Staff Reporter

Initiative in association with ISRO, Swaminathan Foundation

KOTTAKKAL: The 104-year-old Arya Vaidya Sala here achieved yet another milestone on Thursday when it opened a village resource centre (VRC) in association with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF).

The centre will help Arya Vaidya Sala reach out to rural masses with expertise not only in Ayurveda and medicinal plants, but also in many areas useful for them.

Explaining the functioning of the centre, MSSRF chairman M.S. Swaminathan said it would act as an information hub with which many sub-centres in villages would be connected. The sub-centres will be known as village knowledge centres (VKCs). They will be linked to the VRC mainly by telephone.

Giving an example of how the VRC can reach out to fisherfolk, Prof. Swaminathan said fishermen could be guided through cell phones to areas of fish shoals using the information supplied by ISRO satellites.

Prof. Swaminathan inaugurated the VRC at Arya Vaidya Sala's Centre for Medicinal Plants Research by kicking off a televised `virtual congress' on medicinal plants with experts in Chennai and Bangalore.

Indira Gandhi National Open University Vice-Chancellor V.R. Rajasekharan Pillai was the chief guest at the Kottakkal centre.

Apart from Prof. Swaminathan, the experts who took part in the tele-meeting included P. Pushpangadan, S. Natesh and Indira Balachandran in Kottakkal; Darshan Shankar, Uma Shankar and Ravi Chellam in Bangalore; and P. Dayanandan, D. Balasubramanyan and D. Kumaravel in Chennai.

Dr. Pushpangadan said the VRC could help translate for the people the wisdom of Ayurveda. Dr. Natesh said Ayurveda should be introduced in its holistic perspective to the modern generation.

Endangered species

Dr. Darshan Shankar said there was little coordination for conservation of medicinal plants. In the Eleventh Five-Year Plan, he said, nothing has been kept aside for conservation of medicinal plants, several hundreds of which have been enlisted critically endangered species.

Welcoming the congress, Aryavaidyan P.K. Warrier, managing trustee and chief physician of Arya Vaidya Sala, said the VRC would give advice to rural families on different aspects of medicine.

Dr. Warrier said the centre would give farmers cultivating medicinal plants tips on organic herb cultivation as well as on market demands. He said endangered medicinal plants would be protected with the help of tribal and rural families.

A.R. Sankaranarayanan, general manager of Arya Vaidya Sala, proposed a vote of thanks.

The MSSRF has set up 17 VRCs and 67 VKCs in association with the ISRO.

The Kottakkal VRC is the first such in the State. Many more VRCs will be set up across the country soon. ISRO plans to set up more than 5,000 VKCs in the Eleventh Plan.

Prof. Swaminathan said the Kottakkal VRC would cover the State's herbal genome valley extending from Silent Valley to Wayanad and Idukki districts.

A national meet on content creation for VRCs will be held here on Friday and Saturday. Prof. Swaminathan will inaugurate the meet, organised jointly by the Arya Vaidya Sala; Jamshedji Tata National Virtual Academy for Rural Prosperity; MSSRF; ISRO; Sir Dorabji Tata Trust; Tata Education Trust; International Development Research Centre, Canada; and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.