By Vijay Darda | 01-04-2019
Vikram Sarabhai and Jawaharlal Nehru who laid the foundation of Indian space research had nursed a great dream
Last week, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the successful testing of anti-satellite missile system that destroyed a satellite in the space by a missile blasted off from the earth, the scientists of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) once again made every Indian proud by their spectacular achievement. Since this is the season of elections, it has been alleged that the ruling dispensation has appropriated the credit of the successful launch of the anti-satellite missile system, the credit for which should actually go to the scientists. People feel that this announcement should have been made by ISRO and DRDO scientists. The question arises as to why the anti-satellite missile was fired only during the election? It could have happened in the first four years of the BJP government!
Along with this, a series of allegations and counter-allegations have started. A top BJP leader said the scientists had already done this work but the Congress government did not grant permission. The Congress on its part replied that the project had been started in 2012 during the UPA government. I have a clear view that there should be no politicking on the great scientific achievements. Those sitting outside the confines of scientific establishment can not even imagine what kind of extreme hard work and dedication is deployed by our scientists in their research projects. As a member of the Joint Parliamentary Committee, I went to Satish Dhawan Space Centre located in Sriharikota about five years back.
I have seen the passion of the scientists with my eyes and felt completely confident. I have seen sweat on their forehead even in the air-conditioned room. At that time, the scientists there told me that they had gone to Lord Venkatesh Balaji to present a replica of the satellite before its launch. However, some people started objecting as to why did the scientists go to the shelter of religion? Scientists are surely at the receiving end of this kind of politics. How can they leave their faith? Will our scientists not be upset with the politics of credit-taking currently underway? They look at the achievements from the perspective of science, not through the eyes of politics!
You would be surprised to know that India’s space research programme began in 1962, when Pakistan started it in 1961. Today we have left Pakistan far behind and surged far ahead of it as every successive government at the Centre irrespective of political affiliation has promoted space research. The world knows that India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru wanted to see India at the top in the field of space science. His associate and great scientist Vikram Sarabhai took the responsibility on his shoulders. In 1962, the Indian National Space Research Committee was formed. Later on August 15, 1969, ISRO was established. Since then, we have made a series of achievements. Obviously, not only Pandit Nehru but all the prime ministers have always extended the hand of cooperation.
I would like to tell you that on December 30, 1971 when Vikram Sarabhai died suddenly, the question everyone was asking was as to who would be the next chairman of ISRO? All eyes were on Dr. Satish Dhawan, a scientist working in America. He was contacted but he was unable to come immediately. Instantly, Prof. MGK Menon was made the chairman. The then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi urged industrialist JRD Tata to persuade Dhawan to return to India to take charge as ISRO chairmanship. Tata tried and Dhawan agreed. So the question is, can we forget Indira Gandhi’s efforts? Not at all. It was at the instance of Indiraji that the Space Commission under which ISRO now works was formed in 1972.
Therefore, it is not fair on the part of a ruling party to claim that certain government did nothing and it is only their government which did something! The fact is that when China achieved the ability to strike the satellite in 2007, India had started working on it because this ability was necessary to strengthen the defence system. Now India will move forward in the ballistic missile defence field. It is also an indication that India is changing its policies. If war starts, India will be able to destroy the enemy’s nuclear weapons beforehand and will inevitably repulse missile attack in the air itself. I congratulate the scientists for all these achievements. My salutations to them!
Ever since the inception of the Indian space programme in 1962, the country has not looked back. Every government has given importance to space and our scientists converted every challenge into success. Our salutations to the scientists for the success of anti-satellite missile system!