The establishment of the India Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the harnessing of space technology for national development is the most important part of Sarabhai’s enduring legacy.
Indian physicist and astronomer Vikram Sarabhai was one of India’s most dynamic and endearing visionaries. Widely known as the ‘father of the Indian space programme’, Vikram Sarabhai put India on the international map in the field of space research. It has been more than 50 years since Sarabhai died in 1971, but his work in the field of space research is still reaping rich dividends for the country. Born on August 12, 1919, in the famous Sarabhai family, Vikram Sarabhai pioneered the country's space programme at a time when even it was impossible for a poor nation like India to fund a space programme.
Ahead of his 103rd birth anniversary on August 12, let us note Sarabhai’s immense contributions to the country.
In the early 1960s, space technology was being used by superpowers for military purposes. However, Sarabhai envisioned that even a poor country like India needed to have a space programme of its own. Sarabhai had realised the enormous benefits of space science. He also understood the interdependence of space science with a wide range of social and economic development activities like communication, weather forecasting, and exploration of natural resources.
Therefore, Sarabhai convinced then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his government about the significance of a space programme for a developing country like India. The establishment of the India Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the harnessing of space technology for national development is the most important part of Sarabhai’s enduring legacy.
Sarabhai is also credited for setting up multiple other prominent institutions in the country, including the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), Ahmedabad, the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad, and the Variable Energy Cyclotron Project, Kolkata. Vikram Sarabhai is responsible for establishing India’s nuclear power plants and for laying the foundations for the indigenous development of nuclear technology for defence purposes.
Many people don’t know that it was Sarabhai who set up India’s first textile research cooperative, Ahmedabad Textile Industry’s Research Association (ATIRA).
Sarabhai’s immense contribution towards nation-building is spread across a wide range of activities. This reveals the astonishing diversity of his interests and also the soundness of his approach which involved the use of scientific methods. Sarabhai’s life is also a testament to the fact that he had a clear nationalistic purpose in whatever he did.
The government of India recognised Sarabhai’s service to the nation by awarding him with the country’s third highest civilian honour, Padma Vibhushan, posthumously in 1972.
(Edited by : Sudarsanan Mani)