In the past too T. Venkatapathi Reddiar, a standard 4 dropout, has been in the news for the use of innovative technology in horticulture, not once but more than 10 times. But on Wednesday came the biggest of the news for this farmer hailing from the Koodapakkam village near here. The Union Government bestowing him with a Padma Shri for his innovation in horticulture farming.
“At around 10.30 a.m I got a call from New Delhi. The person on the line congratulated me on being awarded the Padma Shri. I did not understand as the person was speaking in Hindi and English and the call ended abruptly, a beaming Reddiar said adding that he had to wait till evening to confirm the news.
Now bestowed with Padma Shri, Reddiar who is widely known in this part as a progressive florist for developing hybrid varieties of Crossandra and casurina wants to be an inspiration for the younger generation. “If a person with no formal education can get recognised for creating innovation in agriculture one wonders what students passing out from various Agriculture Colleges can do. They can change the agriculture scenario if they innovate,” he said
Recounting his rise as a farmer with repute, he said “it all began at the age of 19 but till in the 1990's it was sort of ordinary farming.” When the yield from paddy reduced, Mr Reddiar decided to experiment with cash crops such as crossandra and casurina. “I reduced my area of cultivation and then switched to horticulture.
From taking lessons from translated research papers, I learnt about gamma irradiation and started developing mutant variation of Crossandra and casurina,” he said. The Indira Gandhi Atomic Centre, Kalpakkam came to know about the farmer's pioneering work and decided to partner with him in developing hybrid varieties of Crossandra, which according to Mr Reddiar was pest resistant and has a life span of around five years compared to the normal five months. Since he started raising the varieties, he rose to fame with the then President Abdul Kalam pouring encomiums and inviting him for dinner at Rastrapathi Bhavan.