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India’s scientific progress after Independence

The Navhind Times - Wednesday, August 8, 2007

On August 15 2007, India would cross a landmark in history by completing 60 years of

Independence. It has been a tedious journey with many ups and downs. But after 60 years if there is
one sphere, which makes India strong, and an international player to reckon with it is science and

What India had in 1947?

There were a few universities and research laboratories. But there were spirited and visionary
scientists Mahalonwis, Bhabha, Sarabhai, Saha, Sahani, Randhawa who had big plans for the poor
nation. Jawharlal Nehru, Indira and Rajiv Gandhi, Atal Bihari Bajpayee provided tremendous boost
to indigenous scientific research and technological development. Nehru was a truly modern,
progressive, rational personality. During his 17 years of prime minister ship a very solid foundation
of India’s scientific and technical infrastructure was laid down. A network of public sector research
laboratories and industries was created.
India did not produce a rifle or a tank or an aircraft in 1947. India had to beg for arms and
ammunition during the Chinese incursion in 1962. Indigenous missiles, frigates, warships, tanks
were a distant dream.

And where we have reached today?

India has a powerful battery of missiles. We can produce our own tanks and aircrafts. A state of the
art aircraft carrier is being built. Nuclear submarines and air breathing hyper planes are on drawing
board. Light combat aircraft-Tejas would go on production line in a few years. Fast breeder reactor
technological, magneto hydrodynamic, superconductivity, nanotechnology and nanomaterials
research is booming.
Haffkine Institute could produce some vaccines in 1947. Today India is engaged in developing
recombinant and edible vaccines. India had nothing to show in 1947 in space and ocean research.
Next year the Chandrayana 1 mission would orbit the moon with a payload of advanced technology.
There are now ambitious plans to explore the solar system. Very soon India would dominate the
commercial satellite launch market. Within 60 years and at a very low cost Indian space engineers
have achieved spectacular success. Indian oceanographers would be soon conquering the North
Pole and get involved in some serious North Polar research.
India is already a top name in global oceanographic and Antarctic research. India was a basket case
in terms of food production in 1947. Today India is world’ s largest food producer. The breakeven
point was reached in 1966-67 after the Green Revolution. In production of fruits and vegetables
India has been among the top three nations for the past decade. Our only competitors are China and
India had a tremendous scarcity of milk in 1947. Milk powder used to be imported to meet the
deficit. Today the world salutes the Amul success story. India is world’s top milk producing country
thanks to the success of “operation flood” and efforts of the dairy co-operatives.
Could anyone think of India as an IT power in 1947?

Today Indians are dictating terms to global IT industry. NRI venture capitalists are well established
in the Silicon Valley. IT firms like TCS, INFOSYS and WIPRO are global brands. There is a huge
demand for skilled Indian IT professionals. This is natural for our country because we gifted the
game of Chess and the concept of Zero to the world.
India’s nuclear programme really took off during the tenure of Indira Gandhi. In international
geopolitics might is always right, so India aimed to project its force through nuclearisation of
weapons. At the same time all Indian politicians pleaded for global nuclear disarmament from the
international forums. India was not ready for nuclear blackmailing.

Besides pursuing the nuclear energy option, India has also boosted research in alternative sources of
energy. Several hundred-wind power generation farms have been established. Within next ten years
India may emerge as top five countries in the world in wind power generation. India may rank only
second to China in biogas generation. India was one of the few countries to recognise the potential
of biotechnology in 1982.

After 25 years the biotechnology industry has seen an unprecedented boom in India. The business
has crossed more than a billion dollars. Pharma companies like Reddy’s, Cipla, Ranbaxy are giving
a run for their money to global pharma majors. A few small drug companies were producing a
minor range of ayurvedic and herbal medicines in 1947. Today India is competing with China in
marketing herbal drugs. But still there is a huge gap. Ayurvedic formulations are in high demand.
The most amazing revolution in India after Independence is in telecommunications. In 1947 it was
considered a miracle to get a long distance trunk call booked within half an hour. In 1957, the
waiting list for landline telephone connections had millions of names.
In 1977 there was uncertainty over colour television. The picture changed after the dynamic Rajiv
Gandhi took over the prime minister ship in 1984. He brought in Sam Pitroda, a visionary and a go-
getter personality. Post Pitroda India witnessed a sea change in telecom sector, which was further
accelerated by Dayanidhi Maran, the ex-telecom minister. Global telecom giants consider India as
one of the top five fastest growing market for mobile telephony. The number of mobile handsets in
India may soon cross hundred millions.

Mobiles are now penetrating deeper in rural India. India’s experiment with e-chaupal met with
stupendous success from the farmers and villagers. India’s remote sensing satellite programme and
the INSAT series of satellites have shown to the world that we have finally arrived as equals to the
superpowers. The launching of a powerful Military satellite would be a force multiplier for Indian
defence forces. Future wars would be fought electronically and in cyberspace.
But as compared to 1947, India is fully prepared for any eventuality. India’s all round scientific
progress was possible because of service and sacrifices of thousands of scientists and technicians
who worked with meagre salaries. Indian government has announced a large number of incentives
to attract young students to science, technology and engineering. The future of Indian science, 60
years after Independence is very bright. That’s why many IITians are returning from abroad to serve
their country. The brain drain of the past would be brain grain of the future.

Who knows by the time India celebrates centenary of Independence-in AD 2047 we could be
world’s topmost scientific superpower.

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