Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Punjabi to be proud of!

I doubt that many Punjabis are aware that Punjabi scientists, many of whom have prior affiliations with the Punjab Agriculture University (PAU), have played a key role in solving the problems of world food availability by spear heading research on enhancing rice productivity at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) headquartered in the Philippines and with offices in 14 countries. More than half of the world’s 6.7 billion people are rice eaters.

Dr. Gurdev Singh Khush a former principal scientist at IRRI, is perhaps the most well known. Dr Khush is an internationally acclaimed rice breeder and geneticist. Dr Khush won the World Food Prize in 1996. He has been awarded by at least 15 countries including China, Japan and Korea, the major rice dependent nations of the world. He is also a recipient of the Padma Shri. Dr Khush has played a key role in the development of more than 300 varieties of rice. He retired from IRRI in 2002 and teaches at the University of California, Davis (UC-Davis)

Dr Khush obtained his agriculture degree at PAU, Ludhiana before going to UC, Davis where he obtained his PhD in genetics. On 15 January 2009, at the convocation ceremonies of the PAU, Dr Khush did something that you don’t hear of in India much. He donated Rs 3.5 crore (approximately US$700,000) to PAU to strengthen its research program. This amount represented the accumulated value of the prize money of various international awards that Dr Khush has received to date. His advice to the young graduates: "Your schooling may be over but, remember, your education will continue forever; learning is a continuous lifelong process. You have the responsibility to improve the quality of life and widen the span of knowledge of our country".

I have had the honor of interacting with Dr Khush. A gentler, humbler, more gracious human being is hard to come by.

More on our other eminent rice research scientists will follow.


wym said...

There is no doubt that Dr Khush has done commendable research in Manila. I, however, feel that he made a big mistake by donating such a large amount to PAU as most of this money must have gone into paying salaries rather than research. It is not so well known that 98% of the annual budget of PAU goes in maintaining the establishment! The glorious days of this once great institute are over -- at least until a visionary Chief Minister comes on the scene, which I don't see happening. The good Doctor should have given this money to a more deserving institute.

Punjabi Connection said...

I agree with what you have said but it is still commendable. Our institutions are so resource starved because they depend entirely on govt funding. The top US universities receive a lot of money from their alumni. We have to cultivate a tradition of giving to educational institutions (instead of to religious places). If more people start giving to educational institutions, they will also demand accountability.

wym said...

Punjabi Connection what you say is very relevant, particularly the need to give to educational institutions rather than only religious ones. I have also raised this issue in one of my posts on this blog. Having said that, I feel that one has to be very, very diligent in parting with one's money as far as Punjab's educational institutions are concerned. Great care should be taken to ensure one's donations can make a difference. Take the case of Dr Khush, his donation remains merely symbolic, though highly laudable, as this money would mean a week's pay for the PAU staff. I wish and hope, he had taken the precaution of ensuring that his funds are used only for pure research.