Vice-Chancellor Prof Appa Rao Podile has a long association with the University of Hyderabad, also known as Hyderabad Central University. His academic excellence has won him several laurels, but his career on the campus is not devoid of controversies. A major controversy he faced was in 2002 when he, in his capacity as the chief warden, rusticated 10 Dalit students from the university.
Prof Appa Rao’s political leanings, or at least as they are made out to be, veer towards rightist political thought. He is alleged to have been openly pursuing the BJP’s political ideology. Students belonging to Ambedkar Students Association have alleged that he has time to hobnob with the BJP MLA N Ramachandra Rao more than to listen to the students’ grievances.
Born on 3 August, 1962, Appa Rao did his schooling at KVR Zilla Parishad High School, Thullur of Guntur district, now the new capital region of Andhra Pradesh. He did his graduation in Botany, Zoology and Chemistry between 1977 and 1980 in Hindu College, Guntur. He later went to Sardar Patel University, Vallabh Vidya Nagar, Gujarat and completed his Master of Science (1981-83) and later his Ph D (1983-87).
He is a gold medalist in M.Sc. He is a post-doctoral fellow from the Institute of Botany, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan and subsequently was a visiting scientist at the Institute of Molecular Biology, Academia Sinica, Taipei, and Department of Plant Biochemistry and Biotechnology, University of Munster, Germany.
He began his career as an Assistant Professor in the University of Hyderabad and scaled higher positions there itself. Prof Rao knows the university and its politics, problems and the various other issues on the campus seen over a span of two decades.
Appa Rao’s professional acumen and scholarship have been acknowledged by several of his colleagues, who, however, did not want to be named at this point in time. A senior faculty member in the Department of Plant Sciences at the university, his contributions to plant-microbe interactions and plant disease control with modern molecular approaches are well acclaimed.
Prof Rao has been conferred with fellowship of the Indian Academy of Sciences for his research contributions in plant sciences. He was earlier elected a fellow of National Academy of Sciences, Allahabad and National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, New Delhi. He was awarded the “Tata Innovation Fellowship” by the Department of Biotechnology and BSR One Time Grant by the University Grants Commission.
Prof Rao is a member of several scientific committees of Department of Science and Technology and Department of Biotechnology of Government of India. His Laboratory at the university is funded by the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India and European Union under “Framework Programme 7” and leads a group of 15 research students.
He has so far guided 17 researchers. Known for being a very soft-spoken person, some alumni, who owe their allegiance to the Students Federation of India, too expressed surprise over how he walked into such a major controversy. A former Vice-Chancellor of the university, who did not want to be identified, said Prof Rao’s academic competency is surely much above the usual benchmarks. The former VC also said that he had the distinction of excelling in all the researches he has undertaken.