“This government has no commitment to science or scientific research”: An interview with Pushpa Mittra Bhargava

30 October 2015
Pushpa Mittra Bhargava
Pushpa Mittra Bhargava

Yesterday, Pushpa Mittra Bhargava, a veteran scientist and the founder of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad, announced his decision to return the Padma Bhushan award he had received in 1986. Bhargava said that he was doing so because “the future of democracy is at stake.” During several interviews, he also expressed concern over the fact that people from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh had attended a recent meeting of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research Labs and was critical of the government’s reduced funding for this venture. The scientist noted,“I hold no brief for the earlier UPA regime and I criticised it in my book. However, you must give credit as they did not want to decide what we eat, what we wear and how we behave."

On 28 October 2015, a day before Bhargava made this declaration, 107 distinguished scientists from across the country issued a joint statement online. This statement highlighted the growing “climate of intolerance, and rejection of reason that has led to the lynching in Dadri of Mohammad Akhlaq Saifi and the assassinations of Prof Kalburgi, Dr Narendra Dabholkar and Shri Govind Pansare.” Bhargava was a signatory to this document. Yesterday, he spoke to Atul Dev, a web reporter at The Caravan, over the phone. During this conversation, he elaborated on why he decided to return the award, what he thought the impact of the ongoing protests would be, and how the political climate across the country was adversely effecting the quality of academic research.

Atul Dev: The joint statement issued the day before yesterday by the scientific community of India showed concern for the “active promotion of irrational and sectarian thought by important functionaries of the government.” You have had a long career, and such problems are not unique to this government. What prompted you to take this stand now?

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    Atul Dev is a former staff writer at The Caravan.