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Happy bedfellows, music & science

Dr. Raja Ramanna was in Kochi this week for the NPOL Silver Jubilee celebrations. SUDHA NAMBUDIRI meets the ace scientist.

HE WAS a leader to his generation, a pioneer and a hero to the next and an icon for generations to come. The mentor of India's Pokharan-I in 1974, Dr. Raja Ramanna is special to this India of technologists and scientists. He is probably one of the few scientists who carry music with physics. Dr. Ramanna says that despite some long breaks from playing the piano, his fingers still play the moment they touch the instrument.

"I had started playing from the age of six." He had recently given a concert in Delhi and even accompanies European violinists at concerts. Dr. Ramanna is actively involved with a group in trying to set up a Bangalore Music School, teaching piano.

Dr. Ramanna was in Kochi on Tuesday as the chief guest for the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of the Naval Physical and Oceanographic Laboratory. Answering a query on how India fares in the technological world vis--vis development, the former scientific advisor to the Raksha Mantri said that progress has been at a high rate in the last few years.

"So many things are being made in India, many of which were imported in the earlier years. The accent is on technology and with the changes we have made in our educational programmes, it is bound to pay off gradually," he says, adding that "unfortunately too many people leave before they are useful to us." Commenting further on the brain drain, he says that the one good thing that happened is the Information Technology. "It has given people more confidence to start their own activities." However he feels that it is too small an effort. "We must be good in many things. We still try and avoid dirtying our hands," he observes. This being the Pokharan anniversary and the technology week, one couldn't resist asking Dr. Ramanna, widely regarded as a father of India's nuclear bomb, about the nuclear programme. In the changing International scenario vis--vis attacks on the U.S. and by the U.S. on Afghanistan and Iraq, did he think India has been right in maintaining a peaceful nuclear programme?

Dr. Ramanna answered in a larger perspective, saying that we must be thankful to our technologists and scientists like Dr. Homi Bhabha for having started nuclear power for electricity production very early. "It is due to the wonderful start that we can make all the components by ourselves for the reactors. We are happy to say that our power reactors have a capacity factor of 85-90, which is as good as any in the world. Also the nuclear power can be used for a bomb. We are always against use of a nuclear bomb for military purposes. But the world scenario is changing. And I think we did the right thing in developing our own nuclear programme".

How does the scientist in him view the Swadeshi Science Movement programme for revival of ancient sciences of Indian origin? "I don't believe in a science unless it is proven statistically, chemically and biologically". Talking of ancient medicine, he says that one must differentiate between cures and why they cure. "If a disease is cured by a long practice, we should also know why it cures, otherwise it can permit quackery and false information"

When asked how a scientist who's probably used to serious meeting and conferences adjusts to the life as a parliamentarian, Dr. Ramanna says, "Human beings behave in strange ways. I don't agree with everything everybody says. But there are a lot of people who agree with me".

* **

Of Smiling Buddha fame

DR. RAJA RAMANNA is the Director Emeritus at the National Institute of Advanced Studies and Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha.

He was the Director, BARC, Bombay. Later on he became the Scientific Advisor to the Minister of Defence and DRDO chief and Chairman, AEC and Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy.

He became the Minister of State for Defence, Government of India from January-November 1990.

Dr Ramanna has written two books, `The Structure of Music in Raga and Western Systems' and `Years of Pilgrimage: An Autobiography.'

Smiling Buddha: 1974

Throughout the development of Smiling Buddha, very few records of any kind were kept.

The leader of the team developing the device was Raja Ramanna, director of BARC.

Outside of those actually working on the project, only about three other people in India knew of it - Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, her trusted adviser P.N. Haksar, and D.P. Dhar. Even the Defence Minister, was not informed.


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