The Union Cabinet approved a 2,600-crore initiative to build a gravitational-wave detector in Maharashtra, modeled after the twin LIGO devices in the U.S. Astronomy changed in 2016 when they discovered gravitational waves.

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The LIGO-India cooperation is building a third detector in India to increase gravitational wave detection. The Cabinet’s decision opens two possibilities: India might become a global center for gravitational physics research, teaching and managing precise technology and complex control systems, and establishing a reputation for effectively administering an experimental Big Science project. Construction funding must be released on schedule, followed by resource allocation.

LIGO-India must contribute to the communities from which it requires sustenance

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Second, by employing Big Science, LIGO-India can intelligently address Indian society’s connection with science. The Challakere Science City and the India-based Neutrino Observatory have been contentious for India (INO). They demand enormous land areas, requiring land-use modification.

The Thirty Meter Telescope, to be erected on holy ground in Hawaii, is an example of how science and settler colonialism have interacted. According to scientific historian Leandra Swanner, “science had become an agent of colonialism” and made the country inaccessible. Experimental Big Science projects, like the INO, in economically developing nations have been criticized for being disconnected from public concerns.

Even if this latter argument is shaky, such projects must specify their public usefulness beyond national industry and research. This is LIGO-second India’s chance to develop a facility that benefits the communities from which it draws sustenance and expertise, negotiate land and resource access in good faith, and perform public outreach on par with the worldwide LIGO Scientific Collaboration. Consider what LIGO-India can accomplish for India.