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Journey from a humble farmer to a research scientist

Life&More May 5, 2018
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A Man with Golden Seeds – Dr Narayan Bhai Chawda
Author: Rajeev Ranjan Prasad
Publisher: Yash Publications
PP: 268 , Rs 250

Rajkumari Sharma Tankha

Have you ever wondered why we don’t get to see biographies of farmers, despite India being an agricultural country wherein farmers should get much respect and prominence. Isn’t it disheartening? Well, worry no more. Early this year, in January 2018, Yash Publications came up with A Man With Golden Seeds, biography of Dr Narayan Bhai Chawda, an agriculturist.

I don’t know why I picked this book up? Is it because the girl who brought it requested me to review it? Is it because the large mustard farms in my native village in Jalandhar, Punjab, seem to beckon me every time I pay a visit? Is it because of my love for gardening or has it something to do with my love for reading?

In this well-written biography, author Rajeev Ranjan Prasad, takes us through the trials and tribulations that a farmer has to face, be it nature’s fury or government apathy. He tells us how single-minded devotion of an annadaata to the land he tills can result in miraculous produce.

Dr Chawda took the decision to become a farmer while he was still a child. The gusto and diligence that I developed for agriculture, right from my childhood, was rooted in cultivation of green vegetables by my father on three acres of land leased in Kelkar Bari, he writes.

As a child and a youngster, Narayan loved spending time in his vegetable garden or under fruit trees even as his friends would go out on trips. That isn’t totally unexpected though as Narayan’s father, Monji Bhai, had sold off his provisional store to purchase land for farming. In fact, MOnji Bhai was the first farmer to take up vegetable farming on commercial scale in Kelkar Bari, Raipur.

Beginning with commercial green vegetable farming after completing his graduation (B.Sc,-agriculture) from the Allahabad University, Narayan soon set up a seed company and later a research centre, spread over 35 acres in Gomchi, wherein he started work on developing new varieties of vegetables. He soon branched out into fruit breeding and developed a new variety of guava, VNR BIHI. He then developed a variety of ber, called Shabri Ber. His specialisation in pomology (study of fruit science) helped him great deal in this. Pandit Ravi Shankar Shukla University, Raipur (Chhatisgarh) awarded him the doctorate degree much later and he then came to be called Dr Narayan Bhai Chawda

This book is not just the biography of an eminent farmer but much more. The author takes up various issues confronting farmers like soil and weather conditions, government apathy, an utter lack of connect between various agricultural institutions and research centres to the actual stakeholders, the farmers. It has great nuggets of information on all aspects of farming, be it climate, crop rotation, pesticides and fertilisers and an in-depth knowledge about Chhattisgarh, in particular, where Dr Chawda lives and works. In the same breath, the book also talks about the farmer suicides, and how even after seven decades of Independence, the farmers are living in pitiable conditions.

The book also throws a lot of questions (any good book should): Why have we failed to take technology to the farmers? Why have we failed to protect our indigenous seeds? Why do children studying in agricultural universities end up as babus in secretariats instead of going back to farming?

Full marks to Rajeev Ranjan Prasad for telling such a sensitive story in such a fluent manner and easy English. I would recommend this book to every single student of agriculture and every single farmer.

I wish the publication translates this book to Hindi and other vernacular languages so that farmers across the length and breadth of the country are able to read it and get inspired.

 

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