Pushpa Mittra Bhargava
||This biographical article needs additional citations for verification. (August 2012)|
|Pushpa Mittra Bhargava|
|Institutions||Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB)|
|Notable awards||Watumull Memorial Prize for Biochemistry(1962), Padma Bhushan (1986), National Citizen's Award of India (1988), D.Sc. from University of Burdwan (1988), B. N. Chopra Award of Indian National Science Academy (1989), Prithvi Nath Memorial Award (1989), Ranbaxy Research Award for Medical Sciences (1989), SICO award for Biotechnology (1990), Rameshwardas Birla National Award(1994), Legion d’Honneur|
Bhargava was born in Ajmer (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 10 years old, his family shifted to Varanasi. 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 UP at that time. 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.
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. 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 and was involved in discovery of the anti-cancer drug 5-fluorouracil. 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. 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 ) as scientist B.
Bhargava has worked in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany, and has travelled in over 50 countries. He has produced more than 125 scientific publications. Most of his research career has been 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. He authored close to 500 articles in the last five decades, on a wide range of areas outside science, 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, godmen, and other practices; and intellectual property rights.
Establishment of CCMB
Dr Bhargava set up the Centre of Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh. 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 Dr P M Bhargava heading the new Centre. During 1981-82, CCMB was accorded the status of a full-fledged national laboratory with its own Executive Committee and Scientific Advisory Council. The institute was built at a cost of Rs 12.5 crore (Rs 125 million) against an estimate of Rs 67 crore.
Policy maker in Indian science
Dr Bhargava has been a well-known critic of Indian governmental policies, and has attained the post of Vice-Chairman in the National Knowledge Commission. He has also 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 has opposed the approval of GM foods in India. He has also opposed the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill, calling it "unconstitutional, unethical, unscientific, self-contradictory, and not people-oriented".
Rationalism and science popularisation
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.
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.
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 babas. The Angels, Devil and Science, a book written by PMB deals with the very subject of scientific temper in India. 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. 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. Dr Bhargava, along with hundreds of other scientists, including Prof Yash Pal and Prof J. V. Narlikar opposed it strongly. Dr Bhargava also challenged the concerned Ministry in the Supreme Court through a Public Interest Litigation which was dismissed by the SC.
The books authored by Dr Bhargava include:
- Proteins of Seminal Plasma, published by John Wiley, New York;
- National integrated science text book for 11- to 12-year-olds;
- The Saga of Indian Science since Independence: In a Nutshell,
- Angels, Devil and Science,
- An Agenda for The Nation, and
- The Two Faces of Beauty: Science and Art 
He is a recipient of over 100 national and international honors and awards including:
- Legion d'Honneur from the President of France (France’s highest honour)
- Padma Bhushan from the President of India in 1986
- Fellowship of World Academy of Art and Science
- Fellowship of National Academy of Medical Sciences, India
- Fellowship of all the three Indian Science Academies, but from which he resigned on matters of principle
- Hon. D.Sc. (University of Burdwan)
- National Citizens Award (India)
- Visiting Professorship, College de France
- Life Fellowship, Clare Hall, Cambridge
- Wattumal Memorial Prize for Biochemistry
- FICCI Award for Medical Sciences
- Ranbaxy Award for Medical Sciences
- SICO Award for Biotechnology
- Goyal Prize
- R.D. Birla Award for Medical Sciences
- BioSpectrum’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Biotechnology
- "About CCMB > Profile". Ccmb.res.in. 1977-04-01. Retrieved 2012-08-20.
- Bhargava P.M. and Chakrabarti C. 2008. Angels, Devil and Science. NATIONAL BOOK TRUST, INDIA
- "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Retrieved July 21, 2015.