it was March 11 when I got a phone call from the President of the Delhi Journalists Association and a senior colleague from 'Bhasha', the Hindi department of news agency PTI, Mr Manohar Singh. He wanted to know whether I would be able to take out time to participate in the 3 day workshop organized jointly by the Government of India’s DAE and the School of Journalisem, National Union of Journalists. Immediately the visions of Summer time in South India, Nuclear Reactor, 4 to 5 days of time and on top of that in the company of nuclear scientists for serious discussions on such a boring topic came to mind. For a moment, I was gripped by the thought of refusing this proposal. But the very nextmoment - nature, vast ocean, the Pokharan nuclear tests, our nuclear programme making efforts to stand on its own feet in the midst of global restrictions/sanctions, the visions of Kalpakkam’s yellowish white dome like building on the television, in newspapers and our country’s promise to the world that it would use its nuclear programme only for peaceful purposes and for the service of mankind flashed through my mind and I consented to participate. I thought let me see what our nuclear scientists do, what they show and what they say? What does a nuclear reactor look like? Why is there so much misconception among people? Being a journalist I got an opportunity to be a part of this workshop and certainly I will get to learn something from this workshop. Does knowledge ever go waste?
But this was a momentary state. Even though I bought the ticket from Delhi to Chennai for the 25th of March, till I boarded the flight my heart was consumed with a number of questions, conflicts, reasoning, curiosity and confusion. I also tried to understand something from the internet but that information only further confused me rather than enlightening me. Earlier while I could relate the atom only to its use in an atom bomb, its dangers and Hiroshima and Nagasaki; now some new words like radiation, infection, radioactivity, nuclear waste, Chernobyl, Fukushima and what not got included. So many articles/publications, scary words……… the result was that scenes from Anil Kapoor’s action thriller serial '24' Part 2 related to radiation medicine and Naseeruddin Shah’s movie Irada, came before my eyes. This further increased my anxiety but when I reached Kalpakkam, during the 3 days of the workshop whatever I saw, heard and understood completely cleared all the misconceptions that I had harbored. Truly, poor knowledge is very dangerous and on top of that rumors and negative information have a strong effect on us.
Kalpakkam at Tamil Nadu is a small coastal town that is situated about 70 kms South of Chennai. This place is famous for MAPS, KAMINI, BHAVINI and IGCAR research centres of the Department of Atomic Energy, Government of India. Apart from this, there are numerous archaeological monuments, places, structures and temples in the vicinity. In contrast to big cities, there is a lot of open space and in-spite of the presence of several nuclear sites, there is zero pollution. Scientists through their immense hard work have developed and decorated the area with such greenery that it not only attracts nature lovers but also a number migratory birds that reside here. This place is very safe even from the point of security.In every bit of Kalpakkam, the prints of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr Homi Bhabha who were steadfast in their foresight to make independent India stand on its own feet in the field of atomic energy are visible.What is astonishing is that,everyone, right from Jawaharlal Nehru to Narendra Modi, from Dr. Homi Bhabha to Dr. Shekar Basu have contributed one step at a time in realizing the dream of making India self-reliant and strongthrough the Department of Atomic Energy.
From this point of view, this visit of mine has been marvelous. At Kalpakkam it appeared that the ocean and land have come together and gifted this place to scientists. Here nature and science share a brotherly relation, they wake up together, stretch and laugh together excitedly what nature does automatically science has achieved through the research work taken up by diligent hardworking scientists equipped with knowledge.
The main theme of the three-day workshop at Kalpakkam was 'ATOMIC ENERGY FOR BETTER QUALITY OF LIFE'. We visited different units of DAE; we met senior scientists who have dedicated their life to make our nation strong and achieve success in every field. There are cases where the second and third generation have been working in the Department.
Here at Kalpakkam we met the senior most as well as the junior most scientists some names have been etched in my mind like those who are responsible for the success of the workshop; for ex. IGCAR director Dr. Arun Kumar Bhaduri, Dr. B.Venkatraman, Dr. R.Sathya Narayan, Dr.V.K.Kamachi Mudali, Dr. Kallol Roy, Dr.K.V.Krishna Murty, Ravi Shankar Ramamoorthy, Dr.Velu Murugan, Dr.T.S.Lakshmi Narasimhan, A.K.Narang, Dr. Yojana Singh, Dr. Amar Banerjee, S.Ravishankar, Vineet Sinha, Neeraj Kumar, Aseem Singh Rawat, Shailaja Pradeep, Jalaja Madan Mohan, Parthiban and Ramu inclusive. Among editors and journalists, Shree Rajendra Prabhu, Ashok Mallik, Pallav Bagla, Vijay Kranthi, Vichithra Sharma, Ravi Meenakshi Sundaram, Amarnath Vasisht, Silvery Shree Sailam are a few.
In our country India, the Department of Atomic Energy has always been directly under the care of the Prime Minister. The importance of this workshop which has been arranged in the premises of IGCAR can be seen in the fact that, the Prime Minister himself from his office, in his message has expressed his happiness to the MoS, Prime Minister’s Office, Dr. Jitendra Singh who is well known for his scientific and academic activities. Mr. Singh through the efforts of the Senior Journalist Rajendra Prabhu has taken science to the masses through the media.
Media has been playing an important role in taking science to our people, especially the youth. It is essential to deliver scientific information to the public. In this respect language should be a 'means', not a 'barrier'. In the past six decades Department of Atomic Energy has linked with various organizations for the progress of our society and raise our Industry on par with global standards. Seeing the progress of the Department of Atomic Energy and IGCAR the Prime Minister has conveyed his wishes to the Journalists and Scientist. By taking part in the workshop it has become obvious that there is no area of human progress and development where the scientists of DAE have not contributed. Their work area itself is such that they expend a large amount of energy executing even minute jobs and hence their effort is complete and is clearly visible.
In my three day workshop from 26th to 29th March I have learnt a lot more about the Department of Atomic Energy than what I learnt in three decades of Journalism.
The scientists have left their mark on every field. There are various applications starting from nuclear fission, fusion, Isotopes and beyond protons, neutrons and electrons, Radio activity, Energy production, nuclear fuel cycle, heavy water industry, high level waste management, environmental safety, research laboratory, Nuclear reactor safety, precaution from Gama Radio activity, Radio isotopes, radiation for health care which not only helps in diagnosis but also treatment of heart cancer, agriculture, to improve crop variety, preservation, Industrial development, process of desalination, 'wealth from waste' programme, industrialization as well as important contributions in International research. Each one of the above topic is one chapter is itself and I will arrange them serial wise in a pillar for the readers.
How far I will succeed I am not aware. I am thankful to all experts from top to bottom.
Finally, it is the 'Atom' which gets converted into the 'Supreme Atom'.
# This article is originally written in Hindi by Jai Prakash Pandey and translated in English by Ms Bhuvaneshwari Ravi Shankar