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A high point of science, technology and innovation

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Looking back on 75 years of independence, I am proud of our country’s socio-economic progress. Long-term colonial rule robbed India of much of its wealth and, more importantly, the skills needed to sustain economic growth. In 1947, it started as a poor country with a GDP of only Rs.270,000 and grain production of only 50 million tons. Educating the people, feeding the population, enforcing democracy, promoting industry and trade, and national security remain challenges. It is against this background that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), founded in 1942, has been charged with developing an ecosystem of science, technology and innovation.

Establishment of research institute

The CSIR’s immediate priority was to establish a number of national laboratories under its umbrella and promote similar organizations on its own. With government and industry support, CSIR started five of its own laboratories and sourced resources through crowdsourcing. Similarly, in collaboration with Sir Drabji Tata Trust and the Government of Bombay, the Government of India (through CSIR) initiated the Tata Institute for Basic Research, which provided substantial financial support in the early years. .

Among the first examples of finding solutions based on science and technology was the harmonization of different existing calendar systems. A committee chaired by Meghnad Saha was established to deal with this issue. The Commission’s report was published by CSIR in 1955, after which it became accepted as the national calendar and is now one of the elements of national identity. Another early example of independence was dealing with the challenges of conducting democratic elections. This meant preventing fraud, including double voting by the same person. CSIR’s National Physical Laboratory has developed an indelible ink composed of silver nitrate to address this concern. Indelible ink is still used today and exported to many countries and is undoubtedly one of the most valuable gifts CSIR has given to the nation.

leather story

At the time of independence, India did not have well-established industries in many sectors. The informal labor sector was also very disorganized, with no skills developed for specific industry segments. Therefore, tCSIR’s main mission was to support the development of local industry by making the latest technology available and training the necessary manpower.

A prominent example of CSIR’s contribution in this context is the development of the leather industry. The manufacture of finished leather goods remained elusive due to the lack of a well-established leather industry and related technology, which at the time of independence he employed fewer than 25,000 people. In the 1970s, the government banned the export of rawhide and decided to impose a 25% export tax on semi-finished leather products. These decisions marked a turning point as far as the development of the Indian leather industry is concerned.

Today, more than 50 years later, the leather industry has a workforce of over 4.5 million people, the majority of whom are women, and the market for Indian leather goods is thriving around the world. Indian exports in this sector make her close to $6 billion.

CSIR’s footprint in this area has been transformative. First, in 1948, when the CSIR-Central Leather Research Institute (CLRI) was established, he developed the technology for finished leather products, including the first domestic production of leather chemical products, and transitioned from semi-finished leather to finished leather. made possible. In addition, CSIR-CLRI regularly trained the next generation of talents in the leather industry. As a result, more than 40% of his employees employed in the leather industry are directly or indirectly trained in his CSIR-CLRI. Human resource development across all sectors, with a focus on science, technology and innovation, is a hallmark of CSIR.

Success in the pharmaceutical industry

The Green Revolution is one of the crowning glories of science, technology and innovation. Likewise, the emergence of the generic drug industry in India has an interesting history. During the Green Revolution, CSIR’s footprint could be seen in the development of pesticides and the mechanization of agriculture. Bengal Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals was founded by Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray long before independence, but the chemical industry needed the impetus it needed to mature.

After independence, two public companies were established after independence based on technologies developed in CSIR’s laboratories (Hindustan Insecticides and Hindustan Organic Chemicals). Similarly, the production of anti-HIV drugs by processes developed at the CSIR Institute has provided the necessary impetus for the growth of generic drug companies. They certainly represent an excellent example of the interaction between academia and industry from the early days of independence.

Agricultural mechanization was achieved through the proprietary development of Swaraj tractors at the CSIR-Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute (CMERI), forming Punjab Tractors in 1970. In particular, CSIR-CMERI’s technical team has migrated to this company. , introduces one of the first successful models of spin-off companies from domestic academia.

road to independence

Significant impacts of CSIR are also seen in the food and nutrition industry, the aerospace sector, the health and biotechnology industry, the protection of India’s traditional knowledge systems, and the promotion of crops to boost farmers’ incomes. For example, in the 1950s, when it seemed impossible to solve the infant feeding problem, CSIR successfully developed a technology to convert buffalo milk into a powder and commercialized it with the help of Amul Industries. .

Recent CSIR aroma missions have changed the lives of thousands of farmers across the country. Lavender cultivation in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir is drawing global attention as India’s ‘Purple Revolution’.

Thus, there are many examples of science, technology and innovation that have enabled India to take a decisive step towards becoming an Atmanilva Nation. But true Atman Nirvata emerges only if we remain at the forefront of future technological developments. This is clearly a task for CSIR.

We believe that Indian society has become increasingly prosperous due to science, technology and innovation driven development, but challenges to the future remain a threat. Reduce dependence on natural resources, make all industrial processes cyclical and leave no trace of human activity, make technology greener, and provide all ample opportunities for sustainable living in cities or villages. It continues to be a priority of science and technology.

Dr. Shekhar Mande is the former Executive Director of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

published to

August 14, 2022