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Dr Kharak Singh (His Saga of Professional Achievements)

Dr (Ms)* & Dr Trilochan Singh**

Sardar Saudagar Singh, father of Dr Kharak Singh, had a great craving for learning. He managed to learn Gurmukhi alphabet and mastered Gurbani through self-study. The lack of opportunity of education in his childhood motivated him so much that he resolved to provide education to his next generation. Once the project started, he literally voluntarily dug the foundation of the school building from 12 to 5 pm daily for over 1 year.

After marriage, he joined gurdwara freedom struggle and came in association of Baba Kharak Singh, the hero of the movement who recovered the keys of the Golden Temple snatched by the British. Impressed by the hero’s personality, scholarship, intellect and leadership qualities, he named his third son as Kharak Singh. Dr Kharak Singh fulfilled the aspirations of his father and came up to his expectations in his life and works.

Dr Kharak Singh performed brilliantly at school (Guru Tegh Bahadur Khalsa School, Baba Bakala) from the very beginning and started standing first in every school examination. Emboldened thus, he cherished the ambition to top the school in final university examination in Matriculation. He achieved his ambition by securing 668 out of 750 in 1938, and his name was placed on the Board of Honour of the school.

During his graduation studies too, he maintained his earlier meritorious record of achievements. His prizes in the form of books in every prize distribution function averaged between 10 to 12, and the total came up to 120 books.

The Builder
From1942 to 1947, he was a Research Assistant in Punjab Agricultural College and Research Institute at Lyallpur (now Faislabad, Pakistan). In August 1948, the Punjab Government appointed him as a Lecturer in the Government Agricultural College, Ludhiana. After partition of the country, the venue of the College had shifted from Lyallpur to Amritsar, and it was camping as refugee at Khalsa College. The latter having a spacious building easily accommodated the former with minor adjustments in the timetable. There was, however, difficulty on account of hostel facility, as the Khalsa College was serving as a Refugee Camp for a large number of refugees who migrated to India. The students, feeling the pinch of difficulty of hostel accommodation, went on strike. Consequently, the College was shifted to Malwa High School building to Ludhiana. Here, the idea was mooted for providing the College with its own building at some suitable place.

To decide upon the suitable place, lobbying started for permanently shifting the College to Hissar. A lot of correspondence in the press took place for building public opinion ‘for’ and ‘against’ shifting the venue from Ludhiana to Hissar. He participated actively in the debate for retaining the College at Ludhiana; the public opinion, finally, shifted in this favor. Giani Kartar Singh, the then Agriculture Minister personally visited Dr Kharak Singh in his house at Model Town, Ludhiana and suggested to submit a comprehensive proposal describing the plus points in favor of retaining the College at Ludhiana. He wanted the comparative data regarding the availability of land of up to 700 acres, as he, with his proverbial foresight, had conceived the idea to develop the College into a University at a later stage.

He prepared the report along with S Bishan Singh Samundri and submitted it to Giani ji, who, through proper channel, got it approved by the Punjab Government Cabinet. Consequently, the land was acquired and construction of the necessary buildings started. Thus, Dr Kharak Singh’s efforts came to a logical conclusion and the Government College of Agriculture was permanently established at Ludhiana, with a scope of development into a University.

In 1958, when Sardar Partap Singh Kairon became the Chief Minister of Punjab, Professor Bishan Singh Samundri and Dr Kharak Singh pursued the idea of developing the College into University, as conceived by Giani Kartar Singh.

Sardar Partap Singh Kairon took personal interest in it and took up the proposal in right earnest and requested the US Govt to depute experts for advising in the matter. Consequently, Prof Cray and Dr Capner were deputed, who prepared a blueprint of the University.

The Academician
As a scholar, he had an urge to gain knowledge as well as improve his qualification. As a Lecturer in the College of Agriculture, Ludhiana, he passed his M Sc examination with a research thesis on cabbage in 1951. Subsequently, he completed his second M Sc on 25th August 1961 and by 3rd October, the same year, also cleared both the oral and written examinations for the Ph D degree from Ohio State University, USA, setting a record unbeaten to date. During his stay at the University, his personality and aptitude impressed his fellow students and faculty alike (one of his certificate to this effect reproduced at the end). For the dissertation, he did the fieldwork in India under two experts, one expert from Punjab, Dr S S Johl and one from the United States, Dr Charles V Moore on the ‘Expected Shifts in Cropping Pattern of the Punjab Resulting from the Introduction of High yielding Varieties of Crops.’

The Organizer
In late fifties and early sixties in the field assignments during his service, he focused on improvement of seed of wheat, which was suffering from diseases of Smut and Rust (kungi) resulting in huge loss of wheat production. Dr Kharak Singh involved the farmers for undertaking the process of treatment of wheat seeds, by personally visiting the villages and supervising the actual processing campaign. Thus, he achieved improvement in the quality of wheat, resulting in an increase in its yield. He also assisted the farmers by conducting similarly dedicated campaigns to get rid of rats and pohli (a weed) from their fields. His sincere approach earned him immense respect and admiration from the farmers, which could be witnessed as they flooded the railway station with garlands to see him off, the day he was to leave for higher studies to America in August 1960.

In 1965, when he was in the Directorate of Agriculture, he became instrumental in procuring high yielding variety of wheat seed (Mexican Hybrid) and got it multiplied in the farms of the Government and the Universities. He arranged its distribution to the farmers at mass scale through kisan melas and other distribution centers of the Government. This effort of Dr Kharak Singh made the Green Revolution a grand success in Punjab by the middle of 1966.

The Manager
In between his assignments with the FAO, he worked as Managing Director, State Farms Corporation of India, covering numerous State Farms spread all over the country. He streamlined the working of the Farms of the Corporation, and made them proficient and profitable. He removed defects in the working of the Farms.

The Adviser
In view of his praiseworthy academic record, and research and development contributions in Punjab, the FAO, Rome, requisitioned his services to work as FAO adviser in various developing countries in Africa and the Middle East. In all these countries, his expert advice helped in improving agricultural operations, like cropping patters and water management.

The Religious Zealot
At Ludhiana, in 1950-51, he founded Singh Sabha, Ludhiana, with like-minded people, prominent among who were Dr Gurbax Singh, a popular medical practitioner, and Sardar Sajjan Singh, nephew of Sant Randhir Singh Narangwal. They established a gurdwara in a rented B-type house in Ludhiana. The Singh Sabha soon developed the ambition to establish a gurdwara in a spacious building of its own in Model Town. To realize this ambition, serious efforts were made to collect necessary funds and find a suitable piece of land for the building. He took the missionary work of Singh Sabha and gurdwara establishment with great zeal and dedicated all his time for this, working late hours. Ultimately, Sant Randhir Singh and a team of five piaras laid the foundation stone of the gurdwara.

As Dr Kharak Singh had a religious bent of mind all along, he, after retirement, shifted his interest to the study and propagation of Sikhism. Rather, when he felt there was enough pension to take care of his old age needs, he took premature retirement to dedicate the rest of his lifetime to the cause of the Guru. Thus culminated this saga of his achievements in propagation and extension of the knowledge of agriculture in the world.

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