January 24, 2023

MUMBAI: The man who pushed the button on India’s first nuclear weapon test at Pokhran on May 18,1974 (code-named ‘Smiling Buddha’), Pranab Dastidar, passed away on February 11 in California.
In an earlier interaction with TOI, Dastidar had recalled the thrilling and exciting moments at Pokhran, just before he had pulled the trigger. How Dastidar was chosen for the critical task is explained by physicist Raja Ramanna, a key figure behind the nuclear test, in his autobiography, ‘Years Of Pilgrimage’.Ramanna recalled that on the day of the detonation, there was some argument about who would press the button. “I put an end to it by suggesting that the person who had been responsible for fabricating the trigger should, in a manner of speaking, pull it. Dastidar was chosen to press the button……” Ramanna wrote.
Padma Shri recipient Dastidar was group director at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, as well as director at the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). He had also played a role in the design and development of the reactor for India’s first indigenous nuclear submarine, INS Arihant.

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