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India’s key scientific and technological milestones since independence

By : India’s key scientific and technological milestones since independence

February 25, 2022

India is recognized globally for its scientific rigour and potential. After all, this is the land of Ayurveda, the land of climate sensitivity demonstrated through the Chipko Movement back in the 1970s, the land where successful nuclear tests like Pokhran-II were conducted, the land where science maestros C.V. Raman (Nobel Prize in Physics 1930) and Anna Mani were born. 

India was able to gain pace in scientific discovery only after independence. Getting back the reigns of democracy and planning the years ahead to regain our prosperity encouraged people to work towards scientific and technological advancements. In all these years, India witnessed a massive shift in these fields of discovery by strategically aligning its skills and resources.

Here’s looking back at the accomplishments of India in the field of science and technology post-independence, and the developments we are progressing towards:

1947 - 1957

Establishment of a Five-Year plan which prioritized scientific research:

  • The Planning Commission in India was set up in 1950 with an aim to ideate and plan the actions to be taken in key sectors such as agriculture, science, infrastructure, and education. The first-ever plan draft was presented in July 1951 and had a dedicated chapter on ‘Scientific and Industrial Research’. Being the first plan, it prioritized laying the foundation of scientific research in the country and largely focused on initiatives for building or enhancing national laboratories and research centers:
    • It recognized eleven research institutes at the national level and stressed their importance in the development of the country’s future. These included the National Physical Laboratory of India (Delhi), National Chemical Laboratory (Pune, Maharashtra), and Central Electrochemical Research Institute (Karaikudi, Tamil Nadu) among others.
    • Some of these institutes only had nucleus units and needed more investment for their expansion. The plan provided for the completion of buildings and installation of the necessary equipment to enable the laboratories to function fully.
    • It also proposed the setting up of three new institutes: Radio and Electronics Research Institute; Mechanical Engineering Research Institute; Central Salt Research Station.

1957 - 1967

Focus on agricultural research and emergence of the 'Green Revolution'

After independence, regaining control of agriculture production was a task. Research about the crop yield potential of locations across the country, irrigation systems, effective fertilizers, pesticides, power sources, agricultural equipment was lacking. Government prioritized scientific research for advancing agriculture. This led to the Green Revolution during this decade. This enabled India’s agrarian economy, which was on the brink of collapse in 1947, to improve steadily. This revolution made us self-reliant, as we traveled the distance from being an importer of food grains to one producing it in surplus.

1967 - 1977

Aryabhata – India’s first satellite

India’s contribution to the science of space is immense. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) was established in 1969 to serve as India’s national space agency. The first-ever Indian satellite was the ‘Aryabhata’, which was designed and manufactured in India and was launched on 19th April 1975. ISRO developed Aryabhata to execute X-ray astronomy, aeronomy and solar physics.

1977 - 1987

AGNI – India’s strategic missile

India successfully developed strategic missile systems in the 1980s, with successful testing of Agni in 1989. Eventually Indian scientists were able to demonstrate abilities such as re-entry, maneuvering range, control, guidance, two-stage propulsion and stage separation. Since then, India has created, tested, operationalized several missile systems. The Agni became a series of missiles, with the latest one being Agni-V, successfully tested in 2018

1987 - 1997

DNA fingerprinting

DNA fingerprinting in India came into existence in 1988 when Council of Scientific and Industrial Research–Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CSIR–CCMB) scientists developed the technique and made it available for use, making India the third country to develop its own DNA fingerprinting probe.

1997 - 2007

Pokhran-II nuclear test

On 11th May 1998, India successfully tested five nuclear bombs underground in Pokhran, Rajasthan—these tests were titled ‘Pokhran-II’.

In order to facilitate the technological achievement of an emerging democracy, this day was named ‘National Technology Day by our then Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee. It is observed each year.   

2007 - 2017

Chandrayaan-I mission to the moon

Chandrayaan-I was India’s first-ever mission to the moon, launched on 22nd October 2008 from Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh. The spacecraft hovered around the moon to deliver chemical, photo geologic, and mineralogical mapping to ISRO.

Polio-free India

India accounted for around 60% of the global cases of polio in 1994. A dedicated campaign to vaccinate every child by the Government enabled us to become polio-free within two decades. India received the ‘Polio-free’ certification from World Health Organization (WHO) on 27th March 2014.

This immunization drive was a success because of strong policy, committed healthcare professionals, front-line and community workers. A large part of this campaign was the education of those hesitant to get vaccinated in backward and rural areas of the country, by increasing awareness about its safety and benefits.

Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) (also known as Mangalyaan)

A historic first for India—its first ever interplanetary mission. MOM marked India’s place in the field of space exploration. Launched on 5th November 2013, MOM studied Mar’s topography, morphology, mineralogy and atmosphere. Apart from the scientific breakthroughs, MOM is also lauded for its cost effectiveness.

Encouragement of start-ups

The Government launched the ‘Startup India’ program on 16th January 2016 to develop an ecosystem to encourage indigenous scientific, technological and innovative development in India. Since then, the number of Indian startups has increased and is growing. As of July 2021, there are more than 52,000 start-ups in the country, making India one of the largest start-up ecosystems in the world. These start-ups have resulted in creation of more than 5 lakh jobs. The top ten sectors for start-ups in India are IT services, healthcare & life sciences, education, professional & commercial services, food & beverages, agriculture, finance technology, technology hardware, construction and green technology.

2017 - till present

ISRO’s Gaganyaan Programme

The Gaganyaan Programme is designed to demonstrate human spaceflight to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) (as per NASA, LEO is considered to be the area in Earth’s orbit that is near enough to Earth for convenient transportation, communication, observation and resupply; this is the area where the ‘International Space Station’ currently orbits). This programme is expected to set the stage for efficient and effective Indian human space exploration in future. Two unmanned missions and one manned mission have been approved by the Government under the Gaganyaan Programme.

During his Mann ki Baat address in 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi shared his views on the Gaganyaan Programme, stating it to be the nation’s first step towards establishing a sustained Indian human space exploration program. This mission is expected to provide India the opportunity to collaborate with global space station development, along with employment generation for a scientifically thriving younger population.

COVID-19 vaccine research and vaccination drive

India was at the forefront of the vaccine development research, eventually becoming one of the largest manufacturers and exporters of COVID-19 vaccines. As of end-2021, we have supplied over 7 Crore COVID-19 vaccine doses to more than 90 countries.

Further, the scale of India’s vaccination drive has been unprecedented. As of February 2022, more than 170 crore vaccination doses have been administered.

As we continue to evolve and innovate, the aim is to maintain the pace of development in science and technology, along with ensuring global recognition and exposure.