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In-Depth Jobs

Issue no 06, 11 - 17 May 2024

Space, Telecom, Biotech, and Beyond

India's Technological Triumphs

Dr. Manish Mohan Gore

Science and technology form a dynamic duo, unlocking nature's mysteries and simplifying human existence. This powerful synergy propels us forward, shaping our society, economy, and nation. From telecom gadgets connecting the world to medical breakthroughs saving lives, technology enhances efficiency and convenience. For example, Artificial Intelligence streamlines processes, renewable energy fights climate change, and smart devices optimise tasks. Together, they bridge gaps, foster innovation, and drive societal progress.

Why is National Techno-logy Day Celebrated?

India commemorates May 11 as National Technology Day, marking significant milestones in scientific and technological advancement. On this day in 1998, India conducted nuclear tests in Pokhran, boasting its technological prowess. Additionally, the first indigenous aircraft Hansa-3 and the missile Trishul were successfully tested on the same date. The establishment of the Technology Development Board (TDB) under the Department of Science and Technology aims to bolster technological potential and promote self-reliance. TDB supports entrepreneurs and fosters innovation, driving India towards excellence on the global stage.

Pokhran Atomic Test (1998): India conducted nuclear tests at Pokhran Test Range in Rajasthan on May 18, 1974, under 'Operation Smiling Buddha', marking its nuclear capabilities. Further tests on May 11 and 13, 1998, dubbed 'Operation Shakti', demonstrated advancements with five nuclear detonations, including a hydrogen bomb. These tests, prompted by the security concerns, mainly emanating from China and Pakistan at that time, were conducted to assert India's strategic autonomy. Although it sparked international condemnation and sanctions, it solidified India's status as a nuclear power, making it a major stakeholder in the global debates on proliferation and arms control.

Hansa-3: Developed by National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) in Bengaluru, Hansa-3, a two-seat aircraft, made its maiden flight in 1993. Featuring a low-wing monoplane design and composite materials, it offers economical flying with a cruising speed of 105 knots and a range of 600 nautical miles. Its second prototype, introduced on May 11, 1998, incorporated refinements such as a variable pitch propeller, leading to its selection for production.

Trishul Missile: Developed by DRDO, the Trishul missile, capable of engaging aerial threats, was successfully test-fired at Pokhran on May 11, 1998. It forms part of India's Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme, along-side systems like Agni, Prithvi, and Akash.

Commercialising Home Grown Technology

The Technology Development Board (TDB) was established by the Government of India in September 1996 under the Department of Science and Technology (DST) to promote the advancement and commercialiasation of indigenous technologies.

A primary function of TDB is to provide financial assistance and support to individuals, research organisations, academic institutions, and industries involved in technology development projects. Through schemes like the Technology Development and Demonstration Programme (TDDP), TDB facilitates the transition of innovative concepts into commercially viable products and processes.

TDB also facilitates collaborations between industry and academia, fostering knowledge exchange to address techno-logical challenges. Additionally, it promotes the establishment of technology incubators, parks, and transfer offices to nurture innovation ecosystems and support technology driven enter-prises.

Furthermore, TDB engages in policy advocacy and strategic initiatives to create an environment conducive to technology development and commercialisation. It collaborates with government agencies, regulatory bodies, and industry associations to formulate policies and incentives that promote technology innovation.

Independent India's Technological Milestones

India's journey in technological development over the past 77 years has been remarkable, witnessing significant progress across various sectors. From the post-independence era to the digital age, India has embraced innovation, research, and development, reshaping its socio-economic landscape. Here's a concise overview of key milestones and advancements:

Space Technology: India's space journey began on November 21, 1963, with the launch of the first sounding rocket from Thumba, Kerala, marking the inception of the Indian space programme. Scientists like Dr. Vikram Sarabhai and Dr. Abdul Kalam played pivotal roles in this endeavour.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) was established in 1969 to foster space science and technological re-search. ISRO achieved significant milestones, including the launch of the Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE), facilitating community TV viewing in remote areas. The introduction of Indian National Satellite (INSAT) and Indian Remote Sensing Satellite (IRS) in the 1980s revolutionised mass communication, remote sensing, and weather forecasting.

In 1980, India successfully launched its first satellite launch vehicle, SLV-3, followed by sending the first Indian astronaut, Rakesh Sharma, into space in 1984. In the 2000s, India developed its own rockets, leading notable missions like Chandrayaan 1 and the Mars Orbiter Mission. ISRO achieved a world record with the launch of 104 satellites and made history with the soft landing of Chandrayaan 3 on the Lunar South Pole surface on August 23, 2023.

India's space sector continues to evolve in the 21st century, with initiatives like the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Center (IN-SPACe) facilitating public-private partnerships in space exploration.

Agricultural Technology: Technology has been instrumental in India's agricultural development and sustainability. Following independence, the Government prioritised scientific research, leading to initiatives like the Green Revolution. This bolstered the agricultural economy, making India self-reliant in food production. Operation Flood, launched in 1970, marked the world's largest dairy development programme. Re-search in high-yielding wheat varieties at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (ICAR) in the 1960s and the development of indigenous technology like the Swaraj tractor and agro-pesticides by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in 1974 further strengthened India's agricultural prowess. Today, with interventions from around 100 R&D institutes of ICAR, India has increased agricultural productivity, ensuring food security for its growing population in the 21st century.

Defence Research & Technology: India established the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in 1958 to enhance the defence sector and fortify India's borders with advanced defence techno-logy. Since then, DRDO has developed various critical technologies, including aircraft, artillery systems, electronic warfare systems, tanks, armed vehicles, sonar systems, command and control systems, and missile systems.

In the 1980s, India initiated the Integrated Guided Missile Programme under the leadership of defence scientist Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. This led to the development of strategic missile systems like Prithvi, Trishul, Akash, Nag, and Agni. The successful testing of the Agni missile in 1989 marked a significant achievement. India has since developed and deployed super-sonic combat aircraft like Tejas, the nuclear missile BrahMos, ballistic missiles, and the world's fastest supersonic cruise missile. Additionally, India has operated missile submarine INS Arihant and aircraft carrier INS Vikrant. DRDO continues intensive research on integrating technologies such as quantum systems, hypersonic systems, advanced materials, and Artificial Intelligence into the defence sector. The successful testing of the Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV) in 2020 positioned India as the fourth country to demonstrate this technology.

Health Technology: In 1986, India achieved a milestone with the birth of the country's first test tube baby, 'Harsha.' This accomplishment, coupled with pioneering work in vitro fertilisation by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), propelled India into the forefront of health technology. In 1991, DNA fingerprinting was first used as evidence in a legal dispute, credited to CSIR's Hyderabad-based laboratory Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB).

Today, India boasts indigenous diagnostic kits for various diseases, including HIV, and produces vaccines for diseases such as rotavirus, dengue, malaria, and COVID-19. Medical devices like Soham, for early detection of hearing loss in children, and NeoBreathe, a foot-operated resuscitation device for infants, have significantly contributed to improving life expectancy and reducing maternal and infant mortality rates. India's robust efforts in vaccine development have made it the largest vaccine producer globally. Health-related startups are also driving innovation in the sector.

Telecom and IT: India's telecommunications sector has undergone a revolutionary transformation since the 1990s, driven by government liberalisation policies. The introduction of mobile phones has democratised communication, while the IT industry has flourished, establishing India as a global hub for software services, outsourcing, and technology solutions.

Biotech and Pharma: India has emerged as a global player in biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, making significant strides in healthcare, agriculture, and environmental sustainability. The country's biotech industry is renowned for its generic drug manufacturing capabilities, supplying affordable medicines to both domestic and international markets.

Digitalisation and E-Governance: The proliferation of digital technologies has led to the digitalisation of various sectors, including governance and public services. Initiatives like Digital India and Aadhaar have revolutionised service delivery, financial inclusion, and access to information, promoting transparency and efficiency in governance.

Drone Technology: India is rapidly advancing in drone technology, with applications in defence, agriculture, health, and transportation. The government aims to establish India as a global drone hub by 2030, with initiatives to simplify regulations and incentivise local manufacturing.

National Quantum Mission (NQM): Launched in 2020, NQM aims to advance research, development, and application of quantum technologies in India. Key objectives include promoting fundamental research, accelerating technology development, fostering human resource development, facilitating industry collaboration, and enhancing national security through quantum cryptography.

Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy (STIP) 2020: STIP 2020 provides a comprehensive framework to guide India's science, technology, and innovation ecosystem, emphasising inclusive, sustainable, and transformative development. Key features include promoting open science and technological innovation, increasing R&D investment, facilitating technology commercialisation, ensuring ethical research practices, and promoting inclusivity and diversity in the STEM fields. STIP 2020 charts a forward-looking roadmap to harness the transformative power of science, technology, and innovation for sustainable development and global competitiveness.

 (The author is a Scientist, CSIR-National Institute of Science Communication and Policy Research. Feedback on this article can be sent to

Views expressed are personal.