Dr V S Arunachalam, founder chairman of Bengaluru based think tank Center for Science, Technology and Policy (CSTEP), passed away in California on Wednesday. He is survived by his wife Meena, children Raghu, Malavika, and Ramu, and six grandchildren.
He was 87 and was undergoing treatment for pneumonia and Parkinson’s.
His distinguished career spanned across Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, National Aeronautical Laboratory and Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory. Arunachalam worked as Secretary, Department of Defence Research and Development (Ministry of Defence, Government of India). He was also the Director General of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and served as the Scientific Adviser to defence minister, Government of India, from 1982 to 1992.
Arunachalam was conferred the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Award, Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan for his contributions to engineering science and technology. He was a Fellow of the Indian National Science Academy, the Indian Academy of Sciences and the Indian National Academy of Engineering. Along with being the first Indian Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (UK), he was a Distinguished Service Professor (Engineering and Public Policy) at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh.
In 2005 he founded the CSTEP to enrich policymaking with innovative approaches using science and technology for a sustainable, secure and inclusive society.
“In 2015, he was awarded DRDO’s Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding contribution to the field of scientific research and technology. He was instrumental in making us realise our potential in science and technology. It was under his guidance that the Light Combat Aircraft program (TEJAS) and the Integrated Guided Missile Program amongst others were initiated. Throughout his life he championed the notion of Atma Nirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India),” a statement from the CSTEP said.
Sharing an anecdote, Dr Jai Asundi, Executive Director, CSTEP, said, “When I was a student at Carnegie Mellon, Prof V S Arunachalam used to have important visitors regularly and we used to make presentations to them. On one occasion, a former minister after listening to my presentation asked- ‘What are you doing after your PhD?. Without waiting for me to say anything, pat came the reply – ‘They will be returning to India with me for sure!’. He felt very strongly about working on Indian problems and developing solutions using science and technology. That he imbibed in us through his undying optimism.”