Professor PM Bhargava the founder-director of Hyderabad-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) died on Tuesday. He was 89. Below is an excerpt from the statement All India Peoples Science Network issued, remembering the life and contributions of the professor.
All India People's Science Network (AIPSN) expresses deep grief at the passing of Professor Pushpa Mitra Bhargava, a well known scientist and a guide to many in the country, who are committed to the promotion of science and scientific temper amongst our citizens. He was the first scientist to return his Padma Bhushan award to the government, after the nation was shocked at the killing of Prof. M.M. Kalburgi and lynching of Mr. Akhlaq Khan. As we know, such atrocities have gone unabated since then.
Professor P.M. Bhargava passed away in Hyderabad, aged 89 years, on August 1, 2017. The AIPSN sends its heartfelt condolences to Professor Bhargava's family, friends and former colleagues.
In defence of India's scientific sovereignty, many scientists of Professor P.M. Bhargava's generation took an active role, in the 1950's and 1960's in the Association of Scientific Workers of India (ASWI) . They were not yet the leaders in the S&T establishments but would emerge soon and take up the leadership role. In 1963, Prof Satish Dhawan, Prof A.Rahman and Prof P.M. Bhargava took a pioneering step, when they set up an organization for the promotion of scientific temper in the country, the first organized platform of its kind. This was an important step, well before others felt its need, since the danger of communalism rising as a threat to the unity and diversity of India, and to the vision of India as a secular, welfare state was not perceived by many at that time. Professor Bhargava was also one those who promoted the idea of incorporating Article 51 A-h in our constitution that exhorts “to develop the scientific temper, humanism and spirit of enquiry and reform.”
One of the early signs of an organised attack on India's composite culture and a scientific approach to her history came in 1977, when under pressure from the RSS the Janata Party government of the time decided to ban some of the NCERT books. These were early omens and some of the scientists and intellectuals under the leadership of P.N. Haksar, Raja Ramanna and P. M. Bhargava released the document on scientific temper in 1981. This document generated intense debates at that time. The same question was revisited in 2011, at a time when the attacks had grown multifold, and the Palampur resolution on the subject was released. In formulating the Palampur resolution, many of us, from the AIPSN had participated
It is unfortunate that in the last two weeks India has lost three prominent scientists, Prof. U.R.Rao, Prof. Yash Pal and now Prof. P.M. Bhargava, who as institution builders, had contributed in building science in the country and had also led the campaign for the promotion of scientific temper . The AIPSN had close association with all three of them
.He was born in Ajmer on 22nd February 1928 and had his school and college education in Varanasi and Lucknow. An organic chemist by training, (he did his M.Sc. In organic chemistry from the Lucknow University at the age of 18!) Professor Bhargava had been associated with the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research since the early 1950's and spent most of his working life at the Regional Research Laboratory (RRL, to be named, Institute of Chemical Technology) and the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) , Hyderabad. He was the founder of the CCMB and served as its director from 1977-1990. Prof Bhargava was one of the pioneers in India who could realise the important role that a chemist could play in developing biological research in the country. This was also the vision of Professor Syed Husain Zaheer, who led the RRL Hyderabad for many years and later became the Director General of the CSIR. It was from these early initiatives that the CCMB emerged.
The idea of scientific temper always remained a passion for Professor Bhargava. In 2000, when the NDA government of A.B. Vajpayee introduced astrology in the curriculum of Indian universities, P.M. Bhargava took the initiative to challenge it in the Andhra Pradesh High Court and later in the Supreme Court of India. Both the courts refused to admit these writ petitions.
In the ongoing controversy on the introduction of Genetically Modified Corps , Professor Bhargava opposed their introduction, on the basis of his observation that:
...Another argument in favour of GM food crops is that we need more food to meet today’s and tomorrow’s food requirement around the world ...This is a facetious argument. We produce more food today without the use of GM technology than is required to feed the world population, and we do not need GM technology to take care of future food requirements. In India, as much as 40 per cent of food we produce is wasted.
Further, the hunger we have is not on account of lack of food. It is because those who are hungry do not have resources to buy the food. Then we have virtually no testing of GM crops for safety...
Professor P.M. Bhargava had acted as a mentor to many individuals and organizations in the People's Science Movement (PSM). He had a close association with the Jan Vijnana Vedike of both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. We also recall that he spent a few hours with the AIPSN EC members in Hyderabad on 18th September, 2015. Many of the issues that Prof Bhargava was involved in will continue to engage the PSMs and our citizens for a long time to come.
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