Remembering Raja Ramanna: The Unsung Man Who Put India on the Nuclear Power Map…
41years ago, Indian physicist, Raja Ramanna, was invited to stay in Iraq, as a prized guest of Saddam Hussein. As expected, such an invite sent by the Iraqi dictator to a nuclear physicist, was not all that cordial and had a hidden agenda.
Surprisingly, this was just four years after Dr Ramanna conducted India’s first nuclear test in Pokhran.
A 1974 event that shook the world out of its slumber as India renounced its status as a ‘Third world country’ to move towards becoming a ‘developed nation’, also affected Saddam.
Angry and desperate, Saddam wanted Dr Ramanna to stay back and lead the country’s nuclear programme to create an Iraqi nuclear bomb.
He was even taken on a tour to Baghdad and Iraq’s main nuclear facility at Tuwaitha, and at the end of the trip, an offer was made by Saddam.
“You have done enough for your country. Don’t go back. Stay here and take over our nuclear programme. I will pay you whatever you want,” was the statement Saddam made, as reported in a book, Saddam’s Bomb, by British journalists Shyam Bhatia and Daniel McGrory.
Perplexed, scared and afflicted by a sleepless night, the 53-year-old (then) wasn’t sure if he might ever see India again, and at the next opportunity, booked a flight and fled.
Although a sensitive topic of discussion for the late scientist, this incident, after so many years, stands out as an interesting one reflecting India’s advancement as a prominent nuclear power, all thanks to Dr Ramanna.
Hence, on his 94th birth anniversary, it is important to remember him as the visionary scientist who is the reason behind India’s promising strides in nuclear science.
A multifaceted talent
Born on January 28, 1925, in Tumkur, Karnataka, Dr Ramanna was a protégé of Dr Homi Bhabha, the founding father of the Indian nuclear programme.
His acquaintance with Dr Bhabha also had a musical beginning, when they were set up to meet in 1944 by a mutual friend, based on their shared passion for music, especially Mozart.
That meeting eventually brought the two closer, as five years later, Dr Ramanna landed a job at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), the centre of India’s atomic energy programme. Under Dr Bhabha’s guidance, he went on the lead the first underground nuclear test on May 18, 1974 at Pokhran, Rajasthan.
But being an internationally renowned scientist was not all, he was an administrator and a teacher as well. A perfect example of a man reflecting the blend of science, technology and arts, he was also a scholar with a penchant for Sanskrit literature, and an accomplished pianist, with several concerts to his credit.
His deep interest in philosophy was said to have given him a holistic understanding of science.
In an interview, he had reportedly said, “The Greek understanding of an atom was more from a philosophical point of view; but the current idea of dividing until we come to an ultimate indivisible unit, is very clearly explained in Visheshika theory. Thus, the idea of an atom has been hovering in people’s mind for a very long time more deeply in India than anywhere else.”
This was not all.
He was also an author, the first and only former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), to have penned an autobiography, Years of Pilgrimage: An Autobiography.
Later, he wrote a book on music as well, The Structure of Music in Raga and Western Systems, in 1993.
The story behind the ‘Smiling Buddha’
On May 18, 1974, Dr Ramanna played a crucial role in making India’s first underground nuclear bomb explosion a reality.
Despite the criticism it garnered, the nuclear test did not hurt anyone, nor did it intend to. The only idea was to send out a strong message to the world. It was hence called the “Peaceful Nuclear Explosion” with an interesting code name: The Smiling Buddha; as it took place on Buddha Jayanti!
But, at the initial stages, it was a top-secret project, as Dr R Chidambaram, former chairman of the AEC recollected.
In an interview published by the DAE in 1998, Chidambaram said that to maintain secrecy the first step was not to put anything in writing.
The next was to work on the project on a part-time basis.
According to him, Dr Ramanna had begun thinking about developing a nuclear explosion even before the death of Dr Bhabha in 1966.
“Once the clearance (for conducting the test) had been obtained by Dr Ramanna, the crucial thing was to move the plutonium. That was moved with the help of a military convoy – in an unannounced box – and the people in the convoy were wondering why Roy and I were always keeping close to the box. I remember the excitement when we safely reached Pokhran with the consignment. Incidentally, when we lowered the device, there was a dust storm that worried us. But in the event, it helped us. For no spy satellite picked it up,” Chidambaram recollected.
The erudite scientist won several awards, including the three of the four most prominent Indian civilian awards–Padma Bhushan, Padma Shri and Padma Vibhushan.
Even after his death 15 years ago on September 24, 2004, his contributions to the field of science, technology as well as defence, continue to drive India towards a developed tomorrow!
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)
Source……..Ananya Barua in http://www.the betterindia.com
The Forgotten Story of the Freedom Fighter Who Spent 14 Years in a Portuguese Prison…
Besides the pristine beaches, finger-licking seafood, and the unending fun that Goa is all about, the state is also steeped in history and culture.
While the rest of the country was aligning itself to fight the British, there was a movement in Goa as well to liberate itself from the Portuguese.
The Portuguese rule in Goa began in 1498 and lasted for as long as 450 years. Vasco da Gama, the Portuguese explorer landed in Calicut after setting off from Lisbon in 1498.
In 1510, when Goa was under the rule of Sultan Adil Shah of Bijapur, the Portuguese attacked the territory under the command of Alfonso de Albuquerque.
Since the Sultan was engaged with his forces elsewhere, the Portuguese were met with little resistence as their forces advanced. On December 19, 1961, Goa was liberated from Portuguese colonial rule and integrated to the Indian Union by the Indian Armed Forces with little resistance
With this conquest, the Portuguese became the first Europeans to establish their rule on the Indian sub-continent.
It is no wonder that Goa is often referred to as the ‘Lisbon of the East’.
While the rest of the country was aligning itself to fight the British, there was a movement in Goa as well to liberate itself from the Portuguese.
Mohan Ranade and the Goa Liberation movement
Born in 1929 in Sangli, Maharastra, Ranade was a qualified lawyer, who was deeply inspired by leaders like G D Savarkar and V D Savarkar, who were both freedom fighters and nationalists.
To free Goa from the Portuguese rule, he joined the Azad Gomantak Dal.
Ranade entered Goa in the early 1950s, disguised as a Marathi teacher and got involved in covert activities against the Portuguese colonial regime.
He carried out armed attacks against Portuguese police posts, the last of which at Betim, in October 1955, led to his being injured and captured by the Portuguese.
Realising that a movement like the satyagraha wouldn’t help in Goa’s liberation, a different approach was undertaken.
In a report published by the Nav Hindi Times, Ranade says, “We started gathering people and soon began our armed attacks against Portuguese police posts in Goa. We led an attack on Nagar Haveli on July 28, 1954, and liberated it on August 2. The successful annexation of Dadra and Nagar Haveli provided the liberation movement in Goa with renewed vigour and motivation to continue the liberation struggle. On August 15, 1954, hundreds of people crossed the Portuguese Goan borders, defying a ban by the Indian government on participating in satyagrahas.”
The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back and essentially led to Ranade’s arrest was the attack on the Banastarim police station on January 1, 1955. This attack led to Ranade being sentenced to imprisonment for 26 years, of which he spent six in solitary confinement.
Despite various movements and leaders, including former Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru, seeking Ranade’s release, nothing worked until January 25 1969, a day before India’s Republic Day, when he was released early.
It was in fact the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, C N Annadurai, who spoke to the Pope about Ranade’s imprisonment and sought his intervention.
CM Annadurai meeting the Pope
It was only after this that he was released.
After his release, Ranade came back to India and chose to live in Pune.
However, year on year, on two occasions Ranade makes sure he returns to Goa; June 18, which is celebrated as Revolution Day, and on December 19, which is Goa’s Liberation Day.
While we celebrate and write about the various freedom fighters of our nation, here is one more name that we ought to remember.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)
Source….Vidya Raja in http://www.the betterindia.com
How an Idea, …and an Ad … and Some Italians Got us the Auto Rickshaw!!!
After that glorious stroke at midnight in August 1947, following two centuries under the colonial yoke, India finally became free.
While citizens reeled under the after-effects of a hurried partition, leaders had a mammoth task at hand. They needed to plan and act towards the development of the new nation—economically and socially—and her people as producers and consumers.
“Correcting the disequilibrium” in the economy and an improvement in “the living standards” of the people featured in the objectives for the First Five Year Plan(1951-52 to 1955-56).
In a February 1947 session of then Bombay’s legislative assembly, a member raised the inhuman conditions of rickshaw pullers. This discussion set many wheels in motion.
Morarji Desai, then Home Minister of Bombay province, suggested that cycle rickshaws be discontinued.
Navalmal Kundalmal Firodia, a freedom fighter, saw in this an opportunity to provide low-cost public transport to the country. The image of a three-wheeler “goods carrier” from a trade paper caught his eye and inspiration.
He submitted a plan to Desai and was told that if the vehicle was satisfactory from “a technical viewpoint”, it could be permitted under the public conveyance plan.
Firodia’s Jaya Hind Industries, set up a joint venture with Bachhraj Trading Corporation (later Bajaj Auto Private Limited), to replicate the vehicle in the image. It was manufactured by Italy’s Piaggio.
To better understand the nuances, Firodia bought a scooter and two three-wheeler goods carriers from the Italian company, studying the models and making several modifications to arrive at the final product.
Painted in hues of green and yellow, it was a mix of the hand-drawn carriages of the time and the automated two-wheeler. This contraption would soon become commonplace on Indian roads and affix its reliability on the Indian psyche.
The industrialist in Firodia had perhaps foreseen how it would enable independent Indians to undertake convenient and affordable trips around the country’s myriad cities and towns.
With the approval in the Bombay province, he saw and used another opportunity to popularise his vehicle—the prohibition of cycle rickshaws in Pune.
By December 1950, N Keshava Iyengar, the Mayor of Bangalore, approved the licenses of ten auto rickshaws in the capital of the princely state of Mysore. These vehicles “resembled a scooter pulling a passenger cabin attached to its rear”.
Iyengar inaugurated the first auto and is even said to have volunteered to take the vehicle’s owners, a Bangalorean man and his Italian wife, on its maiden journey!
While people hailed the autos, the jatka union (hand-drawn cart) in Bangalore and the tongawallahs in Pune were unimpressed; the last-mile connectivity to and from public transport that auto rickshaws provided stood in their way.
As did the restrictions from the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Act, 1969.
A coffee-table about Kamalnayan Bajaj, the pioneer of Bajaj Auto, highlights this in the following words.
“In the beginning, we were licensed to make 1,000 scooters and auto rickshaws per month. In 1962, we applied to increase manufacturing capacity to 30,000 and 6,000 auto rickshaws per year. In 1963, we applied to increase capacity from 24,000 scooters to 48,000. In 1970, we asked for 100,000. Eventually, in 1971, the government approved an increase to 48,000.”
While the Bajajs and Firodias went their separate ways, with the auto rickshaw coming under the Bajaj Group, Bangalore’s ten auto rickshaws grew to 40.
The fact that middle-class Indians did not yet have enough disposable income to own vehicles furthered the popularity of the auto rickshaw, and it became the symbol of affordable urban transport.
This was true not only for India, but also for other developing countries. By 1973, Bajaj Auto was exporting three-wheelers to Nigeria, Bangladesh, Australia, Sudan, Bahrain, Hong Kong and Yemen.
In the financial year 1977, the company introduced rear engine auto rickshaws and sold 100,000 vehicles.
Until 1980, the vehicles were only allowed to carry two passengers at a time. However, this changed in the next two decades, and today, autos can transport as many as can fit themselves on the seats!
As per data from EMBARQ, auto rickshaws in tier-2 cities (population between 1 and 4 million) number between 15,000 and 30,000, to more than 50,000 in tier-1 cities (population more than 4 million).
The sector also employs an estimated 5 million people!
Additionally, the auto rickshaw union is one of the most organised labour groups in the country. They follow the latest trends—from unitedly aping a favourite actor’s haircut to expressing their thoughts on the vehicle.
While auto drivers have been criticised for irregularities in the fare system, and their disregard to the safety of passengers, autos remain the quintessential mode of intermediate or even end-to-end transport for an Indian.
Taxi aggregators born in India and abroad have take note of this, and as a result, co-opted the vehicle in their business models.
Interestingly, Firodia was not just responsible for bringing the three-wheeler goods chassis from Italy and converting it into a passenger vehicle in India, but also coined the term ‘auto-rickshaw’.
The word now finds a place in the Oxford Dictionary, and since its introduction in 1949, the auto has not gone off the road.
Featured image: Pxhere
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)
Source…..Shruti Singhal in http://www.the betterindia.com
How The Legendary Ambassador Conquered Indian Hearts…And Roads!!!!!
What is it that makes the good old ‘Ambassador,’ the only car in India that served dignitaries as well as the common man, a quintessential part of the Indian identity?
Today’s young generation will never entirely be able to fathom the wave of nostalgia that follows the mention of the burly car, or the sense of authority and importance exuded by a fleet of white Ambassadors with a ‘laal-batti.’
The year was 1958 when the Ambassador, a gift that Hindustan Motors gave India and its people, hit the roads for the very first time. It was a true representative of the Make in India initiative, almost half a century before the terminology even came into existence.
It was a car that could endure quite literally anything and did not require one to possess
esoteric knowledge for its maintenance.
In fact, the running joke of the time was that even a kid could repair an Ambassador!
Perhaps that was what the makers had in their mind—a car that was supremely efficient, able to withstand even the worst of potholes, and seat extended families under one roof.
Interestingly, the original Ambassador was modelled upon the Morris Oxford series III model, which Morris Motors Limited manufactured from 1956 to 1959 at Cowley, UK. With a 1,489 cc engine, this was the first car in India to have a diesel engine.
In total, Indians have lived through seven generations of the car, with the first one being Mark-1 and the final one named Encore, which complied with BS-IV engine standards.
The Ambassador’s love affair with the state and bureaucracy was even more deep-seated. The sturdy four-wheeler acquired an altogether new identity when a beacon was fixed atop its roof.
Be it prime ministers, politicians or even civil servants; the Ambassador was the natural option for an official vehicle for many decades. One of its print advertisements used to say, “We are still the driving force of the real leaders.”
It changed only when the late Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee ditched the ‘white elephant’ for a swanky BMW in 2003. It was a move that shocked many, and paved the way for a narrative shift in India’s power optics and with that, end of an era.
Talking of politics, a rather amusing anecdote surrounding the Ambassador is from the days when Pandit Nehru was the PM. While he would usually opt for Indian-made cars for day-to-day travel, he would travel in a Cadillac when it came to receiving foreign heads of state and dignitaries from the airport.
A confused Lal Bahadur Shastri, who was the then External affairs minister, asked Nehru about the switching between cars. Nehru responded that he did this “to let them know that the Indian Prime Minister could also be driven in a Cadillac.
However, when Shastri took over India’s premiership in 1964, he stuck with the Ambassador—even when foreign dignitaries came visiting.
Upon being asked why he didn’t follow Nehru’s practice, he said, “Pandit Nehru was a great man, and it is difficult to emulate him. It makes no difference to me what the foreign dignitaries think as long as they know that the Indian Prime Minister is travelling in a car which is made in India.”
By the mid-1990s, automobile industries from across the world began flocking to India and the market supremacy that Ambassador once enjoyed slowly began to give way to smaller and easily manageable cars like Maruti.
Like the curtains fall after every great play, time was slowly inching up on Ambassador. With the exception of official cars and taxis, there very few of them on the road.
It was in 2014 that Hindustan Motors finally ended the production of Ambassador, following a failed attempt at rebranding the car in a more compact and swanky version titled ‘Amby.’
The customary tribute post by Amul at that time was extremely poignant as it seemed to resonate with almost everyone who had driven the vehicle or even sat on the passenger seat, at some time or the other.
Honestly enough, while cars may come and go in India, nothing will come close to the adulation that the ‘King of Indian Roads,’ as Ambassador was known, has enjoyed.
A car that became the enduring symbol of post-Independence India, the Ambassador will forever remain an intrinsic part of the country and an unforgettable memory for its people.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)
Source….. LekshmiPriya .S in http://www.the betterindia.com
Charvolant: The Kite-Drawn Carriages….
On 8 January 1822, an extraordinary journey was made from Bristol to Marlborough. An English schoolteacher named George Pocock took his wife and his kids on a 182 km-trip in a carriage drawn not by horses but by a couple of enormous kites. Pocock designed the carriage himself, which he called “Charvolant”.
George Pocock was fascinated with kites from a young age, and as he played and experimented with them, he learned that kites had tremendous lifting power. Young Pocock would tie small stones at the end of the string attached to the kite and watch it soar into the skies. As Pocock grew older, his experiments became bolder and more dangerous, usually involving his own children. In one stunt he put his young daughter in a wicker chair, hoisted her up in to the air with a 30-foot-tall kite and then flew her across the Avon Gorge. Fortunately she survived and went on to become the mother of the cricket legend W. G. Grace. Later the same year—year 1824—he flew his son to the top of a 200-foot-tall cliff outside Bristol.
Two years later, he patented the design of his “Charvolant” buggy. The Charvolant consisted of two kites on a single line that was 1,500 to 1,800 feet long (nearly half a kilometer) and was capable of pulling a carriage with several passengers at a fairly fast speed. Steering was achieved by four control lines attached to the kite, and a T-shaped bar that controlled the direction of the front wheels. Braking was provided by an iron bar that could be pushed down into the road.
Shortly after its invention and after many risky trials, Pocock published a book titled The Aeropleustic Art or Navigation in the Air by the use of Kites, or Buoyant Sails, where he sang the virtues of travelling in a Charvolant.
“This mode of travelling is, of all others, the most pleasant,” he wrote. “Privileged with harnessing the invincible winds, our celestial tandem playfully transpierces the clouds, and our mystic-moving car swiftly glides along the surface of the scarce-indented earth; while beholders, snatching a glance at the rapid but noiseless expedition, are led to regard the novel scene rather as a vision than a reality.”
Pocock mentions that during his trials he timed the Charvolant travelling at 20 miles an hour (32 km/h) over considerable distances, and a mile could frequently be covered even over heavy roads in 2 minutes and three-quarters. Because the weight of the vehicle is partially supported by the kite, the buggy glides over any potholes making the journey considerably less bumpy. “The occasional dips and irregularities in the surface of the road are scarcely perceptible,” he wrote.
Pocock tried hard to interest the public in his invention, mentioning that the Charvolant could pass free at turnpike toll gates because tolls were levied according to the number of horses the carriages were pulled by, and the Charvolant had none. Pocock also advocated numerous other uses for kites, such as as auxiliary sail power for ships, as means of dropping anchor and effecting rescues from shipwrecks.
Despite his attempts, the Charvolant failed to ignite the interest of the public, possibly because controlling the buggy was not easy. Nevertheless, Pocock and his family continued to use the Charvolant for day trips until his death in 1843.
Source…..Kaushik in http://www.amusingplanet.com