Dr. Amrik Singh Cheema (1918 - 1982) , the usherer-in of the post independence agricultural era and of the Green Revolution, was born on December 1, 1918 in Village Badhai Cheema in the Sialkot District, now in Pakistan.
A pioneer in agricultural extension in India, Dr. Cheema planned and implemented strategies that made the country become self-sufficient in food, an outstanding achievement by any standard.
Amrik Singh Cheema receiving Padam Shri
medal in Science & Engineering field.
With a Masters degree in Agriculture from Punjab University, India and a Doctorate in Agriculture Extension from Cornell University, USA Dr. Cheema started his career as an Agriculture Assistant and quickly rose to become
In 1969, he was awarded the Padma Shri for his contribution to the success of the Green Revolution. It is considered among India's top civilian honours awards.
It all began in 1952 in Punjab with the , the first of India's Community Development Programmes where the emphasis was on increasing food production through technological improvements. The increase in production as a result of the new strategy, better seeds, better ploughs, better cultivation, better fertilization and better machinery was spectacular. During the period 1952-1965, the rate of growth in Punjab was higher than in the rest of the country, but also higher than the rate of growth in countries like Japan, UK and USA. In recognition of his contribution to this notable achievement, Punjab Chief Minister S. Partap Singh Kairon awarded Dr. Cheema a gold medal.
Appreciating the abilities of Dr. Cheema & utilize his services at national level, Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi appointed him as the Agricultural Production Commissioner, Government of India.
In his zeal to achieve a major forward leap in the country's agricultural production, Dr. Cheema introduced the Mexican varieties of wheat. Confronted with unwillingness by other states to use the imported seed, he took the risk of sending the bulk of the imported stock to Punjab, where it was used to cover 18 Lakh acres under the High Yielding Varieties programme, in 1967-68 the year that later became known as the Wheat Revolution Year. The production of Punjab alone was 50 lakh tons, accounting for 30% of the national output.
During years of Wheat Revolution, Dr. Cheema implemented several schemes sponsored by the central Govt., which maximized the production of commercial crops, such as cotton, groundnut and tobacco. Export of these crops rose from 30 crores in 1966-67 to a record 51 crores in 1967-68.
Increasing agricultural production was one thing, improving the lot of the farmer was another. It was a measure of Dr. Cheema's concern for the farmer that made him persuade commercial banks, long before they were nationalized, to advance credit to the farmers so that they could purchase seeds, fertilizers and so on. Infact, he set up a project, , to train bank officers to deal with the requirements of this new category of clients. Getting shamlaat land allotted to Bazigars, so that they could then earn their living by reclaiming the land allotted to them, and arranging mule-carts for Kumhars (potters) through commercial banks, were other measures of Dr. Cheema's concern for the down-trodden.
At the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), Dr. Cheema enhanced the World Bank's involvement in the identification and implementation of New Style Projects in agriculture. In acknowledgement of his contribution, the Bank renewed his contract but his love for his homeland made him decline this extended opportunity as he decided to return to India and work for his country. In India, he was offered the post of Agricultural Advisor to Govt. of India, which he accepted and decided to serve in honorary capacity by receiving just Re 1 per month.
As the Vice-Chancellor of the Punjab Agriculture University, Dr. Cheema raised the standard of the University to a level that attracted such royal visitors as Prince Charles of Great Britain and Prince Clauss of the Netherlands. He brought changes that motivated the research and extension staff into giving their best. Research was decentralized and regional research stations were setup, a new system of rotation of Deans and Heads of Departments was introduced, the first rural Home Science College in the country was established, trials of zero tillage, now gaining force worldwide, were undertaken, a new variety of rice (PR 106) was released. He even managed to get the budget of the University substantially increased.
As an educationalist, he participated in national and international agriculture extension education seminars and conferences, conducted study tours, and founded associations where members could share their knowledge. He founded the Young Farmers Association Punjab, the Rural Youth Volunteers Corps, the All India Chamber of Agriculture, the Punjab Chamber of Agriculture, and the Young Farmers Association, Haryana, and assisted organizations like the Farmers Forum (Bharat Krishak Samaj) and the Indian Farm Education Foundation. He also established the Young Farmers' Training Center at Rakhra, District Patiala, Punjab. The Center disseminates new technology to small and marginal farmers. Dr. Cheema's commitment to improving the standard of agriculture and his tireless effort in achieving his objective was such that, in a country divided by political differences, he commanded the utmost respect from leaders of all hues.
The Guru Gobind Singh Study Circle, a UNESCO recognized socio-religious organization in Punjab, enjoyed his patronage. On July 18, 1982, while he was in Tanzania to set up an Indo-Tanzanian Agriculture Project, he passed away.
A deeply religious man, Dr. Cheema found time in the midst of all his other commitments to write three books:
- The Geeta and the Youth Today
- Spiritual Socialism
Dr. Cheema gets to the heart of a problem very quickly. His judgments on rural development and agricultural projects are sound. Dr Cheema has done a good job in assessing the needs in our agriculture and rural development projects where this office can play a useful role and is performing that role. His talents are useful in project identification of "New Style" projects. His departure, later this year, will be a great loss to the office.
Mr. Hendrik Vendar Heijden
then Chief of Mission Bangkok, World Bank
It was wisdom and foresight that Led to Dr. Amrik Singh Cheema being appointed the third Vice-Chancellor. He played a dynamic role in achieving self-sufficiency in food in the country, when he worked as Director of Agriculture Punjab, and later on as Agricultural Production Commissioner, Govt. of India. He has International acclaim in the field of agriculture and rural development. He has given to the University the new concepts of Regional Agricultural Planning and has developed a number of international programmes.