Pushpa Mittra Bhargava

PM Bhargava

Dr. Pushpa Mittra Bhargava (Born: 22 Feb, 1928)

Pushpa Mittra Bhargava is the founder and the founder Director of “Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB)” one of the prime research institute of India located in the city of Hyderabad. Bhargava  is a pioneer in the field of biotechnology in India and is one of the earliest persons to use the term “genetic engineering”. In the decade of 70s, Bhargava was instrumental in the setting up of a separate Department for biotechnology (DBT) in the Ministry of Science and Technology of Government of India.

Dr PM Bhargava is currently the chairman of the Medically Aware and Responsible Citizens of Hyderabad, the Sambhavna Trust, Bhopal, and the Basic Research, Education and Development Society (BREAD), New Delhi. Bhargava also served as the Vice-Chairman of the “National Knowledge Commission” during 2005-07. Bhargava is the recipient of over 100 national and international honours and awards including the Padma Bhushan (Received in 1986; which he returned in the year 2015 on matters of principle) and the Legion d’Honneur in 1998 from then President of France.

Dr Bhargava is popularly known as the Architect of Modern Biology in India. [1-5]

Education & Research career


Early Years

PM Bhargava

PM Bhargava in 1950s

P.M. Bhargava was born at Ajmer, Rajasthan on 22nd February 1928 to his father, Dr. Ram Chandra Bhargava, a public health professional and mother, Gayathri Bhargava. [6] P.M. Bhargava studied at Theosophical College, Lucknow and Queen’s College, Varanasi [6], and completed his B.Sc. in 1944 in Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics. [6] He obtained his M.Sc. in Organic Chemistry in 1946. Bhargava received his Ph.D. degree in Synthetic Organic Chemistry from the Lucknow University at the age of twenty one. [6]

Career

Bhargava taught Chemistry at Lucknow University and later joined Osmania University, Hyderabad as a lecturer in the Department of Chemistry. [6] Later, he joined the Central Laboratories for Scientific and Industrial Research as a Research Fellow. [6] Bhargava published 14 research papers at the age of twenty three. In 1953, Bhargava went to the USA on a postdoctoral fellowship as Project Associate at the McArdle Memorial Laboratory for Cancer Research, University of Wisconsin, Madison. [7] He also worked in the laboratory of Charles Heidelberger and played an active part in the discovery of 5-fluorouracil, an anticancer drug. [6][7] Three years later, Bhargava joined the National Institute for Medical Research in the United Kingdom as a special Wellcome Trust Research Fellow for a period of one year. [6] In 1958, Bhargava returned to Hyderabad and joined as “Scientist B” at the Regional Research Laboratory (RRL, now known as “Indian Institute of Chemical Technology”). [6] During 1971-72, he worked at the Institut du Radium, Orsay, Paris, France as an Eleanor Roosevelt International Cancer Research Fellow. [6] [8]

In 1977, Bhargava established the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB). [9] [10] and served the institute as the Founder Director during April 1977 to February 1990. [11] Bhargava conceived the idea of setting up of Jonaki, a Department of Atomic Energy Laboratory for preparation of p32- labelled nucleotide molecules in Hyderabad. [6] The Guha Research Conference, an Indian professional society was the brainchild of Bhargava. [12] [13] Bhargava has played a pivotal role in the setting up of the Department of Biotechnology (Government of India) and has initiated major programmes in the country in areas such as genetic engineering, neurology and origin of life. [1] [6] Bhargava worked with the Max-Planck Institut für Biophysikalische Chemie, Goettingen on several occasions. [14] [15]. In 2005, he initiated and played a major role in drafting the Indian Council for Medical Research’s (ICMR) national guidelines for accreditation, supervision and regulation of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) clinics in India. [16][17]

Dedication of CCMB with Rajiv Gandhi and K R Narayanan

Dedication of CCMB. PM Bhargava with Sri Rajiv Gandhi and Hon’ble President of India Dr. K R Narayanan

Bhargava served as president and executive council member of many Society and professional organizations of India. Mentioning a few, the Society for Scientific values [18] [19], Society for Biological Chemists of India during 1981-82, [20] , Association for the Promotion of DNA Fingerprinting and other DNA Technologies (ADNAT), [21] and Indian Academy of Social Sciences during 1992-93. [22] Bhargava also served as the Vice-Chairman of the “National Knowledge Commission” during 2005-07. [23] [24]

In 1995, Bhargava established a social organisation called Medically Aware and Responsible Citizens of Hyderabad (MARCH) and he is currently serving as its Chairperson. [25][26] He is also the Chairperson of Sambhavna Trust. [27][28][29]

Bhargava has worked in the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany and has traveled in over 50 countries. [19]. He retired from the directorship of CCMB in 1990 following which, he was honored with CSIR Distinguished Fellowship until 1993. [30] Bhargava has participated in over 100 international meetings and has delivered over 2000 invited lectures in India. [19] He has authored over 125 research articles and over 500 popular articles in a variety of subjects such as education, propagation of scientific temper, rationality and objective reasoning, ethics in science and medicine, accountability in science, the relationship between MNCs, governments and bureaucrats, food security, agricultural security, the relationship between science and art, debunking homeopathy, astrology, god men and intellectual property rights. [1][19] [31][32][33][34][35][36]

Architect of Modern Biology in India


Establishment of CCMB

CSIR-Centre of Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB)

CSIR-Centre of Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB)

Bhargava founded the Centre of Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), a prime a research organization in areas of modern biology in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh.[1][2][37]CCMB was initially set up 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. [6] During 1981-82, CCMB was accorded the status of a full-fledged national laboratory with its own Executive Committee and Scientific Advisory Council. [37] The institute was built at a cost of Rs 12.5 crore (Rs 125 million) against an estimate of Rs 67 crore. [1]

Role in setting up DBT

In 1978-79, Bhargava suggested the setting up of a separate department for biotechnology in the Ministry of Science and Technology.[1] A high power meeting was called by MGK Menon, the former Union minister of state for science and technology and scientific adviser to the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. [1] An apex body was established first and finally the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) was set up in 1986. [38] His vision for DBT was to focus on developing the biotechnology industry in India and encourage commercialization of publicly funded research work.

Policy maker in Indian science

Saga of Indian Science: PM Bhargava

The Saga of Indian Science since Independence: In a Nutshell. Pushpa M. Bhargava, Chandana Chakrabarti

Bhargava has been a well-known critic of Indian government policies. He served as a member in the National Security Advisory Board [39] and was a nominee of the Supreme Court of India on the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) of the Government of India.[40] [41] [42] [43] He opposed the approval of GM in India and called for a moratorium of at least 15 years on genetically modified crops in the country. [44]

Bhargava has also opposed the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) bill calling it unconstitutional, unethical, unscientific, self-contradictory, and not people-oriented. [44] He identified various flaws of the bill and pointed out that it would affect agriculture, health of humans and animals and the environment.[44] He has pointed out that the broadly defined term “confidential commercial information” has been kept outside the purview of the Right to Information Act. [44] He stated that the bill uses vague wordings which would criminalize sequencing or isolation of DNA and PCR techniques thus requiring approval for each usage which would in turn hinder research and education. [44] He pointed out the bill has no provision for mandatory labelling of GM foods. He criticized giving the body power to punish parties making false or misleading statements about GM crops, calling it unprecedented. [44]

He was appointed the Vice-Chairman of the National Knowledge Commission (NKC) in 2005 [23]; however, he was dropped from the NKC in 2007 due to differences with the chairman, Sam Pitroda. [24] [45] [46]

Bhargava has been on the board of several companies and has also advised many start-ups.

The Method of Science exhibition

The Method of Science exhibition

PMB and NTR Inauguration of “Method of Science” Exhibition at Hyderabad in 1984

In 1975, Bhargava was approached by Rais Ahmed, the then Director of the National Council for Education Research and Training to conceptualize and prepare a national exhibition on the method of science. [47] The exhibition was prepared in Hyderabad at the then Regional Research Laboratory (now IICT) between 1975-76 with funding and support from organisations in India and abroad. [47] The objective of this exhibition was to make people aware of the method that science uses to acquire knowledge and the attributes of this knowledge. [48]

The exhibition was set up in Bal Bhavan, Delhi during January- March 1977. The Morarji Desai Government found the exhibition undesirable and covertly arranged for it to be dismantled in August 1998. This vandalizing incident raised much public hue and cry on the national and international front and eventually led to a court case. [47] [49] The stolen exhibition was then located and purchased by the Andhra Pradesh Government. It was redone and launched in Hyderabad where it became a major academic attraction. After a while, it lost the patronage of the Government and once again fell into disarray. With Bhargava’s permission, it was then transferred to Birla Science Centre, Hyderabad where it was never exhibited. [47] The story of this much publicized exhibition was extensively covered in a book titled ‘Vandalization of a Work of Art and Science’ by B. Premanand. [50]

A Statement on Scientific Temper

In the October 1980, a group of academicians and intellectuals from diverse fields discussed and debated for four days at Coonoor, Tamil Nadu about the state of scientific temper and the initiatives needed to halt the process of decay of rationality in the India. [30] These discussions led to the release of a document titled “A Statement on Scientific Temper” by P N Haskar, P M Bhargava and Raja Ramanna. [30] [51] This document was released on July 19, 1981 at the Nehru Centre in Bombay. [30] [51] The document outlined the need to inculcate the values of Scientific Temper in Indian Society to rid the country of its socio-economic evils. The Statement was expected to usher in a second renaissance to provide the necessary fillip for the re-structuring of India embodying the aspirations of the people. The Statement called for a major role of Scientific Temper in reviving confidence and hope and dispelling a fatalistic outlook. [30] [51] This document also pointed out that the use of technological advances to solve the nation’s problems was not possible in the absence of scientific temper. The document elucidated the use of scientific methods to counteract the superstitious dogmas that are prevalent in India. [30] [51] [52]

Rationalism and science popularization

Angels, Devil and Science

Angels, Devil and Science (A Collection of Articles on Scientific Temper). Pushpa M. Bhargava, Chandana Chakrabarti National Book Trust, 2007 – 283 pages

Bhargava has long been involved in the promotion of science and rationality and opposing superstition. [53][54] 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 propagate scientific temper. [55] In January 1964, he along with Satish Dhawan and Abdur Rahman set up an organisation called “The Society for the Promotion of Scientific Temper”. [47] [51] This organization was launched at an international symposium on nucleic acids held at the then Regional Research Laboratory. [47]

He has participated in many debates regarding the scientific community and has criticized the deplorable lack of scientific temper in the society. [32] He is an ardent atheist. [56] He has been one of the few rationalists in India to raise his voice against influential god men. [57] He is a major advocate of scientific temper. He has played an important role in having scientific temper incorporated as a fundamental duty of the citizens of India which was included in Article 51A in the 42nd Amendment of the Constitution in 1976. [32] He was one of the key architects of the widely known “Statement on scientific temper” which was released on July 19, 1981 by the Nehru Centre in Bombay. [33] [52] This statement has been a subject of debates and discussions in several forums and continues to be referred to in writings and speeches even today. [51] During the NDA rule in February 2001, the University Grants Commission (UGC) decided to offer courses on Vedic Astrology in Indian Universities. [58] [59] Bhargava, along with other scientists including Prof. Yash Pal and Prof. J.V Narlikar strongly opposed this move. He filed a writ petition by way of public interest litigation against the UGC, which was dismissed by the Supreme Court. [60] [61]

At his initiative, the ICMR set up an INCLAP (Indian National Clinical Laboratory Parameters) task force, a high-power task force to review Indian reference standards for 272 chosen clinical laboratory parameters. This task force was chaired by Bhargava and it has attracted nation-wide attention. [26]

Awards and Honours


Receiving the Wattamull award from PM Nehru in the presence of Mrs. Wattamull 1962, New Delhi

PMB Receiving the Wattamull award from PM Nehru in the presence of Mrs. Wattamull 1962, New Delhi, India

Bhargava is a recipient of over 100 national and international honours and awards including:

• Legion d’honneur from the President of France (1998) [62]
• Padma Bhushan from the President of India (Received in 1986, returned in the year 2015 on matters of principle) [63] [64]
• Fellowship of World Academy of Art and Science(1992) [65]
• Fellowship of National Academy of Medical Sciences, India (1979) [66]
• Fellowship of all the three Indian Science Academies, but from which he resigned on matters of principle
• Hon. D.Sc. (University of Burdwan) (1988)
• National Citizens Award (India)(1988) [30]
• Visiting Professorship, College de France, Paris [19]
• Life Fellowship, Clare Hall, Cambridge
• Watumull Memorial Prize for Biochemistry(1962)
• B.N Chopra Award of Indian National Science Academy(1989)
• Prithvi Nath Memorial Award( 1989)
• FICCI Award for Medical Sciences (1979)
• Ranbaxy Award for Medical Sciences (1989)
• SICO Award for Biotechnology (1991)
• Goyal Prize for Biology (1993)
• R.D. Birla Award for Medical Sciences (1994)
• BioSpectrum’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Biotechnology, 2007 [67]
• Life-Time Achievement Award, Hyderabad Management Association (2009) [68]
• Eleanor Roosevelt International Cancer Research Fellowship Award [1970]
• Distinguished Scientist” Award of the CSIR (1977)
• CSIR Distinguished Fellowship (1990)
• A genus of bacteria, Bhargavaea cecembensis was named in his honour [69]

Books


The books authored by Dr Bhargava include:

• Proteins of Seminal Plasma, published by John Wiley, New York; [70]
• National integrated science text book for 11–12 years-old;
• The Saga of Indian Science since Independence: In a Nutshell [71]
• Angels, Devil and Science [72]
• An Agenda for The Nation [73]
• Two Faces of Beauty: Science and Art [73] [74]

Positions Held


• Director, Centre For Cellular and Molecular Biology
• President, Society of Biological Chemists of India
• President, Indian Academy of Social Sciences
• Executive Council, Association for Promotion of DNA Fingerprinting and Other DNA Technologies
• Vice-Chairman, National Knowledge Commission, Government of India
• Member, National Security Advisory Board, Government of India

References


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How to cite: Banu, S. & Verma, S.K. (February 2016). “Biography of Pushpa Mittra Bhargava”. www.pmbhargava.com. (PMB Memoirs: Nine Decades of PM Bhargava). Last updated on 14/02/2016.
(Biography last updated on 14/02/2016; Contributions: Banu, S. & Verma, S.K.)
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