Friday, September 30, 2005

Dadaji Ramaji Khobragade - A nightingale in a poultry farm.

Dadaji Ramaji Khobragade. A name I had not heard of. But on the 26th of September I saw an article about him in the daily The Times of India. It is an unbelievable story. The story of a farmer from an oppressed (Dalit) background who developed a brand of rice which is grown all over India. His keen powers of observation had helped him to discover this new variety in 1983 which was christened HMT Sona by a seeds dealer of the Chandrapur district of Maharashtra. HMT Sona is a popular wrist watch manufactured by Hindustan Machine Tools and one of the farmers who took the seeds to the dealer was wearing one of these watches when he met the dealer.

The sad part of the story is about how scientists at the Panjabrao Deshmuksh Krishi Vidyapeeth, an agricultural university of Maharashtra, are trying to claim credit for developing a new brand named 'HMT-PKV' which is nothing but Khobragade's HMT Sona.Khobragade is a widower, his son is ill and he looks after his son's wife and three grandsons too. His sole possession is a small piece of land. And yet this genius continues to work, developing new strains of rice. He has developed a new strain which he has named DRK.

It is not that his work has not been recognized. The National Innovation Foundation (NIF)has put his picture on the cover of their famous journal Honey Bee and he was also awarded the National Grassroots Innovations Award this year. The award was given to him by none other than President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam on January 5 this year. And PKV which claims to have "purified" the strain also seems to have realised the enormity of their blunder. According a report published in The Indian Express the vice-chancellor of PKV Sharad Nimbalkar has said ‘‘We only say we have characterised, purified and improvised the breed so that it doesn’t get mixed with any impurity in the natural course. And we should appreciate that it is scientifically necessary to do so.’’ He also says ‘‘Nobody can take it away from Dadaji...I will immediately send him the authentication papers for the award.’’

Is it not a sad and horrifying story? Yet such incidents continue to occur. Many a genius stifled in infancy. Khobragade's story reminds me of the story of Dr. Goerge Washington Carver of the U.S.A who had done a staggering amount of work on agricultural plants but had to face a lot of discrimination because he happened to be black.
Some more links to DRK and his struggle:
(1) The list of innovators and their innovations given here is fascinating.

(2) The report on the TV Channel NDTV must have made quiet an impact when it was telecast.

(3)Unfortunately I could not obtain a link to the article written by Ramu Bhagwat and published in The Times of India dated Sept 26 2005. It was this article which introduced me to DRK and his work.


Blogger Renu said...

Is this HMT-Sona, the same as Sona masuri?
I wonder if you've read "Everybody loves a good drought - P.Sainath". Its got well-documented stories about rural issues /welfare schemes and how they didn't take off. Thought you might be interested. I read 1 or 2 articles then gave up because I found it very disheartening.
How convenient!

10:44 PM  

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