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Friday, January 28, 2022

Kangra’s medicinal farming: The man with a mission

It is because of Dr Sunil Kumar’s efforts that locals have come to know of medicinal plantation. All the farmers agree they would not have entered this field had Dr Kumar not spread awareness at the grassroots level.

Written by Rajesh Chander Sharma | Kangra |
Updated: January 2, 2022 8:43:30 am
Dr Sunil Kumar (Express Photo)

More than being the district nodal officer of the State Medicinal Plants Board, Dr Sunil Kumar, an ayurvedic doctor, is the force and the face behind the medicinal farming in this area.

“In my 25-year career I haven’t seen the kind of work Dr Sunil has done in terms of medicinal plantation. Earlier, people were concerned about getting subsidy. Now we have got success in harvesting and post-harvesting aspects. That’s a big difference,” says Dr Brij Nandan Sharma, Sub-divisional Ayurvedic Medical Officer.

Medicinal farming is being done by 71 farmers in 39 villages in five blocks in Kangra district. While 30 of them are doing it under MGNREGS, the others are doing it under Ayush department scheme or are doing it on their own. Keeping them together is Dr Kumar, sharing their pain and pleasure in equal measure. He takes up their cases, be it regarding seeds, plants, land, labour, money, weather or bureaucratic procedures. Sometimes he succeeds and sometimes he doesn’t — like in the case of Vinay Kumar of Dohag village. Money was sanctioned for medicinal plantation on his eight-kanal land. Four-five women worked under MGNREGA in his field for four-five days. After that, neither the labour came nor did the money come. The 3,000 plants that Dr Kumar had bought with his money dried up after some time, so did the enthusiasm of his 35-year-old friend. Dr Kumar has not given up, he still tries to revive his friend’s interest in medicinal plantation whenever he gets an opportunity.

It is because of Dr Kumar’s efforts that locals have come to know of medicinal plantation. All the farmers agree they would not have entered this field had Dr Kumar not spread awareness at the grassroots level.

Dr Chandan sees a streak of madness in him. “In government departments, things don’t happen easily. But this guy has done outstanding work in spite of limitations. Yeh kaam junoon ke bina nahin hota, aur aushdhiya kheti ke liye yeh junoon Dr Sunil Kumar aur Una ki Behar Jaswan wali Reeva Sood mein hai (This is not possible without madness, and this madness about medicinal farming is there in Dr Sunil Kumar and Reeva Sood of Una’s Behar Jaswan),” says Dr Chandan.

For proof, listen to Devraj Koundal, of Andrari village. “I joined Doctor sahib on a monthly salary of Rs 2,000 on December 24, 2019. I wanted to leave on November 26, 2020. But then my salary was increased to Rs 10,000 and I stayed back,” says the 25-year-old who works as an assistant to Dr Kumar — inside and outside the ayurvedic dispensary at Daloh village. Not a government employee, he draws his salary from Dr Kumar’s pocket.

Then, for one guy, Dr Kumar purchased a hand-driven tractor for Rs 90,000. A concerned Anoop Vashist, of Ghallour village, gently tells Dr Kumar, “If you keep spending on others, you won’t be able to feed your family.”

But Dr Kumar is always ready to go the extra mile.

He preaches patience and practises it as well. Bhag Singh, of Bhagin village, has cultivated tulsi on four-kanal land. He does not find tulsi produce good enough and wants to sow wheat in its place — but not before registering his protest. “Doctor sahib, hum to aapke kahane pe phans gaye. Mera bahut nuksan ho gaya (Doctor, I have been trapped in this because of you. I have suffered a great deal),” says the 81-year-old, raising his voice. Dr Kumar keeps his cool even as the old man loses his temper.

In his interaction with villagers, Dr Kumar has come across six traditional healers. In order to preserve their skill, he intends to fix one day for their OPD at the new ayurvedic health centre which is coming up at a cost of Rs 45 lakh at Daloh village. “We need to protect their art, skill and knowledge which we won’t find in any books,” he says.

What keeps the 40-year-old going is a small dream: Aushadhiya kheti aivam sampada se aatm-nirbhar aur swasth samaj (a self-reliant and healthy society because of medicinal plantation and wealth).

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