Karunanidhi was at the forefront of introducing farmer-friendly policies in Tamil Nadu during his chief ministership.

He is the torchbearer of Tamil Nadu farmers freedom MS Swaminathan on Karunanidhi
news Karunanidhi Wednesday, August 08, 2018 - 14:46
Written by  MS Swaminathan

During his 50 years of service in the Tamil Nadu Legislature, Dr Kalaignar has always kept in view the message contained in Thirukkural:

உழுதுண்டு வாழ்வாரே வாழ்வார்மற் றெல்லாம்

தொழுதுண்டு பின்செல் பவர்.

Transliteration: Uzhuthundu Vaazhavaare Vaazhvaar, mattru ellam thozhudhu undu pinselbavar

Translation: Who plough their own their food, they truly live:

The rest to others bend subservient, eating what they give.

Dr Kalaignar has not only quoted quite often the above immortal message but has implemented it in letter and spirit. In 1989, when I took residence in Chennai for starting a research and training centre in the area of sustainable rural development and coastal zone management, Dr Kalaignar helped in all possible ways and gave a parcel of land in Taramani Institutional Area for setting up the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation. Later, he helped in setting up the JRD Tata Ecotechnology Centre and inaugurated the buildings of this centre jointly with the Late KR Narayanan, the then President of India.

It is difficult to pick out a few among his many monumental contributions to the renaissance and progress of Tamil Nadu’s farmers and farming. To Dr Kalaignar, the happiness of farm families was and is the pathway to the progress of Tamil Nadu’s agriculture. He was concerned not only with food production but also with the elimination of hunger. Therefore in his budget speech, in 1996, he made the following announcement:

The total outlay on the nutrition scheme introduced by the former Chief Minister MGR has been enhanced from Rs 360 cr in 1995-96 to Rs 401 cr in 1996-97.

வயிற்றுக்குச் சோறிட வேண்டும் - இங்கு

வாழும் மனிதருக் கெல்லாம்;

பயிற்றிப் பலகல்வி தந்து - இந்தப்

பாரை உயர்த்திட வேண்டும்

Transliteration —

Vayitrukku sor ida vendum - ingu

Vaazhum manidharukellam

Payitrippala kalvi thandhu- indha

Paarai uyarthida vendum


“Ought to be fed — all

to the full;

Ought to be trained

and multi-educated

— To uplift the world!

“To fulfil this dream of Mahakavi Bharathiyar, this government will launch a new “Hunger Free Area Programme” with an aim to eradicate poverty-induced hunger. A number of schemes are already under implementation to alleviate poverty and to cater to the nutrition requirements of different groups of the population. Gaps in this coverage will be identified, which can then be specifically targeted under the Hunger-Free Area Programme. Provision has been made in the Budget for preparing a detailed strategy to implement this programme in association with Dr MS Swaminathan.”

Dr Kalaignar’s commitment to harnessing science for the progress of the state has been total. In his Budget Speech on 24 March 2000, he announced that “a Biotechnology Policy for the state will be formulated and implemented“. For drafting such a policy, he set up a high-level committee under my chairmanship.

The policy seeks to capitalise on the rich and varied bioresources of the state. It also seeks to make the best use of the excellent quality of Human Resource Pool available within the state. The idea is to provide a policy framework as well as suitable implementation structures in order to convert the bioresources of the state into economic wealth, in an ecologically and socially sustainable manner. Thus, Dr Kalaignar can be described as the “father of the biohappiness movement”.

In recent years, the Government of Tamil Nadu has taken several major initiatives to attract investments and to carry the state forward in the path of economic development. Thanks to these initiatives, the overall growth in the state, especially in the field of knowledge-based industries, has been phenomenal. The Government will not translate the various aspects of this policy into actual plans and put them on the implementation mode. Dr Kalaignar’s goal is to put Tamil Nadu in the biotechnology map of India as well as the world. Thus, Tamil Nadu will occupy a pre-eminent position both in information technology and biotechnology.

The very important outcome of the policy was the setting up of the first Women’s Biotechnology Park in the country at Siruseri in the Knowledge Corridor of Chennai. His Park will always remain a shining example of Dr Kalaignar’s commitment to providing opportunities for women entrepreneurs to take a career in the field of biotechnology.

To quote Dr Kalaignar, “Kadandha varudam doctor MS Swaminathan ennai sandhithu pengalukendru oru thozhilnutpa poonga amaippadharkkaana udhaviyinai keta nigazhchiyinai ninaivu koorgiren. Akkaruththu seyal vadivam peravum nadaimuraipaduthavum udanadiyaaga uththaravu pirappithen. Nam pengal thozhil niruvanangal thodangi adhai thaane vetrikaramaaga nirvagikkum thiramayum petrullanar enbathil evvidha sandhegamum illai.”

Translation — “I remember an event from last year when MS Swaminathan met me and requested help for setting up a tech-park exclusively for women. I passed the order to make that idea see the light of day. There are no doubts about the fact that our women are capable of starting up their own ventures and running them successfully.”

Another monumental contribution is the establishment of “Uzhavar Sandhaigal” (Farmers Markets). In the budget, for 2007-08, provision has been made for 15 Uzhavar Sandhaigal at a cost of Rs 12.5 cr. The future of our agriculture depends on the availability of the assured and remunerative marketing opportunities for farm families. The Uzhavar Sandhai is a very important instrument for fostering farmer friendly markets. This is an important reason why there has been no suicide of farmers unlike in many other states of the country. Since rural families constitute nearly 60 per cent of Tamil Nadu’s population and since crop and animal husbandry, fisheries, agro-forestry and agro-processing are the main sources of livelihood to the rural population, Dr Kalaignar has ensured that the problems of this large section of our community are attended to with speed and in an appropriate manner. Thus he serves as the torch-bearer of the economic and ecological well-being of Tamil Nadu’s farming and farmers.

I pray for his long and healthy life and continued leadership so that our country, as well as Tamil Nadu, can become role models for agrarian prosperity and rural regeneration.

Republished from ‘Portrait of a Multi-faceted Legend of Dravidians: His Life and Times’ (2007)