India has been a store house of wisdom for many many years. We Indians have regarded everything in this universe as divine. As a result we respected every shrub and tree and used it for medicinal purposes. India has been a home to numerous varieties of grains particularly rice. Rice is the staple food of majority of Indians. Rice grains were even found in the Mohenjodaro and Harrapa excavations. Such long goes the association of we Indians with rice.
However the British ruled us for many decades and inculcated in us the colonial mindset. All that was native was bad and evil. All that was foreign particularly European was good and healthy. This mindset even took a toll on our indigenous grain varieties. Everybody wanted to go for the high yielding hybrid and other genetically mutilated crop varieties. As a result with the introduction of the high yielding varieties our native varieties began to become extinct.
Before selling the agricultural produce particularly the grains in the market, the Indian farmers kept a part of it for their personal consumption and a part to sow in the following year. But now with the craze of new crop varieties the Indian farmers did not have the option to store a part of their crops for the next sowing season. They are required to purchase the same from the companies which manufacture them. That is because you cannot sow the seeds derived from the harvest of hybrid varieties
Plus there is another aspect of this problem as well. The indigenous varieties are better suited to our climate. They form an important part of the food chain. Many insects and other organisms thrive upon them. But the new varieties are repellent to these insects. As a result along with our traditional crop varieties even these insects are being wiped out of the environment. This is very dangerous because if these varieties and the organisms dependent upon them become extinct there will be an imbalance in the biosphere and slowly even the very existence of humans will be in peril.
This is why the work of Dr Debal Deb assumes importance. He is an ecologist highly committed to conserve indigenous seed diversity. He has been working with traditional farmers in eastern India to achieve his goal of conservation. Dr Debal Deb has saved 920 varieties of rice in the past two decades. He has stored all of them in community based seed banks in West Bengal and Odisha for farmers. He encourages our farmers to use the traditional varieties of rice, thereby paving way for their conservation. In his own words he battles with "developmentality", a mental "virus" of the modern world which has produced a collective mindlessness in India's elite and led to the crisis.
Indeed it would not be wrong to say that Dr. Debal Deb is working hard to not only save the rice seeds but the very human life. Because these indigenous varieties have an important role to play in the ecological cycle. If they get wiped out from the biosphere that day is not far off when even we humans, the most intelligent organisms, will become extinct. Isn't that a good reason to felicitate Dr Debal Deb?