தமிழ்த் தேசியம்

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."

- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Journey Down Memory Lane To Reach 'tamiz Izam'
R.Shanmugalingam

Chapter 31

Every morning I wake up and anxiously await the letter carrier like lover for the lover’s letter. It is undoubtedly not encouraging to ‘tamizar’ but very encouraging to the Sinhala Buddhists and Quasi ‘tamizar.’ A walk-over from ‘tamiz’ Diaspora is an easy game. Yet to win, their presence is necessary in the uneven playing field, that they would not mind, because they are assured of no international opposition even if there was no support.

I wonder how many of us have experienced the Sinhala grass root political leaders’ harangue against ‘tamizar’ in work places. I must in all fairness to the ignorant Sinhala masses who are manipulated by these do-gooders in effect do-harmers, if led in the right direction they will also do the right thing. Kantalai Sugar Plantation comes to my mind again. I was an untouchable as far as a particular Board Director, a grass root Sinhala political leader was concerned, untouchable because he could not find me wanting in discharging my duties, I was scrupulously honest in my dealings with the, corporation, employees and the public. Attempts were made to induce me to turn my eyes and ears away to some nefarious activities, in vain. This angered the man more. He used the only weapon he could muster, and call me behind my back ‘paRyt dhemilA.’ This did not affect me at all as in my vocabulary there is no ‘paryjan or pAppAn.’

Talking of Kantalai Sugar Plantation reminds me of an article that appeared in the Saturday Sun of March 1972. My children have preserved some of the articles I wrote from Ceylon in their original from paper cuttings. They are fast disintegrating although my youngest daughter Siva has taken photo copies and put the originals in plastic covers.

"Govt’s Crash Programme To Intensify Sugar Cane Cultivation."

By: R. Shanmugalingam

Government intends that 50,000 tons of the sugar imported every year, will be manufactured from the cane grown in the sugar estates of the Sri Lanka Sugar Corporation by 1976. The private sector is also to take part in a crash programme for sugar cane cultivation to augment the sugar supply and reduce Ceylon’s future sugar imports. The crash programme will therefore, be further to the steps taken by the S.L.S.C. to achieve the target of 50,000 tons of sugar by 1976. Hence the S.L.S.C. cannot be expected to involve themselves with the actual cultivation of sugar cane by the private sector. The S.L.S.C. may assist the private sector by supplying the necessary initial seed cane material and perhaps at a later stage will be able to buy the cane from those allottees in close proximity to the factories.

The success of the crash programme will depend on the care with which the important preliminary work of overall design of the various requirements, such as land survey to show all natural features as well as roads, tracks, canals or channels, drains, buildings, boundaries, fire-gaps etc. is conducted for the entire area. Major consideration should be given during the initial planning to co-ordinate the requirements of individual allotment for incorporation in a master plan for the group of allotments in a particular project.

Once the allottees are assigned their individual plots with the provisions for infield roads, drains etc. to dove-tail with the common facilities provided for by the planning body for the entire group of allotments, the allottee should be in a position to concentrate on the planting and culture of sugar cane.

MECHANIZATION.

It is possible with suitably modified equipment to mechanise the majority of the tillage, cultivation, planting and harvesting operations of sugar cane. The crash programme has to take into consideration the proposals outlined in the Five Year Plan for more intensive use of labour. Hence it is essential that weightage is given to use of manpower in deciding on the motive power required by the implements utilised for the various operations.

General advice on the various cultural operations involved in raising a crop of sugar cane is extremely dangerous. It must take into account the specific situation on which advice is sought and even then it may be misleading, for each individual problem must be examined against the broad background of the economy of that particular sugar cane allotment. General principles, however, can be mentioned with the view to establish a sound cultural practice or soil management policy for sugar cane cultivation, which would result in good and profitable yields.

PRACTICES.

There is no doubt that farm practices and methods of cultivation for most crops in Ceylon have been developed over a period of years and have become established only because they have proved successful. This is not the case with sugar cane cultivation. The state owned sugar plantations at Kantalai and Gal Oya were at the start influenced by India in selecting cane varieties and a method of cultivation, but a cropping philosophy for sugar cane has still not been established in Ceylon. Any attempt to develop a cropping philosophy has to consider the following controllable factors:

1. Adaptation of the various types of implements normally employed in sugar cane cultivation for improving soil preparation and general cultural practices demanded by conditions that the plant will encounter during its growth cycle.

2. (a) Extending irrigation facilities and improving the regulation of water supply where rainfall is deficient or badly distributed.

(b) Constructing and maintaining an effective field drainage to remove excess water throughout the period of land preparation, cultivation, as well as during the whole life of the crop.

3. Judicious fertilising schemes.

4. Introduction of higher yielding sugar cane varieties of improved quality by local tests carried out on imported varieties from countries with similar agro-climatic conditions.

5. Controlling of pests, diseases and weeds.

6. Harvest and transport of cane.

SEEDS.

If the seeds, i.e. cane "cuttings" or "setts" that are planted in the furrows do not germinate, a crop failure is the result. There are many factors entering into germination of the seed cane or setts, The more important of them are soil tilt, temperature, soil moisture, depth and compaction of soil organisms and soil insects. If one had to select a single factor as more important than any other in the growth of plants, then one would be compelled to decide on water.

Apart from sunlight, the four outstanding requirements are water, air, heat, and plant food; and normal development will not be possible in the absence of any of them. The water not only carries into the root system the dissolved plant food in the soil, but also conveys these plant foods to various parts of the plant in particular the leaves. Water is not only a vehicle for the transport of these substances but is also in itself an essential requirement in the life of the plant.

Therefore, it is essential to keep the store-house for water namely soil and sub soil in such plants to draw their supplies of water during the drier periods. Nevertheless, stagnant soil water is fatal, as water logged land is cold and airless. Sugar cane requires large supplies of water to support its growth, but unlike paddy cannot tolerate "wet feet." The attainment of a good tilth and a favourable soil structure is therefore the first goal to be achieved in seed bed preparation.

IRRIGATION.

Among a number of controllable and uncontrollable factors, inadequate irrigation at Kantalai and poor drainage at Gal Oya sugar estates are attributed for the poor yields of the sugar crop. Irrigation may be defined as the artificial application of water to land. It is important that a practicable crop planting is done in the initial stages to take cognisance of natural uncontrollable factors like rain and soil of a particular area, which condition the need for irrigation, drainage and the time taken to reach maturity as sugar cane once planted continues in the same field for over four to five years depending on the number of ratoons obtained.

Further it has been found that sugar cane can be induced to yield heavily in suitable lands where rainfall is deficient or badly distributed but where other climatic factors favour the crop, by the practice of irrigation. On the other hand timely expulsion of excess water from such lands with the help of an efficient drainage system, has also resulted in heavy yields. Irrigation and drainage are complementary and one cannot successfully continue in the absence of the other. Therefore a combination drainage and irrigation system by modifying one for adoption as the other will in the long run be economical and efficient.

PESTS.

The importance of control of sugar cane pests, diseases and weeds needs no emphasis. There are several "common sense" practices when incorporated into such a control programme will improve yields and increase profits. But in the case of specific pest, disease or weed, detail information and method of control should be obtained from more reliable sources.

The culmination of all cane growing efforts in land preparation, planting, fertilising, and other cultural practices established by research and logical deductions are represented by the harvesting of the sugar cane crop and its delivery to the processing site. Therefore, it is essential that every inch of standing millable cane has to be harvested and transported to the mill within the specified time before the sugar in the cane burnt or un-burnt and harvested undergoes deterioration- physiological changes taking place in the cane due to chemical and biological activities,

Ceylon is accepted as one of the best Tea producers in the world. There are very few examples of crop production that demand such marked changes in the natural growth as the mono cultivation of tea. Tea is unique among the major personal crop plants in that young new growth in the form of tender shoots constitute the produce as raw material for the factory. The tea plant in its natural state grows to become a tree of moderate size is converted into a low bush of convenient height for easy frequent pluckings.

The growth of the young plant is restricted at the convenient height by various cultural operations. If man could have made the jungles on steep slopes blossom into tea bushes to bring tremendous prosperity to thousands of people, when, technological advances and other modern facilities or amenities that are at our disposal today, were unheard of by the foreign pioneer entrepreneurs of the tea industry. Cultivation of sugar cane today should prove to be a comparatively easier task. With the promise of a ‘Package deal" offered by the government the private sector could assist the youth who are brimming with vigour for a "take-off" in nation building, the flexibility and enthusiasm of youth which is vital for any agricultural development if given the necessary tools will acquire the attitudes to contribute towards the attainment of self sufficiency in sugar in the nearest future."

Going over this article gives me the courage to find better solutions to our problem. Though growing sugar cane is not the same as helping the young shoot of ‘tamiz Izam’ grow to its potential size, the article directs us to areas requiring attention in the growth process. Sugar from sugar cane and ‘tamiz Izam’ from ‘tamizt tAkam.’

continued

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