Release of Book: Bio-detectors in Defence & Chemical Detectors in Defence, at IIC, New Delhi, 28 December, 2018
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Remarks by the Guest of Honour, Dr, Arvind Gupta, Director, VIF

Shri Y. S. Chowdary, Hon'ble Minister of State for Ministry of Science & Technology and Earth Sciences, Prof. Brij Mohan Gandhi, distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to join the book release function this evening.

First of all, I would like to congratulate Prof. Brij Mohan Gandhi and the associate editors Shri Kapil Gandhi and Shri Nikhil Gandhi for their efforts in coming up with these two important volumes on very important and pertinent topics that addresses the issue of safety of human society from Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs). The two volumes offer a rich guide on various types of detection technologies available to defence agencies, responders in public and private sphere and also for individual utility.

In recent decades, the world has seen an exponential rise of non-state actors and their ambition to acquire - and use - weapons of mass destruction. Recent reports alleging use of chemical weapons by Daesh (ISIS) serve a stark reminder of the threat and consequences of terrorist groups using such weapons. Though the world is rapidly approaching the goal of global chemical and biological weapons disarmament, we still have much to do to ensure a future free from the threat of chemical and biological warfare. In this context, it is necessary to ensure preparedness against the threat of use of chemical and biological weapons by the non-state actors. The development of domestic preparedness against various current and emerging threats of WMDs poses a serious challenge for governments in both developed as well as developing countries.

Especially threat-intensive are the biological agents as many of them can be manufactured, transported, and dispensed with ease. Although these agents are covered under the Biological and Toxins Weapons Convention (BTWC), the threat of their use by non-state actors remains a major concern. Biological Warfare Agents (BWAs) include bacterial agents, viral agents, rickettsiae and biological toxins. Similarly, the Chemical agents, which are covered under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) pose immense threat the society. One hundred years ago, the world was ravaged by Spanish Flu Pandemic. Nearly 50-60 million people dies in the outbreak including fourteen millions in India alone. This threat of pandemics is as potent as ever. We need to have technologies and systems to deal with potential pandemic emergencies. This is huge task. To prepare against these threats require developing concrete policies and such policies can be effective only with good research and data.

Today, hundreds of companies are providing solutions for the military defence against chemical, biological, nuclear, radiological, and high-yield explosive (CBRNE) weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The use of advanced and portable detectors plays an important role in the early detection and identification of the biological agent’s release. It offers the possibility of rapid, accurate, and tailored response. Advanced detection systems also provide early warning, identify populations at risk and contaminated areas and facilitate prompt treatment that integrates technology, operations, and policy.

The volumes by Prof. Gandhi presents a guide reports information on compatible instruments, consumables, and computer-based laboratory systems available either exclusively for detection of biological warfare agents. The authors have a made a commendable efforts in summarising commercially available technologies that can be used by first responders, military, homeland security agencies and others to investigate an unusual event that has happened or is in progress in the environment. This information would be useful for end-users to make informed decisions about bio-detection technology procurement and use. Also, these guides are meant for reference purposes for educating the general public, defence industry, homeland security agencies, local, state and national governments on biological and chemical defence matters.

As we are aware, most of the international non-proliferation norms are ill-equipped to address the threat of non-state actors acquiring chemical weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. This requires developing comprehensive policy response. Many of the equipment and technologies mentioned in the book are foreign made and expensive. We need to make them affordable. This involves the need to work towards technology indigenisation. That is the need of the hour. This will require investments in R&D, synergy between academia, industry and government. We need to make policy change to encourage indigenisation. We should build a robust innovation eco-system conducive for indigenisation of technologies and products.

The words of C V Raman, an Indian physicist who was awarded the Bharat Ratna and the 1930 Nobel Prize for Physics, are highly relevant. I quote, “Success can only come to you by courageous devotion to the task lying in front of you, and there is nothing worth in this world that can come without the sweat of our brow.”

Prof. Gandhi has devoted his whole life to this endeavour and I wish to congratulate him for the commendable efforts.

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