Renowned scientist Pushpa Mitra Bhargava, the founder director of CSIR-Centre for Cellular Molecular Biology (CCMB) here, who returned his Padma Bhushan award two years ago in protest against the NDA government’s stance towards liberal ethos in the country, died today. He was 88, CCMB sources said. The scientist, popularly known as P M Bhargava, had been suffering from multiple health problems for some time now. He passed away around 6 PM, they said. Bhargava, a reputed molecular biologist, is survived by a son and a daughter, they said. Expressing deep sadness over Bhargava’s demise, a release issued by the staff of the CCMB said it was his vision and pioneering efforts that led to the establishment of the CCMB in 1977 as an institution for research in basic biology. Bhargava is a pioneer in the field of biotechnology in the country and he was instrumental in setting up a separate department for biotechnology (DBT) in the Union Ministry of Science and Technology in the 1970s, according to his portal linked to CCMB’s website.
Bhargava held various positions, including the vice- chairman of the national knowledge commission during 2005-07. He is recipient of over 100 national and international honours and awards, including the Padma Bhushan in 1986 and the Legion d’Honneur in 1998 from then President of France, it said. Born in Rajasthan’s Ajmer, Bhargava studied at Theosophical College, Lucknow and Queen’s College, Varanasi and completed his BSc in 1944 in Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics.
He obtained his MSc in organic chemistry in 1946. He received his PhD in synthetic organic chemistry from the Lucknow University at the age of 21, it said. Bhargava went to the USA in 1953 and worked as a project associate at a laboratory for cancer research. He played an active part in the discovery of 5-fluorouracil, an anticancer drug, it said. He worked at different research institutions in United Kingdom and France. He was instrumental in pioneering research in the field of Biology and published numerous papers.
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, according to the portal. Bhargava had been a critic of the government policies. He served as a member in the National Security Advisory Board and was a nominee of the Supreme Court of India on the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) of the Union government.
He had opposed the approval of GM in India and called for a moratorium of at least 15 years on genetically modified crops in the country, it said. Bhargava had returned his Padma Bhushan award in 2015 in protest against the alleged intolerance in the country thus facing flak from various quarters. “I have decided to return the award. The reason is that the present government is moving away from the path of democracy, moving towards the path of making the country Hindu religious autocracy just like Pakistan. This is not acceptable… something I find unacceptable,” he had said then. Last month, two other eminent scientists – Yash Pal and U R Rao – have passed away.