Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Tuesday, Apr 08, 2003
Industry & Economy
Silent revolution under way in TN villages
CHUNAMPET, (Kancheepuram), April 7
IN two small groups of villages tucked away in the remote recesses of Tamil Nadu, a silent revolution is under way, thanks to the efforts of the National Agro Foundation, a body that the President of India once happened to be the Chairman of.
The mission: to enable each family in the adopted villages to earn an income of at least Rs 50,000 per annum, make them literate and healthy. The Foundation has taken up 45 villages in two clusters, one near Chunampet and the other near Gummidipoondi. About 15,000 people live in these villages.
The method: to train the farmers in a variety of agricultural and allied activities, give them inputs and the markets.
The men: the family of the founder, the late Bharat Ratna Mr C. Subramanian, assisted by an army of people such as the Chennai-based M.K. Raju Consultants, the well-known cardiologist Dr Cherian, the Chairman of the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) Mr N. Rangachary, Dr N.G. Hegde, an expert from Maharashtra, in cattle farming.
And there appears to be rolling out, a development envisioned by the founder of NAF, with instances of success on the rise, indicating the mission to be on the road to fulfilment.
The development drive reached a milestone on Sunday with the laying of foundation stone for a Rs 1-crore Farmers Training Centre (FTC) at the Illedu village near Chunampet, by the Chairman of the Punjab National Bank, Mr S.S. Kohli. (Chunampet is 110 km south of Chennai, some 25 km to the south of Madurantakam town.)
The bank also donated Rs 25 lakh towards the facility, expected to be completed in about six months time. Mr N. Rangachary, as well as the Executive Director of PNB Mr T.S. Narayanaswami, were present at the function. The rest of the expenditure is also likely to be met from donations.
What the FTC aims to do, gives an indication of what the NAF's activities are all about. The FTC will have facilities to train both farmers into modern agricultural practices (such as judicious use of inputs and marketing) as well as the bank officials and MBA graduates into the basics of agriculture.
The Centre is expected to have audio-visual facilities and an auditorium. There will also be space to accommodate at least 20 resident-trainees.
The FTC will be complemented by a 5-acre of farmland donated to the NAF for agricultural experiments and NAF-run a soil testing facility in Chennai. The `demonstration farms' have been donated by one Mr C. Ramakrishna, a former lawyer and a local landlord. Mr Ramakrishna has also donated another 3.5 acres of land for the TNEB to put up a substation, and another piece of land, for creating a tractor repair shop.
Thus, alongside the field activities of the 3-year old foundation, the infrastructure to support its mission, is also coming up.
According to Mr S.S. Rajasekar, Managing Trustee of NAF and the son of Mr C. Subramanian, the foundation's three-year track record is a matter of satisfaction. With Dr Hegde's help, several local boys have been trained in artificial insemination. So far, 608 artificial inseminations have been done at the two clusters of villages, with 60 per cent success in pregnancy.
According to Dr Hegde, because of indiscriminate breeding, the cows have become nondescript. With artificial insemination, the offsprings would turn out to be high milk-yielding breeds capable of producing 8 litres of milk a day, compared to 1.5 litres of the nondescript cows.
The NAF has been assisting the villagers in marketing the milk to the nearby hotels and restaurants, but has now enlisted the support of Hatsun Foods Ltd, makers of Arun ice-cream, to offtake the milk.
In the demonstration farms set up by NAF, yields in maize improved by 150 per cent, paddy 42 per cent and sugarcane 40 per cent, Mr Rajasekar said. "This has enthused the small farmers to adopt scientific methods of farming, reduce costs and increase their incomes," he said.
The NAF is also on a literacy drive, having set up about 35 `literacy centres'. In these centres, 785 persons have already been made literate and another 750 are under training, he said.
Apart from this, the foundation has also promoted 35 self-help groups, with a membership of 550 persons. These groups are being helped in a variety of income augmenting projects, such as bird rearing.
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