THE ERSTWHILE SUGARCANE RESEARCH STATION, JALANDHAR, PUNJAB
This is a sad story of an institution that contributed to sweet revolution in North India and was the baby of Dr. Ranbir Singh Kanwar who was one of the fathers of the Indian Green Revolution.
Unlike his contemporaries who reveled in the aftermath of the glow of Dr. Norman Borlaug who brought wheat revolution in India, Dr. Kanwar’s was a totally indigenous and exclusive effort in bringing Punjab state to the fore front in the country. Sugar industry was considered an unprofitable business in this part of the country.
Dr. Kanwar set about relentlessly in breeding and identifying sugarcane varieties best suited to this agro climatic zone.
An old sugar mill in Batala town of Punjab had a zealous and adventurous General Manager who got in touch with Dr. R S Kanwar and sought his advice. Dr. Kanwar toured the agricultural belt extensively and came up with a new concept of ‘Varietal crushing schedule’ according to which the sowing, harvesting and crushing of sugarcane was done according to varieties. The fundamental concept was starting the crushing season with early maturing varieties, followed by mid and then late maturing varieties. The sugarcane farmers of the area were taken into confidence and sowing patterns were altered accordingly. The result was stupendous as the sugar mill at Batala returned the maximum sugar recovery percentage from the crushed sugarcane and attained the top spot in the country. People from the traditional sugar producing areas in South India hired buses to visit the Batala Sugar Mill to see the stupendous achievement by this hitherto unknown sugar mill.
Then followed the saga of the next twenty years in which Punjab Sugar Industry prospered under the guidance of Dr. Kanwar and a number of new sugar mills came up in the government as well as the private sector. Dr. Kanwar’s fame grew far and wide and he helped a number of national and international agencies including the FAO. His advice was sought by national and international sugarcane experts as well as the sugar industry barons who had their own sugarcane growing belts attached to their respective sugar mills. He continued to direct and advice most of the top sugarcane barons in India after his retirement from the Punjab Agricultural University.
Sadly, however his efforts and achievements were jealously shielded from getting acclaim by his alma mater at the university, probably because he did not belong to the ethnic majority, although he was a pure blooded Rajput, an elite caste of India. He came from the backwaters of Hoshiarpur district from a family who had the distinction of sacrifices in both the World Wars. This particular area is mostly famous for armymen who are considered simpletons and have very little political clout.
The ‘Sugarcane Research Station’ Jalandhar was also exploited for commercial ends by greedy politicians despite having international acclaim and was dismantled to build a housing estate compromising both ecology and reputation.
Dr. Kanwar had a sad three years near the end of his life when he was hounded by the corrupt local administration and false friends who continued to exploit his generosity for their own selfish motives. This is how India rewards its heroes.