways personnel. He also worked for a World Bank aided rehabilitation project.
“In September 1993, massive earthquake rocked the Latur and Osmanabad districts of Maharashtra, causing heavy casualties and extensive damage to buildings and houses. Thousands of people were rendered homeless overnight. The World Bank took over a project worth over Rs. 1000 crores towards rehabilitation and reconstruction of damaged houses and buildings. I was asked to run this project, which until then was being executed by Maharashtra PWD at a very slow pace. With the cooperation of Govt. of Maharashtra, efficient coordination with the displaced people in this area, coupled with my good experience of managing big construction projects, we succeeded getting this project completed quickly. It was matter of great satisfaction for me, as large number of people were able to start their life again after the catastrophe,” says Er. Agarwal.
Er. Agarwal has written 7 technical books, 5 in English and 2 in Hindi, during his prolific career with Indian Railways. These books cover different aspects of railway technology. More than 2.5 lac copies of these books have been released, and to this day, are helping educate railway staff, from Gangman to Chief Engineer. Er. Agarwal has published more than 100 technical papers in reputed journals like the RITES Journal, Institution of Engineers Journal, and Institute of Permanent Way Engineering Journal.
Giving back to the society:
Er. Agarwal has been associated with several charitable trusts and social organizations. As the founder of “Jeevan Sadhana Charitable Trust”, he has been managing a Charitable Dispensary for free treatment of needy patients, for the last 16 years. He has also founded the “Aravali Scholars Project” for promoting education to help the economically weaker sections of society. He has also been working as Honorary Advisor for the last 25 years in Amarjoyti Charitable Trust, which provides rehabilitation to persons having disabilities. He has delivered lectures railway technology to professionals as well as to students in institutes such as Delhi College of Engineering, IIT Delhi, IIT Roorkee, Railway Training Schools, as well as in national and international seminars.
Awards and accolades:
Er. Agarwal has received a number of national and international awards. In 1973, He received the National Award (Railway Minister’s Vishishtha Seva Medal) for Track Modernization of Indian Railways. In 1993, he received the “Indira Gandhi Raj Bhasha Award” by the President of India for the best original book written in Rajbhasha for Professionals. His name was recommended for the Padma Shri award by Indian Railways for four continuous years.
Message to youngsters:
During his entire life, Agarwal says, he has given the utmost importance to integrity, honesty, and human values. “I would advise youngsters to work sincerely and with dedication. They must learn virtues such as discipline, punctuality, humbleness, and a positive attitude. Youngsters should prepare themselves to face any failures or adverse situations. They need to be calm and must never loose patience. I would dedicate these lines of famous Hindi poet to young MBMites:
जिंदगी बहुत कुछ सिखाती है
कभी हंसाती है तो कभी रुलाती है
जो हर पल मे खुश रहते है
जिंदगी उन्ही के आगे सिर झुकाती है”
Such has been the inspirational journey of Er. M.M. Agarwal. With his grit, determination, discipline, and hard work, he has scaled exponential success in his professional and personal life. We wish him a healthy and peaceful life ahead.
About Author :
Nitesh Kataria is a Marketing professional based in Pune. He is from the 1994 Mining batch. He also holds a Masters in Management Science degree in Sales & Marketing from Devi Ahilya University, Indore. He has worked at senior positions in a few of the world’s renowned MNC’s and Indian Companies. His professional experience includes Sales & Marketing, Digital Marketing, Branding, and Distribution Channel Management.