Dr GS Kalkat (1926-2018): Think-tank on agrarian issues and voice of farmers
The eminent agricultural scientist Dr Gurcharan Singh Kalkat, 92, passed away at PGIMER, Chandigarh, on Saturday after a brief illness.
Eminent agricultural scientist Dr Gurcharan Singh Kalkat, 92, passed away at PGIMER, Chandigarh, on Saturday after a brief illness. He was a part of the team of scientists that steered the adoption of high-yielding Mexican wheat varieties by Punjab farmers in the mid-60s. This sowed the seeds of the Green Revolution.
As the country commemorated the golden jubilee of the Green Revolution on November 27, 2015, a central government communication to Dr Kalkat said, “We thank you for the leadership provided in Green Revolution in the country and guidance over the years.” He was bestowed with the Padma Shri in 1981 and the Padma Bhushan in March 2007.
Born on June 17, 1926, at Sahora village in Hoshiarpur, he did his schooling in district Montgomery (Sahiwal) Pakistan and obtained his BSc Agriculture from Punjab Agriculture College, Lyallpur (now in Pakistan) in 1947. After his Master’s degree, he joined Ohio State University in the US as a Rockefeller Fellow for his PhD. The university honoured him with the ‘Distinguished International Student Award’. He went on to become the agriculture commissioner in the Union ministry of agriculture in 1977.
After a stint with the World Bank in Washington DC as a senior agriculturist and working on agriculture and rural development programmes of Nigeria and Ghana, he devoted his remaining years to Punjab.
As Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) vice-chancellor from April 1988 to March 2001, he identified priority areas and problems of farmers through consultations with farm scientists.
A champion of diversification
A champion of diversifying from the wheat-paddy cycle, he was the voice of farmers in the government. As the founder chairman of the Punjab Farmers Commission in 2005 — a post he occupied for 12 years till 2017 — he became the think-tank of the state government on all agrarian issues.
As the head of the committee on agricultural reforms formed by the previous Parkash Singh Badal regime, he did not shy away from recommending the end of the poll sop of free power to farmers and replacing it with metered power supply. He called for market reforms by amending the Agriculture Produce Market Committee Act and roping in the private sector to promote contract farming.
To tackle rural indebtedness, he suggested regularising the informal money-lending system, judicious use of water, a regulatory authority and a law to stop burning of paddy straw. The law, though implemented, has been scuttled by politics.
Recalling his association with Dr Kalkat, Central University, Bathinda, chancellor SS Johal said he was an honest and bright professional. “When Indira Gandhi was the prime minister, he rose to the position of the agriculture commissioner of India. Dr Kalkat was frank in his views and expressed it independently in a civil manner. Never colleagues, I have cherished memories of our trip to Pakistan to attend a wedding,” he added.
Noted agriculture analyst Devinder Sharma credits him as one of the pioneers of agricultural research in Punjab. “During his tenure, the PAU focused on output,” he said.
PAU V-C Dr Baldev Singh Dhillon remembers him as the right mix of brain, heart, talent and faith. “Not only did he have the ability to communicate a vision clearly and contagiously, he also possessed the determination to ensure it was executed. A thinker and a feeler rolled into one, he played an important role in the agricultural development of the country,” he said.
Condoling the death, chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh said Dr Kalkat was a pioneer in bringing several reforms in the field of agriculture besides bringing the Green Revolution in the state. The CM also recalled his contribution to the phenomenal growth in the agriculture sector.