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'

Chapter 40

I find that news that portrays a macho image or that maligns our struggle for freedom gets better publicity. Anything that marginalizes Machismo is either ignored or trivialized. So is the attempt to publicize practical measures for the creation of a solution of everlasting peace in ‘tamiz Izam.’ According to ‘ulakattamizar’ for the weak January 04 - 10, Mr. Vasantharaja who was on his way to ‘tamizNAdu’ to address the all party protest meeting in Madras, was turned away by authorities from Bombay International Airport on December 30, 1995.

No reason was given, except to say that Airport officials were acting on "orders from above." There was no mention about it. This morning when I asked a friend if he knew about it he confirmed it and added another bombshell, Mr. Vasantharaja has been refused entry visa by the Canadian authorities? ‘NAngkaL mUkkily viraly vyttu mukaddyp pArkka mUdan engkaLyp putykkak kuzi tOnhdukiRAn.’ While we are contemplating actions, the soil under our feet is trenched to bury us. So much for our multi-million dollar efforts at international camaraderie.

It is customary for the use of the phrase "attached involvement," but I believe in detached involvement. Our two children are in California, and we are detached from them, but still we get involved in their welfare. So do they. It has become a routine on Sundays to get in touch by telephone and discuss how each party can help the other reduce pain or enhance joy. As far as possible we avoid exasperating pain or suppressing joy. If they were closer it may be a little intensely involved as with the first sign of a cough or cold. the parental concern is to insist on dispensing, or nagging them to see a doctor. In the same token, they will show their concern. It is the same attitude I adopt to our ‘tamiz Izam’ struggle. I have always maintained and to paraphrase Ronald Reagan’s 11th commandment - "Thou shalt not speak ill of ‘tamiz’ freedom fighter."

Politics and life may be a "game" in the US, but for us ‘tamizar’ back home it is no game. It is a life or death matter for us to wait out events to evolve a solution. President Clinton made a ringing endorsement of peace-keeping in the State of the Union address. There should not be any doubt in our minds that a well-defined program, preferably designed with the help of American experts, will receive the support of the US government. Without Washington approval, no international effort will forthcome. We should work to stop Washington from blocking any effort from the UN-if any- and stop indirect support to the Sri Lankan government through Israel as in the case of the latest sale of Fighter Aircraft.

It is not fair and proper to adopt an attitude of callousness. Keeping away from the struggle from the international arena and "Let Shanmugalingam & Co go and do whatever they want," is not enough. Many of us want our struggle to be brought to a logical conclusion, all we need is a show of solidarity, and we will get involved to be effective.

‘vityttARtAn viLyjum.’- "you reap what you sow." ‘tamiz Izam’ cannot be picked from one of the aisles in a supermarket. The seed already sown has to be nurtured . Insects, pests and injurious interference must be eradicated. The Sinhala forces are trying every mean means to smother the seed of ‘tamiz Izam.’ But ‘tamiz Izam’ seed is not a single seed to be found and destroyed, it is like a Rhizome or better like ‘aRukam pullu,’ given the right conditions it spreads out. It is also used as turf material and the botanical name is Cynadon Dactylon?

My concern about training agricultural engineers in Ceylon made me write the article below in 1971.

The Ceylon Daily News, Wednesday, December 8, 1971.
Training Agricultural Engineers. R. Shanmugalingam

The Ceylonese Farmer is no novice in agriculture and has practical experience which goes back to many generations. The remarkable adaptability with which he has taken to the cultivation of rice, has opened up new possibilities of all-round improvement of agriculture by demonstrating to him to his satisfaction that a new method or new crop gives a larger yield or is otherwise profitable.

It is axiomatic that, a balanced agrarian advance is an amalgam of all branches of agriculture - mechanization, irrigation, plant breeding, fertilizers, weedicides, etc. - Since up to now all irrigable land in this country has been allocated to rice, the concept of cultivating other field crops, especially under irrigation , is a relatively new experience to most of our farmers. Competent personnel are available in most branches of agriculture to demonstrate new ideas and methods, but there appears to be a dearth of personnel of demonstrated competence to confidently practice in mechanization and irrigation agronomy.

This scarcity of personnel in these branches will be felt severely once the Mahaveli Diversion Scheme gains momentum. Therefore the country has to be in a state of preparedness to meet the challenge by training students in agricultural engineering at the undergraduate and post-graduate levels in the university and for a diploma level in the Junior Universities or Technical Colleges.

Unfortunately Agricultural Engineering has not reached a stage of professional recognition in Ceylon and hence a definition of the term Agricultural Engineering is required at this stage. One definition put forward by the American Society of Agricultural Engineers runs as follows: "Agricultural Engineering is defined as that branch of engineering which utilizes materials, manpower, and forces of nature to solve problems of an engineering nature dealing with the conservation of soil and water resources and the production storage, processing, transportation of food, feed, and fiber."

Thus Agricultural Engineering is unique in that it involves specifically biological and environmental factors, since it deals with engineering applied to biological matters - food, feed, natural fibers, animals and humans. The emphasis on the biological factor makes agricultural engineering different from all other branches of engineering. It is perhaps this lack of emphasis on the biological aspects which in some instances , have been the cause of unsatisfactory yields, where for example mechanical or civil engineers have attempted solutions to agricultural engineering problems. But non-agricultural engineers have been markedly successful in the design and development of tractors with little or no consideration of biological factors.

But the introduction of farm tractors has not influenced the design of basic tillage implements. The plough and the cultivator remain enlarged versions of the animal drawn tools. The conversion of tractor engine power to draft is usually an inefficient process which depends on tractor wheel adhesion, a function of tractor weight. Therefore using tractor engine power for soil tillage without an intermediate conversion to draft could lead to lighter tractor construction and less potential damage to soil structure by compaction. One such method of using tractor engine power directly for working in soil is to use the Rotary Cultivator, provided the method of engine power transmission directly to the implement is efficient.

Modern engineering development, can only be fully understood by engineers and consequently they are in a unique position to communicate such results and the agricultural engineer is in a position to recognize new openings for agricultural development which would not be apparent to the non-agricultural engineer. The services of agricultural engineers are needed not only in crop production and in their processing, storage and transport but also in animal husbandry and dairy technology. Scores of examples are available to illustrate this point and a few of them are listed below.

Rice consuming people complain that local rice is rancid and full of brokens and impurities. This is due to the present method of threshing paddy on the bare field floor resulting in the mixing of pebbles, sand stone, etc. Further, when heavy tractors are used for threshing to separate the grain from the straw, a recognizable percentage of rice is already broken even before being milled. Also the present practice of open air drying of rice for a minimum period of seven days after milling, before delivery, has resulted in very adverse effects to the rice. In order to store rice for a long period in Food Department stores this open air drying is practiced, and rice thus dried and stored has gone rancid even before the end of a month’s storage.

The agricultural engineer is trained to deal with this aspect of crop processing and he could assist in the supply of quality rice to the consumer.

A second example can be the role of an agricultural engineer in the irrigation of crop, where his knowledge in crop husbandry helps him to determine the frequency of irrigation, the amount of water to be supplied to each crop for the season and his knowledge of engineering will assist him to determine the method of irrigation such as flood, furrow, artificial sub-irrigation, sprinkling, etc.

Another field of agricultural engineering that merits mention is pest control. The scientist identifies the pest and recommends a cure but the actual execution poses problems like what is now faced by the Cashew Plantation Industry. Until recently cashew was almost a wild crop and little or no care was given to this crop, but once the plantation was started on a commercialized scale, the economy of the virus attack resulting in the disease "die-back" and practical difficulties in its control are now realized. Firstly the plantations are large and the cashew plant is also a large tree. The usual method of dusting and spraying, as in the case of field crops, cannot be economic and effective for cashew. This is more an agricultural engineering problem and has to be solved like any other engineering problem by designing a suitable sprayer that will reach the full height and cover the vast spread of the cashew tree.

Countries like India have appreciated the necessity to train agricultural engineers with an agricultural bias and the first move in India was made in this direction with the establishment of the now famous Allahabad Agricultural Instittute situated on the outskirts of Allahabad, at Naini by a group of American Missionary educationists around 1910. This well known institution was later incorporated with the Allahabad University and recognized as a center of education for undergraduate and post-graduate degrees in various branches of agriculture including Agricultural Engineering.

During the initial stages, however, agricultural engineering was taught here as a part of the general agricultural degree and it was only in 1944 that the first batch of agricultural engineering students graduated from the university. Behind this achievement the life-long efforts of American Missionary agricultural engineer, Mason Vaugh, generally regarded as the father of agricultural engineering education in the East.

The Educational and research facilities in India in agricultural engineering have increased rapidly in the past few years and in addition to the Allahabad University, many other older educational institutions have now started undergraduate and post-graduate courses in agricultural engineering. Also a number of institutions have been specially set up for this purpose. Amongst these are the Indian Institute of Technology at Kharagpur, UP, Agricultural University at Pantnagar (after a well-trained pattern of American, Land Grant Colleges) Punjab Agricultural University at Ludiana, Udaipur University, Jawaharlal Nehru Agricultural University at Jabalpore and the Indian Agricultural Research Institute at New Delhi. A few more are being planned and the Government of India is aware of the need for a specialized training in agricultural engineering at the diploma level.

The subject matter taught in an agricultural engineering course at the undergraduate level is divided into four major groups and each group is closely associated with well-established branches of sciences or engineering. The first group, Agricultural Machinery, is mechanical engineering applied to agriculture. The second group, Agricultural Structures, is closely associated with civil engineering , while the third group, or Rural Electrification deals with the application of electrical engineering principles to agricultural needs. The last group, Soil and water Conservation engineering, is the combined function of civil and hydraulic engineering in collaboration with surveying as applied to agriculture.

It is hoped that with the proposed educational reform, the necessary opportunity will be created for suitable young men to acquire the described competence in agricultural engineering to give them confidence to solve Ceylon’s agricultural problems and to regain her position as the "Granary of the East."


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