CONGRESS president Rahul Gandhi will visit the family of late Dadaji Khobragade, an award-winning paddy farmer from Chandrapur district who died on June 4 in Penury on Wednesday.
Khobragade, 79, had died of complications arising out of paralysis at the Shodhgram hospital of health activists Abhay and Rani Bang in Gadchiroli. A resident of Nanded village in Nagbhid tahsil of Chandrapur district, Dadaji had ingeniously developed eight varieties of paddy, the most famous being the HMT variety, which is grown on a very large area in Central India.
Dadaji, a Dalit cultivator with just 1.5 acres of land, had experimented lifelong on his farm to develop the paddy varieties. The HMT rice innovation story had started in early 80s with Dadaji noticing three yellowish and small-sized grains of rice from the Patel-3 variety he had sown in his farm. He preserved and multiplied them over the next few years and became famous as its innovator in the local market, where a middleman named it HMT by the new wristwatch he had purchased.
In the 90s, however, the State-run Panjabrao Krishi Vidyapeeth (PKV) took it from Dadaji and later released it with its own name PKVHMT. Aggrieved Dadaji had to run from pillar to post to seek the credit for his own innovation but PKV was unrelenting and justified the knew name saying it had “purified” and stabilised the variety, which is not possible for a farmer to do. Dadaji, however, went on to win the National Innovation Foundation award for the same in 2006. Over the years he continued to develop more such varieties using the technique of natural selection.
The State government had later awarded with Krushi Bhushan Puraskar which too was mired in a controversy following Dadaji finding the gold medal to be actually made of copper when he had gone to a goldsmith to sell it to make ends meet. The medal was subsequently replaced with one made of genuine gold.
During his treatment, the State government provided aid of Rs 2 lakh but it was largely the crowdfunding effort by digital marketing consultant Sukhada Chaudhary that saw Rs 7 lakh being raised for Dadaji’s treatment.
“Rahul Gandhi will spend some time with Dadaji’s family before holding a chaupal discussion with farmers at Nanded on Wednesday,” said Congress MLA Vijay Wadettiwar.
Gandhi’s visit assumes significance in the wake of the mounting criticism faced by Modi government over the issue of farm distress. Besides, Khobragade was also a Dalit, which packs an additional political punch to Gandhi’s visit.
Gandhi had created a storm in Parliament in 2009, when he had visited Kalavati, a farm widow from Jalka village of Yavatmal district and had mentioned her story in his Parliament speech.