It is always when faced with adversity that India has blazed a trail. It is always when sanctions have been slapped on the country that we have soared beyond the bonds. A few heartwarming stories from the CSIR chronicles:
Amul Milk Food:
During 1970 all the baby milk food was imported. India’s request to some multinationals to set up manufacturing facility was turned down on the pretext that India did not have enough cow’s milk and that the buffalo milk has too much fat. CSIR stepped in to develop a process to manufacture baby food from buffalo milk with excellent digestibility and handed it over to the Kaira Milk Producers Cooperative Ltd. The Cooperative began manufacturing and marketing baby milk food and the seeds of the industry were sown by CSIR.
Catalysts are at the heart of a trillion dollar industry. Multinational cartels have dominated this fiercely protected sector. In a remarkable display of Indian prowess CSIR successfully reversed the technology transfer process. Instead of the usual technology flow into India; the cheaper, safer, longer-lasting Zeolite technology was transferred out of India…to Multinationals!
There are estimated 20 millions AIDS victim worldwide. Their only source of succor is the anti-HIV drugs cocktail. CSIR developed alternative and cheaper processes for manufacture of these drugs and transferred the technology to CIPLA, which introduced this drug in India and other third world countries at a fraction of the original price. CIPLA’s aggressive pricing policy has not only forced the multinational competitors to reduce their drug prices, but has also opened up the issue of affordable life saving medicines to the poor at a global level, leading finally to the DOHA-Declaration.
In the 1980 India was starved of Computer- power. Supercomputers from the west were either too expensive or not sold to India. CSIR therefore decided to connect several sequential computers in parallel to get supercomputing power. Flosolver, India’s first parallel computer was built in 1986. Flosolver’s success triggered other successful parallel computing projects in the country such as PARAM. These Denial-driven innovations led Washington Post to remark, “And Angry India does It!!”
Caring For The Environment
“…let there be Peace in the sky and in the atmosphere, peace in the plant world and in the forests; let the cosmic powers be peaceful…” Atharvaveda.
CSIR has always been sensitive and proactive in the field of environmental sciences and remediation. A glance at some of the noteworthy activities in the field:
Nearly one-seventh of resource-rich India is barren land, which includes mine dumps, saline lane and flies ash dumps. CSIR has taken early initiatives in remedial action. A coal mine spoil dump in Padampur has been converted into a water body for aquaculture.
A manganese spoil dump has been revegetate into the lush green forest at Gumgaon, Nagpur. Eroded land has been converted into a valuable asset through the cultivation of non-traditional, oil-bearing Jojoba, Salicornia, Jatropha and Salvadora plants. In Gujarat, more than 250 hectares of deserted salt pans have reclaimed by planting about 6 lakh plants.
Much before the quality of air over major Indian cities became standard announcement on national television, CSIR had been studying the atmosphere of major Indian cities for 10 years and had created an invaluable database. CSIR’s exhaustive studies on modeling and simulation on auto pollution in cities have been key to the formation of the National Auto Fuel policy 2002.When Fluorosis struck regions of Andhra Pradesh, CSIR developed the Nalgonda Technique to rid water of the offending fluorides. The Pollen calendar for India as prepared by CSIR is of immense help to asthmatics allergic to pollen grain.
Creating India’s Bio-future
" We already are moving from 'chem-present' to 'bio future'. India has all the required comparative advantages in terms of its biodiversity as well as skilled human resources, to become a superpower in biotechnology."
R A Mashelkar, Director General(1995-2006)
Council of Scientific & Industrial Research:
The Bamboo Breakthrough:
Bamboo flowers only once during its lifetime and that too just once in seven to a hundred years, depending on the species. The flowering is called gregarious flowering because all the bamboo clumps flower at the same time. The plants die after flowering. In 1990, CSIR scientists created history made bamboo flowering within weeks possible by using tissue culture technologies. This astonishing breakthrough made news all over the world with the New York Time reporting the success on its front page, making it first-ever for the Indian science.
Genestory I: A novel recombinant cholera vaccine designed and tested safe for human use has been developed by CSIR. A natural streptokinase enzyme obtained through recombinant bacteria paved the way for the indigenous manufacturer of the drug and enabled sharp price reduction.
When the first draft of the 3.2 billion bases of the human genome sequence was unraveled in 2000, the opportunities to harvest this information for future health care became immediately visible to CSIR. GenoMed a knowledge alliance, the first of its kind was forged with an Indian pharma company with the highest knowledge fee in the history for CSIR. This reflected the confidence of the private sector in the CSIR. This pioneering public-private partnership was the first to realize the benefits from human research genome in the form of affordable healthcare for people in India.
- Uses indigenous probes to identify specific DNA sequences.
- Used for establishing paternity and plant variety identification. Critical evidence in cases including the Rajiv Gandhi murder and Tandoor murder case.
- Basmati Database creation for IPR protection.
- Wildlife management.
The Wealth of India:
One of the first CSIR initiatives after its establishment was to begin documenting the rich resources available in India. The effort culminated in the Wealth of India, a 20-volume authoritative reference material. The treatise has proved invaluable as information- source for economically important plants, animals, minerals and their applications.
Creating Wealth For The Community
Wealth creation pivots around manufacturing technically sophisticated products that can be sold around the globe and CSIR is at the forefront of this movement in India. This is a win-win situation; producing not just the wealth, but also an empowered population.
Kangra, a district of Himachal Pradesh, is known globally for its green tea. However, over the years the plantations and production had been showing a decline. CSIR, therefore, devised techniques to revive and rejuvenate the plantations. Agro and harvestry practices were developed to suit locale-specific conditions. Improved processing methods reduced the withering time from 16 to 5 hours increasing productivity. These measures greatly cheered up the production of premium tea.
Over thirty percent of Indian soils have poor load-bearing capacities and need remedial measures to build structures on them. CSIR has developed novel pile foundations under renamed piles, bored piles compaction, price precast piles, skirted granular piles etc., suited for a variety of ‘unfriendly soils’. Over a hundred thousand structures have been built using these designs.
The Terai regions of the Himalayas are fragrant with the smell of sweet success. Farmers in the regions are now minting money with oil-yielding mint plants. Nearly 400,000 hectares of land are being used to cultivate the Kosi, Himalaya and Sambhav varieties of mint (Menthol sinesis) developed by CSIR. These pest resistant and high oil-yielding varieties have been adopted by 20,000 farmers and have generated 40,000,000 man-days of employment. India has now attained the distinction of being the largest exporter of menthol mint and its oil, displacing China to second position.
Disasters threaten sustainable economic development worldwide. In the past twenty years, earthquakes, floods, tropical storms, droughts and other calamities have killed around three million people, inflicted injury, disease, homelessness, and misery on one billion others, and caused damage worth millions of rupees. Disasters destroy decades of human effort and investments, thereby placing new demands on society for reconstruction and rehabilitation.
CSIR has always responded with immediate and adequate assistance to every disaster that has struck India by generously marshalling its considerable resources and calling upon its scientific expertise. To tell the truth, CSIR has proven time and again, that it is a friend indeed in times of need.
Friend In Deed In Time of Need:
Be it a tsunami or home- shattering earthquakes, CSIR has always been the first to lend a helping hand.
- 1991: When the earthquake shook Uttarkashi, CSIR built temporary quakeproof shelters.
- 1993: CSIR- designed precast slabs, planks and joists helped provide shelter to 30,000 families affected by the Latur earthquake, in just 4 months.
- 1999: When the super cyclone ravaged Orissa, CSIR rushed to provide safe drinking water to the worst affected district, producing 40,000 liters of water everyday.
- 2001: When the worst ever earthquake hit Gujarat, CSIR scientists rushed 30,000 packets of high- nutrition food with traditional taste. When the saltpans hit by earthquake turned out brown salt, CSIR scientists provided technology to manufacture good quality salt.
- 2004: When the unprecedented tsunami struck the Indian coast, CSIR rose to the occasion to provide timely and multi-faceted relief. It provided resources to mitigate the sufferings of the survivors. It reached out to provide shelter, food and drinking water. It is carrying out ongoing studies that in future would improve our knowledge and skills to deal with such disasters.
Food being distributed
Packing sambar rice
Man Made Disasters:
The Bhopal Gas Leak Tragedy in 1984, the Maharashtra Gas Explosion in 1990, and the bomb explosion in Kanishka Aircraft in 1985 are all tragic events that have scarred the nation. Each time CSIR scientists have investigated how these accidents took place by using powerful scientific tools and explained how these mishaps could be prevented in the future.
In India, coal is extracted from underground mines, several hundred meters below the surface. The roofs of these underground mines have to be protected against caving in. CSIR has designed and developed diverse roof support systems such as open circuit props, cable bolting, and roof sticking systems that enhance the safety of mine workers. Numerous mine scale fabricators in the mine belt manufacture these roof systems that have been approved by the Director General of Mine Safety.
Enabling Policy Makers
A new age is dawning on public policy, one based on advanced scientifically informed decision making and CSIR is making it happen by facilitating the fact-based decision-making processes.
Atmospheric, Environment and Global Change:
CSIR has initiated several programmes to track what we put in our atmosphere and determine how this affects our lives.
Modelling and Simulation:
Are we going to have a normal monsoon next year? Which areas of the country face the most serious earthquake threat? What caused the Bhopal tragedy? What reduction will be brought in vehicular-based pollution by altering traffic patterns? Questions such as these would be daunting ones but for CSIR’s prowess in mathematical modeling and simulation that has answered several such questions over the years.
Conventional gas deposits in India are limited and production has largely stagnated over the years. With escalating fuel consumption, the future looks grim. Fortunately, Gas hydrates, which are methane molecules locked in a cage of ice crystals, represent extraordinary potential. It is estimated that the gas hydrates reserves alone could meet international gas requirements for the next 300 years! CSIR has launched a major initiative to explore gas hydrates reserves off the Indian coasts and the results of preliminary studies have been encouraging.
On the Ice:
The country required a “continuous presence” in Antarctica and CSIR emerged as the pivotal agency, organizing and leading in the maiden expedition that arrived on the ice shelf on 9 January 1982. India went on to become a signatory to the Antarctic Treaty, thus joining the exclusive Antarctic club. CSIR continues to participate in long-term geological, biological, atmospheric and other studies.
CSIR looks at the deep seas for alternate resources:
- Source for strategic metals such as nickel, cobalt and copper at water depths of 4-6 km.
- India first to get the “Pioneer Investor” status from the UN.
- India gets the Mining right of over 1.5 million square meter.
- CSIR looks at the deep sea for alternate resources.
CSIR’s activities in the farming and agricultural sector reflect a grateful nation’s homage to those who keep the granaries overflowing.
Crop- Friendly Pesticides:
The Green Revolution of the 1960s depended heavily on hybrid seeds on one hand and pest protection on the other. Indian pesticide production was minimal and the programme depended upon imports. Responding to the need of the hour, CSIR mounted an integrated programme to develop cost-effective processes for the manufacture of essential pesticides. Technologies for 25 pesticides were developed and transferred to 20 industries. Over 70 percent of the new pesticide production at one time was based on CSIR Know How.
India Mark II Pump:
The Government of India was looking for simple pumps that would work even in villages that did not have electricity. It had to be simple, easy –to- maintain as well as operate. CSIR provided the solution with the India Mark II pump. Made of non-corrosive, non-metallic parts, the low-cost pump has become an inseparable part of rural India. Estimated 30-lakh pumps are helping quench the thirst of Indians, and those in several third world nations.
Post Harvest Technologies:
CSIR has been adding value to the product so painstakingly harvested from the fields by Indian farmers. Be it, better machines or improved techniques for processing of cereals and grains; high-value products from spices and so on, CSIR is there. In the food-processing sector alone, CSIR technologies contribute about Rs. 800 crore worth production every year.
Swaraj Tractors and beyond:
Independent India had to fill its granaries to feed its millions. The green revolution was on the way, but the fledgling nation needed both manpower and machines for the agricultural sector. CSIR made an impressive debut with SWARAJ, a 20 hp tractor. Punjab Manufacturing Limited, a PSU, began manufacturing and selling the tractors in 1974. The SWARAJ tractor helped usher in mechanized agriculture. Today nearly 1,00,000 tractors till the Indian soil. But CSIR scientists have not rested on their laurels. Their latest contribution to Indian agriculture is SONALIKA, a 60 hp tractor.
Fueling Change in Industry
Cleaning the Coal:
Diversity is the hallmark of India and this also holds true for its coal reserves. Indian coals differ greatly in quality. CSIR technologies have helped enrich poor grade coal for efficient use, with twenty-two coal washeries in India upgrading over 29 millions of tons of coal. These have helped to get high value, low sulphur coals for use in steel industry and thermal power plants and thus reduce dependence on expensive and scarce prime –coking or imported coals.
Dimentionally stable Anodes:
Choice of anode material is critically important for electrolytic production of caustic soda and chlorine. During the 1970s Indian chloralkali industries depended on metal and graphite anodes and suffered from a frequent replacement of anodes due to their dimensional instability. CSIR developed a novel titanium substrate insoluble anode (TSIA). The anode resulted in a power saving of over 12 percent. In just over a decade almost the entire chlor-alkali industry in India has changed over to TSIA. Over 5 billion K W of power was saved due to CSIR innovation.
From HANSA to SARAS:
CSIR has designed and developed HANSA, India’s first all-composite aircraft. The two-seater trainer aircraft successfully carried out its maiden flight in 1993 and received type certification from DGCA in 2000. CSIR also has SARAS, a 14-18- seater multi-role aircraft soared high on its Inaugural flight on 22 August 2004.
The Indo- Pak war of 1965, highlighted the strategic importance of magnesium metal. Magnesium, required for war-time ‘flares,’ was in short supply and it was not available for sale to India in the global marketplace. In a rousing response to this technology denial, by1975, CSIR had built a magnesium stockpile for the defence sector. In 1980, the technology was licensed to private companies all over the country. In 1990, CSIR won the WIPO gold metal for development of magnesium technologies.
CSIR diverse technologies from solvent extractions to catalysts have had a nationwide impact on India’s coal refineries impacting on millions of tonnes of refined petroleum products. India’s one hundred year old refinery at Digboi was rejuvenated using the most modern molecular distillation technology.
In 1958, when war clouds were hanging over the horizon, India needed optical glasses desperately. Technology for optical glasses was guarded the world over. However, CSIR took up the gauntlet and established its first glass-manufacturing unit. Since then CSIR has developed about 400 different types of special glasses for use in mirrors in telescopes, as reflectors in satellites, for tracking robot movement and also Radiation Shielding Glasses to provide protection from harmful radiation.
The Guardian of Indian Standard Time:
Every second a beep can be heard on the radio tuned to short wave band frequency. This beep is a stirring affirmation of the CSIR’s diligent and omnipresent role as India’s standard-bearer. CSIR is the caretaker of all Indian measurement standards- in Kilograms, meters, seconds or decibels. Such precision standard and measurements, traceable to International Standards, allow the Indian industry to be globally competitive.
ASMON, the novel herbal medicine for asthma is based on CSIR technology. Asmon blocks both asthma-causing pathways. Unlike the commonly used steroidal drugs, Asmon has no side effects and is safe for all groups. Its unique mechanism of action provides quick relief.
Thanks to the emergence of resistant varieties of the parasite, Malaria remains a resurgent menace affecting nearly 200 million people today. There is no incentive for advanced nations to work on these diseases that are largely restricted to developing nations. CSIR has developed two effective drugs to combat malaria. Elubaquine is an anti- relapse anti-malarial quite effective against chloroquine- resistant malaria. Arteether(E-mail) a drug that can combat cerebral malaria is being exported to 48 countries.
Once-a Week –Pill:
- Oral contraceptive
- Safer alternative to conventional steroids.
- Progesterone-estrogen combination pill
- No adverse effect on lipid profile
- Anti breast cancer property
There is now a growing realization that the diversity, power, and safety of bio-active molecules found in nature is far greater than the molecules created in laboratories for pharmaceutical use. CSIR has initiated one of the largest coordinated exploration programmes on drugs. It is based on India’s rich bio-resources and its traditional knowledge. This initiative involves 20 CSIR laboratories, 13 Universities and also institutes of traditional medicinal systems. This path-breaking programme has so far screened 23,000 samples and identified 44 potential bio-active molecules.
The Healing Touch:
Records show that the Indian drug and pharma industry excelled in process chemistry of known drugs, but hardly created any new drugs. Then CSIR showed the way! Eleven of the fourteen new drugs of India have come from CSIR’s stables. These drugs include anesthetics, contraceptives, antimalarials, anti-depressants and memory enhancers.
CSIR is the single largest global expert manpower for leather and food-processing sector with internationally recognized training courses.
The graduates in leather technology occupy positions as policymakers and industrial leaders in over 65 countries, while those graduating in food processing technology are similarly placed in over 20 countries.
Intellectual Property Rights
Battles over Turmeric etc.:
- In 1995, India challenged US patent on turmeric powder as wound healing agent.
- “Does not satisfy novelty criterion, well known in India for centuries.”
- On 13 August 1997 India won the patent battle.
- Sets International trend to challenge patents based on traditional knowledge
- In 1999, CSIR also won the Basmati patent battle
Safe Drinking Water:
- Ground water prospecting
- Simple to complex technologies to remove bacteria, viruses and chemicals
- Commercial Reverse Osmosis (RO) and desalination units to produce 12,000 liters of water per day
- Removing excess fluoride by “Nalgonda technique”
- Novel rainwater harvesting schemes
Leather Technology Mission:
Spread across 17 states nationwide, the Leather Technology Mission launched by CSIR has 170 programmes with about 60 NGO’s joining hands. CSIR ensured sustained supply of skilled manpower to the industry by establishing 20 training centers. During the 1990s the leather technology was facing a storm. The High Court had ordered seven hundred tanneries to close down as these were considered highly polluting. CSIR stepped in and 270 closed tanneries were revived and 250,000 jobs were saved.
Ensuring a Smooth Take Off:
Well before India’s plan in launch space vehicles and missiles began unfolding, CSIR, in a visionary initiative, established a transonic wind tunnel in 1960s to catalyze aerospace research and development! Every Indian aerospace vehicle, from satellite launchers to aircraft has graduated out of this wind tunnel. CSIR has also developed a full-scale fatigue test facility to extend the airframe service lives of India’s fighter aircrafts. Indian satellites and launch vehicles must pass through the CSIR-ISRO acoustic test facility to ensure that they withstand the “big noise” facility during Lift-Off!!
LCA Takes Off:
When the Light Combat aircraft or LCA soared onto the skies for the first time in January 2001, it was a proud and exhilarating moment for the country. The LCA is “light” largely because of CSIR’s innovative development of composite airworthy parts. When the LCA engages in combat, the pilot carries out split-second maneuvers using the head up cockpit display and the sophisticated control software both developed by CSIR with its partners. LCA technologies are extremely sophisticated and have dramatically narrowed the gap between India and western countries in fighter aircraft design and development.
Roads to Development:
When it comes to construction of roads, all roads come to CSIR, the fountainhead for planning, designing and devising road construction technologies and techniques that deploy locally available materials, skills and infrastructure--be it the desert sands of Rajasthan or the rainforests of Assam; the icy terrain of Kashmir or the Expressways of Mumbai or the many villages that dot the Indian map.
The Indelible Mark
During general election, nearly 40 million people wear a CSIR mark on their fingers. The Indelible ink used to mark the fingernail of a Voter during general elections is a time-tested gift of CSIR to the spirit of democracy. Developed in 1952, it was first produced in-campus. Subsequently, the industry has been manufacturing the Ink. It is also exported to Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Turkey and other democracies.
Laboratory for the Conservation of Endangered Species (LaCONES)
Considering the global importance of genetic diversity, Project LaCONES was proposed with the help of the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Government of India, New Delhi and the Central Zoo Authority of India (CZA), New Delhi in 1998. The Government of Andhra Pradesh and the Nehru Zoological Park at Hyderabad, are also major partners in this project. It is aimed at the conservation of endangered animals through the use of biotechnological intervention.
A wide range of objectives including Monitoring of genetic variation using modern techniques such as DNA fingerprinting, establishment of cell banks and gene banks through cryo-preservation of semen, eggs and embryos of endangered species, and the development of assisted reproductive technologies such as artificial insemination, in-vitro fertilization as well as embryo transfer and cloning, has been initiated under this project.
The scale on which LaCONES has been planned is almost unmatched. There hardly exists any other project of this scale, anywhere in the world, to cater to the needs of, not only big cats such as lions and tigers, but other endangered animals also such as deer, non-human primates and birds. The scope of the present project is much wider in terms of the spectrum of technologies, which are expected to be developed during the course of work.
Through assisted reproductive technologies, scientists at LaCONES have already achieved pregnancy in blackbuck, chital and blue rock pigeon. They have announced the birth of “Spotty,” a baby spotted deer by using artificial insemination.
Once this facility becomes fully functional, sperm, egg and cell banks will help in producing specific animals when the necessity arises.
LaCONES has the potential to become the ultimate effort to conserve endangered animal species and prevent their extinction– the extinction that would deplete global biodiversity and also deprive the future generations from sharing Planet Earth with these wonderful creations of nature.