Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: With the passing of R Heli, noted agricultural scientist and farm journalism writer, the state has lost one of the foremost voices on agriculture. The 86-year-old’s contribution to the farming sector and welfare of farmers assumes significant heft at a  time when the national capital is witnessing protest by peasants against the recently enacted farm laws.

When agricultural experts had advocated rubber plantation, Heli mooted coconut plantation. His farsightedness has since proved spot on when the rubber prices plummeted. From setting up  Krishi Bhavans along with then agriculture minister, the late V V Raghavan, Farm Information Bureau, putting together agriculture policy report and renaming agriculture department as ministry of agriculture and farmers’ welfare, he had several firsts to his credit.

Till 1968,  agriculture and animal husbandry department had separate information services which Heli had combined to form the Farm Information Bureau( FIB ) on January 1, 1969 . Then agriculture minister M N Govindan Nair’s futuristic outlook saw the setting up of the FIB with the help of Heli who went on to
become its first Principal Information Officer. He served in that post until 1983.

It was Heli who introduced group farming in paddy cultivation, got farming-based articles published in leading newspapers, which the mainstream media had detested until then, agriculture news, ‘Vayalum Veedum’ on All India Radio, ‘Nattinpuram’ on Doordarshan and redesigned ‘Kerala Karshakan’, FIB’s agri
magazine. After retiring as director, agriculture department, in 1989, Heli educated farmers and also the farming sector for the next three decades. Last year during the commemoration of FIB’s golden jubilee celebrations, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had recalled his yeoman service to the state’s farming
sector. Water Resources Minister and Janata Dal leader K Krishnankutty, who had been associated with Heli for more than six decades, reminisced about their long association in a chat with TNIE.

“Heli’s demise is not only a loss to the agriculture department, but an irreparable loss to farmers in the state. He always believed that farmers steered the country to prosperity. Heli was instrumental in setting up padasekhara samithis across the state. If not for Heli’s clarion call, state and the Centre would not have renamed the agriculture department as ministry of agriculture department and farmers’ welfare,” said Krishnankutty,  MLA from Chittur.

During the previous UDF Government’s tenure, a seven- member subcommittee with Krishnankutty as chairman and Heli as member for the draft agricultural development policy, had been established. Its main recommendation was to form a farmers’ welfare board. Though he resided at Attingal, he would come to his son’s house at Thycaud, bang in the middle of the capital city, on the eve of the state budget for the benefit of the reporters who would approach him for his views. Son of, the late P M Raman,  a prominent figure on the socio-cultural and political scene of Attingal and, the late M Bharathy, a teacher, Heli was the youngest of nine children.  R Prakasam, former CPI MLA,  and R Prasannan, former secretary, Kerala Assembly, were his siblings.

Heli is survived by wife Dr Susheela and children Dr Purnima Bindulal (TD Medical College, Alappuzha) and Prasanth (secretary, Real Estate Regulatory Authority, Thiruvananthapuram). In-laws: Dr V A Bindulal (TD Medical College, Alappuzha) and Shubha.

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