Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Farmer named by Forbes is landless today-Times of India.

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Farmer named by Forbes is landless today

CHANDRAPUR: Forbes' lists evoke awe. Those who figure in the publication's pantheon are super achievers, and, more often than not, super rich.

Dadaji Khobragade has made it to a Forbes' list. The magazine recently named him as one of the seven most powerful rural Indian entrepreneurs, whose "inventions are changing lives" of people across the country. For good reason too: Khobragade revolutionised paddy farming by developing the highly successful variety of paddy — HMT rice — that gives 80% more yield than conventional varieties and has become a household name.

But Khobragade is hardly your run-of-the-mill Forbes' millionaire. He is a landless labourer fighting poverty in the remote Nanded (Fakir) village in Nagbhid tehsil. Seventy and struggling, he can barely make ends meet.

The irony couldn't be more acute: Although the variety invented by him is cultivated over lakhs of hectares across the country, Khobragade doesn't even have an inch of land in his own name. HMT rice is sold at around Rs 3200 a quintal, but Khobragade had to sell his three-acre land because he didn't have money to fund his son's hospitalisation. Khobragade has a rack full of awards but his grandson could not pursue his polytechnic course because the family couldn't afford the modest fees.

Khobragade is barely literate but was always gifted when it came to farming. Despite no formal education in agriculture – he has studied only until Class III – Khobragade began experimental breeding of a new variety of rice. After years of trial and error, his variety gave him a much higher yield compared to that of conventional one. In 1989, the yield with the newly developed variety was so astounding that, the demand for his variety skyrocketed in no time.

"I began my experiments with the conventional 'Patel 3' variety of rice. After five years of continuous study and research, I succeeded in developing the one that is now known as HMT rice," Khobragade said, evidently recalling the story with mechanical ease.

However, the name of the variety — HMT – happened quite by accident. While people took their bumper paddy harvest from the seeds given by Khobragade for sale in the APMC market yard, the authorities asked for the name of the variety.

One of Khobragade's companions suggested the name of HMT, the brand of wrist watch he was wearing at the time, and the farmer innocently accepted it. The demand for HMT variety skyrocketed. In 1997, Khobragade alleged that the Panjabrao Krishi Vidyapeeth (PKV) was commercialising his variety and had started selling it with the name of PKV HMT rice. The agriculture university had claimed that it had 'purified' Khobragade's variety.

Nevertheless, Khobragade got several awards, including the Rastrapati award, state government's Krishi Bhushan award and the award given by National Innovative Foundation for his contribution in the field of agriculture.

However, despite the fame and awards, Khobragade's financial condition continued to deteriorate. He lives an impoverished life with his wife, son, daughterin-law and three grandsons with his small earnings.

"I had to sell my land for the treatment of my son. The small and only help came from the father-in-law of my son, who bought 1.5 acres of land in the name of his daughter. At present, I carry out my research work in this small piece of land owned by my daughter-in-law," Khobragade said.

Khobragade had asked 10 acres of land on lease from the district administration and had forwarded application in 2008, but he says nothing has come of it so far.

He said he had come to know about the Forbes' list only through scribes."I'm happy that my efforts have been recognised," he said. Tehsil agriculture officer, Nagbhid, DV Wahane said,"His request for 10 acres of land on lease has been approved. But the allotment is withheld due some procedural reasons. I would soon take up the issue with the tehsildar" said Wahane.

Khobragade hopes that this promise isn't hollow. But he has every reason to be skeptical of the government's intentions: the gold medal he had received as part of the Krishi Bhushan award had turned out to be made of silver.

Read more: Farmer named by Forbes is landless today - The Times of India http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/nagpur/Farmer-named-by-Forbes-is-landless-today/articleshow/6933299.cms#ixzz15TDnV200

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