Benjamin Peary Pal was born in Punjab on May 26, 1906. Thereafter his family shifted to Burma, present Myanmar during the British regime. It was in Myanmar he received his early education. He received his doctorate in plant genetics and agriculture from Cambridge in 1933. It was then he conjectured upon hybrid vigour in self-pollinated crop like wheat. Thereafter, he returned to India to join the Imperial Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) at Pusa, Bihar, as an economic botanist. In 1950, he became the first Indian director of the Institute, which had by then been relocated to New Delhi. He also became the first Director General of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) in 1965. After retirement from ICAR, he served as the Chairman of the National Committee on Environmental Planning and Coordination. He set up a conducive ground for the ushering of Green Revolution in the country in the mid-sixties. After relentlessly serving the nation for six decades Dr Pal expired on September 14, 1989 leaving behind a saga par excellence.
Dr Pal made profound contributions in multifarious ways to the agricultural renaissance of India. He stood a great devotee of nature. As a geneticist and plant breeder, he spearheaded the breeding of disease resistant varieties. He is credited for pioneering work on rose improvement, developing more than 40 variety of roses and also bred numerous varieties of bougainvilleas. He came up with New Pusa series of wheat known as NP 700 and NP800 that possessed resistance to rust. Again in 1954, he released a newer variety of wheat known as NP 809. This was the first variety in the world with concurrent resistance to stem, leaf and stipe rusts, the three existing forms of malignant rust thereby increasing wheat production multifold times. Dr Pal'smaverick findings ushered the commercial exploitation of hybrid vigour in self-pollinated cereals like rice and wheat. He enunciated the ?search for new genes? as early in the 1940s and conceptualised a pragmatic strategy to combine them with the old existing genes. This daunting task formulated Plant Exploration and Collection Unit in 1946 in the Division of Botany in IARI now an autonomous unit, boasts to have the fourth largest collection in the world. It was all for Dr Pal'szeal for harnessing genetic resources and tapping gene power. His each and every action was commensurate with the need of the hour and bore a rare foresight for the future agricultural scientific community to optimise agricultural productivity, profitability and resource use for developing a prosperous India.
Dr Pal espoused the cause of agricultural research and education. He figures among the prime architect of the All-India coordinated research projects involving inter-disciplinary and inter-institutional collaboration. He set up a post-graduate school at IARI in 1958 to suffice the human resource requirement of different agricultural institutes thriving across India. He stood a zealot towards the development of agricultural universities to give fillip to integrated research, education and extension. He was the principal architect of ?education for agriculture?, a vital episode in the report of the National Education Commission headed by S Kothari.
Dr Pal was an astute administrator and a revolutionary by all means. His acumen transpired in the Green Revolution in India and instilled food security. The triumvirate consortium of Pal, Swaminathan and Subraminian laid the Food Corporation of India, the SCI (Seed Corporation of India) and SFC (State Farms Corporation). SCI and SFC subsequently became instrumental conduit towards farmers in receiving the benefits of the Green Revolution?the seeds of change.
Dr Pal'sachievements brought him accolades from national and global quarters?Padmavibhushan by the President of India, Fellowship of the Royal Society of London are among others. Seventy years ago what he had launched has catapulted to a global movement in the realm of genetic resources, conservation and enhancement. ?Through his efforts to mainstream ecological principles in technology development and dissemination he led the country into an era of sustainable agriculture and food security??bellied the present ICAR director general, M Rai during one of his memorial lectures.
?Through his efforts to mainstream ecological principles in technology development and dissemination he led the country into an era of sustainable agriculture and food security?, said Shri M. Rai, ICAR director.
As a geneticist and plant breeder, Dr Pal spearheaded the breeding of disease resistant varieties. He set up a conducive ground for the ushering of Green Revolution in the country in the mid-sixties. It was all for Dr Pal'szeal for harnessing genetic resources and tapping gene power.
Dr Pal was so imbued with benevolence that he donated all his worldly belongings including two houses in New Delhi and Shimla to the Indian Agricultural Research Institute. We shower kudos upon this great visionary and humanitarian.
(The writer can be contacted at C-3/378, Lodhi Colony, New Dehi-110 003.)