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Pushpa Mittra Bhargava (22 February 1928 – 1 August 2017) was an Indian scientist, writer, and administrator. He founded the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, a federally funded research institute, in Hyderabad. He was outspoken and highly influential in the development of scientific temper in India, and argued that scientific rationalism needed to be cultivated as a civic duty.[1][2]

Pushpa Mittra Bhargava
Born (1928-02-22)22 February 1928
Ajmer, British Raj
Died 1 August 2017(2017-08-01) (aged 89)
Hyderabad, India
Nationality Indian
Website pmbhargava.com
Scientific career
Fields Biology (Biotechnology)
Institutions Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB)

Contents

LifeEdit

Early lifeEdit

Bhargava was born in Ajaymeru (Rajasthan) on 22 February 1928 in a middle-class family, to Dr Ram Chandra Bhargava, a public health professional and his wife, Gayatri Bhargava. When he was ten years old, his family shifted to Varanasi.[3] He was formally admitted to Besant Theosophical School in Varanasi for the first time at the age of ten, directly into class nine. Until then he was under the tutelage of his grandfather at home. After school, he completed intermediate from Queen's College, one of the best institutions in Uttar Pradesh at that time.[4] He received his B.Sc. in 1944 with Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, and then obtained a M.Sc. degree in 1946 in Organic Chemistry and Ph.D. in Synthetic Organic Chemistry from Lucknow University.[4]

CareerEdit

Bhargava started his research career in 1946 at Lucknow University when he began working for his Ph.D. He obtained a Ph.D. in Synthetic Organic Chemistry at the age of 21 after which he moved to Hyderabad.[5] Between 1950 and 1953 he worked first at the then Central Laboratories for Scientific and Industrial Research, now called the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology – IICT – and then at Osmania University, both at Hyderabad. In 1953, he went to US on a postdoctoral fellowship in the McArdle Memorial Laboratory of Cancer Research, University of Wisconsin, Madison (US), working in the laboratory of Charles Heidelberger.[5] During 1956–57, he worked at National Institute for Medical Research, UK, as a special Wellcome Trust Research Fellow and made a transition from chemistry to biology.[5] In 1958, he returned to Hyderabad and joined the same Central Laboratories for Scientific and Industrial Research which was by now taken over by Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and named Regional Research Laboratory (now known as Indian Institute of Chemical Technology [6]) as scientist B.

Bhargava worked in the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany, and travelled in over 50 countries.[4] He produced more than 125 scientific publications. Most of his research career was carried out in Hyderabad where he established in 1977 the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) He retired from the directorship of CCMB in 1990 to join the newly created CSIR Distinguished Fellowship from which he was relieved in 1993.[4]

Establishment of CCMBEdit

Bhargava set up the Centre of Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad, Telangana. CCMB is a research organization in areas of modern biology. It was set up initially as a semi-autonomous centre on April 1, 1977, with the Biochemistry Division of the then Regional Research Laboratory (presently, Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, IICT), Hyderabad forming its nucleus and Bhargava heading the new Centre.[5] During 1981–82, CCMB was accorded the status of a full-fledged national laboratory with its own Executive Committee and Scientific Advisory Council.[7]

Policy maker in Indian scienceEdit

Bhargava was a well-known critic of Indian governmental policies, and attained the post of vice-chairman in the National Knowledge Commission.[8] He served as a member in the National Security Advisory Board and nominee of the Supreme Court of India on the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee of the Government of India. He opposed the approval of GM foods in India.[9][10] He also opposed the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill, calling it "unconstitutional, unethical, unscientific, self-contradictory, and not people-oriented".[11] Bhargava was the only scientist in the CSIR who had the will to support Shiva Ayyadurai, an expatriate scientist who was sacked from the CSIR by Samir Brahmachari when he authored a report that was critical of the CSIR leadership, alleging corruption, cronyism and nepotism.[12] On October 30, 2009, Bhargava wrote a personal letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh requesting him to meet with Ayyadurai and review his report. Bhargava stated in his letter: "I have gone through Dr. Ayyadurai's report CSIR Tech: Path Forward and find it to be excellent." Bhargava also wrote in his letter that he believed Ayyadurai's criticisms on the functioning of CSIR were valid.[13][14]

Rationalism and science popularisationEdit

Bhargava has long been involved in the promotion of science and rationality and opposing superstition. He has been associated with the Association of Scientific Workers in India (ASWI) which was established in 1946 as a trade union of scientists, one of the main objectives of which was to develop scientific temper.[15]

In 1963, Bhargava, along with Satish Dhawan and Abdur Rahman, the historian of science, felt the need to set up a national society for the promotion of scientific temper. Thus they launched the Society for the Promotion of Scientific Temper at an international symposium on nucleic acids held in the then Regional Research Laboratory (today, the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology) at Hyderabad in January 1964.[16]

PMB has participated in many debates related to science and superstitions and criticised the deplorable lack of scientific temper in society. He has been one of a few rationalists in India to raise voice against influential religious priests and gurus.[17] The Angels, Devil and Science, a book written by Bhargava deals with the very subject of scientific temper in India.[18] Dr. Bhargava played an important role in having scientific temper incorporated as a fundamental duty of the citizens of India, in the 42nd constitutional amendment in 1976. He was one of the key architects of the widely known 'Statement on Scientific temper', issued jointly by a group of liberal, committed and rational high-achievers of the country.[19] The statement issued in 1981, has not only been debated and discussed in several fora, but continues to be referred to in writings and speeches even today. During the NDA rule in year 2000, the Government of India decided to ask universities to introduce academic courses and offer science degrees in astrology.[20] Dr. Bhargava and others, who are not named, filed a writ petition to oppose it. The write petition was dismissed by the Andhra Pradesh High Court, and the Justice Sinha did not impose any punitive costs for bringing this meritless petition to the court [21][22] Dr Bhargava also challenged the concerned Ministry in the Supreme Court through a Public Interest Litigation which was dismissed by the SC.[23][24]

DeathEdit

Bhargava died on 1 August 2017, aged 89 at Hyderabad, India.[25]

AwardsEdit

Bhargava received Padma Bhushan from the President of India in 1986,[26] but returned it in 2015 as an act of protest against the Indian government's active erosion of spaces for dissent within the country.[27][28]

BooksEdit

The books co-authored by Bhargava include:

  • Proteins of Seminal Plasma, published by John Wiley, New York (1990); co-authors S. Shivaji, Karl Heinz Scheit, ISBN 978-0-471-84685-7
  • The Saga of Indian Science since Independence: In a Nutshell, published by Universities Press (2003); co-author Chandana Chakrabarti, ISBN 81-7371-435-5
  • Angels, Devil, and Science: A Collection of Articles on Scientific Temper, published by National Book Trust (2007); co-author Chandana Chakrabarti, ISBN 978-81-237-5184-9
  • Agenda for the Nation: An Untold Story of the UPA Government, published by Mapin Publishing Pvt.Ltd. (2014); co-author Chandana Chakrabarti, ISBN 1-935677-45-4
  • The Two Faces of Beauty: Science and Art, published by Mapin Publishing Pvt.Ltd. (2014); co-author Chandana Chakrabarti, ISBN 1-935677-24-1

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ http://www.thehindujobs.com/thehindu/jobs/0104/05180014.htm
  2. ^ "About CCMB > Profile". Ccmb.res.in. 1977-04-01. Retrieved 2012-08-20. 
  3. ^ "Architect of Modern Biology – BioSpectrumIndia". www.biospectrumindia.com. Retrieved 2015-10-29. 
  4. ^ a b c d "PMB Memoirs: Nine decades of PM Bhargava". PMB Memoirs. Retrieved 29 July 2016. 
  5. ^ a b c d Kalyane, V.L. "Scientometric Portrait of P. M. Bhargava" (PDF). Lucknow Librarian. 27 (1–4): 42–70. Retrieved 29 July 2016. 
  6. ^ "CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Technology". www.iictindia.org. Retrieved 2015-10-29. 
  7. ^ "CSIR Labs". Council of Scientific & Industrial Research. Retrieved 2017-08-03. 
  8. ^ "National Knowledge Commission constituted". Press Information Bureau, Government of India. 2 June 2005. Retrieved 29 July 2016. 
  9. ^ "PM reconstitutes National Security Advisory Board". Press Information Bureau, Government of India. 11 April 2008. Retrieved 29 July 2016. 
  10. ^ "Cultivation of GM food crops- Prospects and effects" (PDF). Ministry of Agriculture. Government of India. August 2012. Retrieved 29 July 2016. 
  11. ^ "Unconstitutional, unethical, unscientific". The Hindu. 2011-12-28. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2015-10-29. 
  12. ^ Koshy, Jacob (29 October 2015). "Ex-Padma Bhushan Pushpa Bhargava's Half A Century Of Dissent". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 20 January 2016. 
  13. ^ Reddy, Prashant (20 May 2012). "CSIR Tech. Pvt. Ltd: Its controversial past and its uncertain future". SpicyIP. Retrieved 23 January 2016. 
  14. ^ "Letter from Dr. Pushpa M. Bhargava to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Ayyadurai's report". 30 October 2009. Retrieved 23 January 2016. 
  15. ^ "International Conference on Science Communication for Science Temper" (PDF). National Institute of Science Communication And Information Resources. Retrieved 29 July 2016. 
  16. ^ Bhargava P.M. and Chakrabarti C. 2008. Angels, Devil and Science. NATIONAL BOOK TRUST, INDIA
  17. ^ "The phenomenon of Satya Sai Baba". The Hindu. 2011-05-14. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2015-10-29. 
  18. ^ "Welcome to National Book Trust India". www.nbtindia.gov.in. Retrieved 2015-10-29. 
  19. ^ Bhargava, PM (17 January 2015). "Scientists without a scientific temper". The Hindu. 
  20. ^ Ramachandran, R (2001). "Degrees of pseudo-science". www.frontline.in. Retrieved 29 July 2016. 
  21. ^ http://indiankanoon.org/doc/15849/
  22. ^ "The Hindu : Scientists oppose move to introduce astrology courses". www.thehindu.com. Retrieved 2015-10-29. 
  23. ^ "The Hindu : National : Introduction of Vedic astrology courses in varsities upheld". www.thehindu.com. Retrieved 2015-10-29. 
  24. ^ http://judis.nic.in/supremecourt/qrydisp.asp?tfnm=26188
  25. ^ "Pushpa Bhargava, Scientist And Activist, Dies At 89". The Hindu. Retrieved 2017-08-03. 
  26. ^ "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Retrieved July 21, 2015. 
  27. ^ "Worried over India's future, scientist P.M. Bhargava to return Padma Bhushan". The Hindu. The Hindu. Retrieved 29 October 2015. 
  28. ^ "Scientist Bhargava to return his Padma award". Indianexpress.com. 2 November 2015.