Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar awardees for 2020 announced; contributions of scientists, engineers to COVID-19 mitigation noted

The scientific community has risen to every challenge facing the country and converted it into an opportunity, Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Saturday.

Addressing the 79th CSIR Foundation Day, Vardhan said during the coronavirus pandemic, scientists of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) contributed towards making ventilators and personal protection (Personal Protection Equipment) kits to genome sequencing.

The CSIR also initiated projects like the repurposing of drugs for COVID-19. The organistion's director-general Shekhar Mande said Australia and the Netherlands have also shown interest in the COVID-19 technologies developed by the CSIR.

Vardhan also asked the CSIR to organize a brainstorming session of young scientists to assess how the country can achieve "Aatmanirbharta" (self-reliance).

“Whenever there has been a challenge of any form before the country, we have always been able to convert it into an opportunity, and they (scientists) ultimately deliver good for the society and help in alleviating hardships in many ways,” Vardhan said.

“Whenever any responsibility is given to CSIR, they go ahead in a very dynamic way,” Vardhan said, citing an instance where he had proposed use of green crackers on Diwali as an alternative to traditional firecrackers to address the problem of pollution.

On the ongoing pandemic, Vardhan, who is also the health minister, said the fight against coronavirus started on 8 January, in a day or two of the news about the cases in China being delivered by the World Health Organization.

Since then, apart from the health ministry, the scientific community of India has been serving the cause of mitigation of COVID-19 in the best possible manner.

He said until Friday, India conducted 15 lakh tests in a day, stressing that when the pandemic began, only a few thousand tests were being conducted. Â

“We rose to the occasion in a responsible and committed manner. Nobody thought about the mandate every laboratory got, whether working in the field of genomics or aeronautical, chemicals or biology. Everybody was trying to contribute something or the other,” Vardhan noted.

The CSIR has nearly 39 laboratories institutes working on very niche subjects ranging from genomics to aeronautics, from leather to metallurgy.

The CSIR also declared the prestigious Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Awards on the occasion.

In the area of Biological Sciences, the coveted award has been bagged by Subhadeep Chatterjee from the Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics, Hyderabad and Vatsala Thirumalai from the National Centre for Biological Sciences.

Jyotirmayee Dash, Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science, Kolkata and Subi Jacob George, Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Bengaluru have bagged the award in the area of Chemical Sciences.

In the area of Earth, Atmosphere, Ocean and Planetary Sciences, Abhijit Mukherjee from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur and Suryendu Dutta from IIT, Bombay have bagged the coveted prize.

In the field of Engineering Sciences, Amol Arvindrao Kulkarni from the CSIR's National Chemical Laboratory, Pune and Kinshuk Dasgupta from the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai have bagged the award.



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