Scientists must play leading role in PURA project, says Kalam

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President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam presents the Norman Borlaug Award to the former Director-General ICAR, R. S. Paroda, at the 93rd Indian Science Congress in Hyderabad on Thursday. PHOTO: K. RAMESH BABU
President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam presents the Norman Borlaug Award to the former Director-General ICAR, R. S. Paroda, at the 93rd Indian Science Congress in Hyderabad on Thursday. PHOTO: K. RAMESH BABU

P. Sunderarajan

They must provide scientific, technological leadership

Says the community can help set up 100 PURA centresMust comprise village knowledge centres, agri-clinics, tele-education, water treatment plantsMust be monitored by joint teams of scientists and villagers

HYDERABAD: President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam on Thursday called upon the scientific community to play a leading role in the Central Government's programme for "Provision of Urban Amenities in Rural Areas" (PURA) by giving scientific, technological and managerial leadership.

At the 93rd session of the Indian Science Congress here, he said the scientific community could help set up 100 PURA centres in different parts of the country this year. "Since Ministers and Secretaries from both the Centre and the States are present here, a decision can be taken to allot Rs. 500 crores to develop 100 PURA clusters."

The clusters could comprise 20-30 neighbouring villages and provide facilities such as village knowledge centres, agri-clinics, tele-education and tele-medicine centres, water treatment plants, cold storage for agricultural produce and business centres for marketing them at the national and international level.

The plans should, however, not be designed unilaterally. The villagers must be consulted. There must be active participation of the private sector. They should be regularly monitored by joint teams of scientists and villagers. "Tonight, you can meet and take a decision. I have discussed this proposal with the [Union] Minister of Rural Development, Dr. Raghuvansh Prasad Singhji. If any assistance for obtaining approvals is needed, I can assist."

Mr. Kalam recalled his recent visit to three PURAs, which are already operational, in Vallam in Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu, Chitrakoot in Madhya Pradesh and Loni in Maharashtra. In all of them, he found that technology and application of scientific methods of functioning played an important role. PURA projects initiated by the scientific community would provide experience to other institutions for taking up big programmes in future on an industrial scale. They should not be treated as mere experiments. It was application of science and technology for societal transformation.

Mr. Kalam called for the setting up of call centres on the lines of Kisan call centres to provide information and knowledge to villagers on entrepreneurial skill development, banking and insurance, meteorological forecasting, disaster warning, human resource development and education and health care.

Further, he set out a seven-point, time-bound and mission-mode research agenda for promoting sustainable rural development. The agenda included stepping up research for raising the productivity of rice, wheat, and seed cotton, developing low-cost water purification technologies and increasing the efficiency of solar cells.

Referring to an experiment in Bihar, which showed that paddy production could be more than doubled from two tonnes per hectare to 5.8 tonnes per hectare and wheat tripled from 0.9 tonnes per hectare to 2.7 hectares per hectare, he said the State could also become a major producer of cereals.

Bihar had the potential to become number one State in cereal production since it was in the Gangetic delta, which had quality soil, abundant water and hardworking farmers. The Planning Commission, agricultural scientists and infrastructure development groups must work together in making the State number one in cereal production since India needed one more State to produce large amounts of cereal to meet the increasing demand. Since the terrains were similar, such methods can be used in eastern Uttar Pradesh also, he said.

Borlaug award for Paroda

President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, on Thursday presented the Norman E.Borlaug award to the former Director-General of Indian Council of Agricultural Research, R.S. Paroda, at the 93rd session of the Indian Science Congress here.

Instituted by Coromandel Fertilisers, a constituent of the Murugappa Group of industries, the award carries a cash prize of Rs. 1 lakh, a gold medal and a citation and is named after agricultural scientist and Nobel Laureate, Norman E.Borlaug.

Dr. Paroda has many credits as a plant breeder and organiser-administrator of agricultural research. He was instrumental in revamping Indian agricultural research system and had helped formulate vision 2020 document in the field of agriculture. In recognition of his meritorious contributions, he was conferred Padma Bhushan in 1998.



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