A Tribute to Legendary Vice-Chancellor of Pantnagar
Late Dr. Dhyan Pal Singh: Father of Soybean Revolution in India

| July 7, 2017 | 2 Comments

The present write-up moves around legendary Vice-Chancellor, late Dr. Dhyan Pal Singh who served as Vice Chancellor of G.B. Pant University of Agriculture and Technology for permissible maximum number of three consecutive terms from 1969-1975, the Golden Era of the university.

The Pantnagar University was famous for a trio of Dr. Dhyan Pal Singh, the Vice-Chancellor, Dr. N. K. Anant Rao, Dean Agriculture and Dr. R. L. Paliwal, Director Research.

For students like me, everything (i.e. trimester system, 100 days of net instructional days/totally internal examination consisting of shot quizzes, hourlies and final examinations; grade base evaluation on scale of 5; neat and clean cafeteria equipped with good furniture, serving break-fast, lunch, evening tea, dinner and milk/coffee after dinner) was just out of heaven and mesmerizing.

Pantnagar CitySystem was totally based on merit including nomination of students to various committees based on grade point average. Professors used to line up in Q along with students in PG hostel without any hesitation.

All this was happening under the able guidance and administration of the then VC, Dr. Dhyan Pal Singh, who believed only in merit and rule of law and adopted these in letter and spirit. Students and staff from whole of India were in the campus subject to meeting merit and merit alone and nothing more and noting less.

He believed blending science and technology not for hypes but with commercial deliverables as the ultimate goals.

He was firm believer in the philosophy that modern improved seed is the best carrier of technology. He established UP Seeds and Tarai Development Corporation (UPS &TDC) involving progressive Tarai farmers assisted by World Bank and could spread Pantngar seeds to nook and corner of the country.

He never hesitated putting best foot forward and shifted Dr. Paliwal, the then Director Research as the first Managing Director of this corporation. This seed corporation became a model for various states to go for such models for quality seed production and distribution.

Converting technology into commercial deliverables was in his blood. University Farm spread over about 10,000 acres in sixties and early seventies used to earn a net profit of Rs. 1 CR. One can imagine that the profit margin could have gone close to Rs. 80 CR in the present times taking inflation into account. What happened later on to this commercial farm after departure of Dr. Dhyan Pal Singh is known to all concerned and need not be repeated.

Since he was earning lot of money from university farm, he never bothered about budget while making appointments to faculty positions. Even if one position was advertised and more candidates were found excellent, he used to appoint most of them.

He gave responsibility with accountability and never chaired any selection committee meeting for appointment to faculty positions. Deans of colleges were doing this job and they were naturally responsible for any wrong doing, which as a matter of fact, was rare to happen.

Whenever he went to USA on official visits, he used to come across quite a few academic persons with impeccable academic records and research achievements to their credits. He used to offer them appointment letter on the spot.

His fascination for plant breeding/superior cultivars/quality seeds was so strong that he used to mention in the university convocation address that he is unable to find a sugarcane breeder and wants very much to have one to accelerate sugarcane breeding in the university.

He appointed one fruit breeder in the department of Plant Breeding out of his sheer conviction that fruit crop improvement like all other crops is just not possible unless this job is done by a plant breeder. Can anybody dare to use this term in present day research and development activities much less the appointment of fruit breeder. Dr. Dhyan Pal Singh did it because he was Dhyan Pal Singh.

While taking forward his ideas of accelerating breeding backed up by seed production and distribution, he always looked for new opportunities and options and that is where soybean struck to his mind.

He had 2-3 Americans as advisors in the university, he was a frequenter to USA and I can only guess that due to these factors he could have easily understood that soybean with 40 percent protein and 20 percent oil should be an ideal crop for India which used to import edible oil.

He must have done SWOT analysis and come to the conclusion that soybean can be a good oil crop with 20 percent oil and leftover cake could be a protein rich source of cattle/poultry feed and even whole soybean could be converted into edible food.

Under these circumstances, he took a big, very big decision and imported 3200 soybean germplasm lines including released cultivars from USDA in collaboration with University of Illinois.

Main administrative building

Main administrative building also called “Ghanta Ghar”, which serves as VC office

Fortunately PPVFRA-2001 and Biodiversity Act-2003 were not enacted by that time. Whenever, he took a decision, it was always whole heated and never half hearted. Soybean seed was known to deteriorate rather easily and hence cold store (5 -10 degree C, 50 percent RH) with standby machinery was immediately put in place and that cold store at that time was the only structure having cooling system after the VC room which has the ACs. Rest of the university had no access to coolers and ACs.

He put up a team of a soybean breeder (Dr. B. B. Singh), a soybean agronomist (Dr. J. N. Singh), a plant pathologist (Dr. P. N. Thapliayal), an entomologist (Dr. A. K. Bhattacharya) and a seed technologist (Dr. P. C. Gupta) to carry out initial germplasm evaluation and screening and to layout some varietal and agronomic trials using these lines.

This gave encouraging results and quite a few of direct introductions like Bragg, Clark-63, Hardee, Lee were straightaway released for the foothills of Himalayas and the Tarai belt. Yield levels were about 35 q/ha and farmers started cultivating this crop in the rainy season.

UPS & TDC included this crop in the seed production chain. Yes, marketing appeared to be somewhat tricky issue as soybean was an oil seed crop and oil extraction was not possible through conventional seed crushing as was the practice with mustard, etc.

However, this difficulty opened up a new opportunity for Madhya Pradesh where some soybean oil extraction mills came into existence because of local entrepreneurship, availability of local soybeans and movement of soybeans produced in UP to MP.

Soybean procurement centre and soybean processing unit was established at Halduchaur near Haldwani to accelerate the soybean marketing and this unit as happens with most of the government units died its own natural death.

Great visionary Dr. Dhyan Pan Singh established a soybean food processing plant at Haldi under the department of Food Science and Technology and lot of commercial products, namely, soya milk, nutri-nuggets, etc. It became quite popular at that time and lot of soybean food products came to market from a soybean food processing unit established in Bareilly under some private set-up.

But these highs and lows of soybean triggered by one master stroke of Dr. Dhyan Pal Singh drew the attention of ICAR and ICAR established an all India coordinated research project on soybean with Pantnagar and Jabalpur as Special/Main Centres and quite a few sub-centres with coordinating units HQs at Pantnagar.

During those days, as happens with any new technology and products, the debate from pessimists/non-doers was already raging. They were more concerned not from advantages of soybean but what will happen to poor hill farmers who grow millets and millets might be replaced. Skeptics were also concerned about possible implications of replacement of sorghum in MP by soybean.

In one of the meetings, Dr. Dhyan Pal Singh said that university will purchase all soybean from hill farmers and they can purchase more millets out of that money and both university and farmers will be in win-win situation.

Despite those nay-Sayers and skeptics, soybean kept on spreading commercially and in terms of creation of new infra-structure by ICAR and SAUs. Soybean coordinating unit established at Pantnagar was shifted to newly established National Research Centre on soybean at Indore which later on became Directorate of Soybean and is presently upgraded to Indian Institute of Soybean Research.

The initial area of soybean which was merely 50,000 ha scattered in northern hills, has gone to 10 million ha India at present making a 200 fold area jump. Has it happened in any other crops?  Have millets disappeared from hills? Has sorghum gone out of cultivation in India? The answer is NO.

When new options and opportunities arise and if people like Dr. Dhyan Pal Singh are around, those options and opportunities are made available to the end users and if the technology/product has economic viability among the farmers, the technology/product spreads like wild fire, extension or no extension.

Regretfully, at the moment, lot of energy is being wasted on banning the technology and product without giving a chance to them for being tested and evaluated by the end users.

Had this been the case with soybean and had there been no Dhyan Pal Singh, I am not sure whether soybean would have been established a top class commercial oil seed crop in India.

Wish visionaries like Dr. Dhyan Pal Singh are born again and again are there to guide us to scientific evidence based paths rather than to stop us from moving forward purely based on perceptions.

Dr. Dhyan Pal Singh was truly a Hero and father of Soybean Revolution in India.

Hari Har Ram

GB Pant University

G.B. Pant University of Agriculture and Technology, Pantnagar

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Dr Hari Har Ram. A Tribute to Legendary Vice-Chancellor of Pantnagar
Late Dr. Dhyan Pal Singh: Father of Soybean Revolution in India
. In: विज्ञान संग्रह. vigyaan.org. Access URL: http://vigyaan.org/article/1219/. Retrieved September 23, 2017.

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About the Author ()

Dr. Hari Har Ram, presently working as Consultant to National Horticulture Board, Gurgaon and Dayal Seeds, Meerut, completed his Ph.D. degrees in Plant Breeding from GBPUAT, Pantnagar in 1973 and Post-Doc from West Germany in 1978. Immediately after completing his Ph.D. degree, he was appointed as Assistant Professor/Junior Vegetable Breeder in the department of Plant Breeding, Pantnagar and became soybean and vegetable breeder and Professor and Head Vegetable Science at Pantnagar. In 2006, he joined as Vice-President, R&D, Krishidhan Vegetable Seeds, Pune and continued there till 2014. Dr hari Har Ram has also served as International Consultant to FAO. During 2015-16, he also served as Consultant to UP Council of Agricultural Research.

Comments (2)

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  1. SK Verma says:

    By mistake casted wrong vote. Can it be revised?

  2. SN Nigam says:

    You missed out on the role of Manila Mangal Dal (an association of wives of faculty and staff of the university), who developed and popularised many home recipes of soya products, particularly during the Kisan Melas.

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