Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled a statue of scientist Dr Vikram Sarabhai, who is regarded as the father of the Indian space programme, on Sabarmati riverfront on Thursday to mark the innovator’s birth centenary year, and said that instilling a scientific temperament among Gujarat’s children would be the best tribute to him.
“A boy of this city, who used to sit and study on these very banks of Sabarmati, went on to put India on the world map with his accomplishments in science and technology. A son of this soil, the pride of this city, and this country’s ‘shaan’ (pride), he was Dr Vikram Sarabhai,” the Prime Minister said after inaugurating the statue.
The 6-ft-tall bronze statue, weighing 1,050 kg, shows Dr Sarabhai seated on a desk, and has been sculpted by Ahmedabad-based artist Dhruv Shilpi and installed on a piece of land that was part of the scientist’s home before the flood washed it away. The land was given to the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) by Sarabhai family.
This is Dr Sarabhai’s first statue installed in a public space in Ahmedabad — most of his statues being installed in institutions set up by him like the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A), the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), ISRO’s Space Application Centre, and so on.
“I hope as we remember him on his 100th birth anniversary, a scientific temperament is instilled in our Gujarat’s children. This would be the best tribute to him… I have seen that indeed this (the statue) looks like Vikram Sarabhai sitting there and engaged deeply in studying. With him (Sarabhai’s statue) on the (Sabarmati) riverfront, wahan ki shaan ko badha rahe hai (increasing the pride of the place). I am proud that I got the opportunity to inaugurate it,” Modi added.
The entire Sarabhai family was present at the unveiling of the statue, including Dr Vikram Sarabhai’s son, Kartikeya, who founded the Centre for Environment Education and is a trustee of the Sabarmati Ashram, his sister and danseuse Mallika Sarabhai, who has been a staunch critic of Modi and had contested as an Independent candidate against LK Advani in Gandhinagar during the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. Also present were heads of the institutions that Dr Sarabhai helped set up.
A release from Darpana Academy of Performing Arts, headed by Mallika Sarabhai, said, “The Prime Minister graced the occasion at the request of the family”.
“At the behest of the Prime Minister, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has set up a Vikram Sarabhai centenary celebration committee that has chalked out a number of initiatives to commemorate Dr Sarabhai and his work. Events have been planned all over the country at all ISRO centres and other venues. Several other institutions have also made their own plans with special emphasis being placed on youth and students. Space clubs where students will learn science and mathematics are being planned across the country,” the release added.
The statue was commissioned by the AMC, and was closely supervised by Kartikeya and Mallika. Adjacent to the statue, a public gallery is being set up that would be accessible from the riverfront.
An exhibition featuring his life and work has been planned “to inspire children and youth to understand how science played a role in the development of our country”.