Congress president Rahul Gandhi paying tribute to rice innovator Dadaji Khobragade in Nanded village in Chandrapur district of Maharashtra on Wednesday. Photo: PTI
Congress president Rahul Gandhi paying tribute to rice innovator Dadaji Khobragade in Nanded village in Chandrapur district of Maharashtra on Wednesday. Photo: PTI

Congress demands patents for rice varieties developed by Vidarbha farmer Dadaji Khobragade

Maharashtra Congress chief Ashok Chavan says the central and state governments should address the demands made by the Khobragade family to honour the innovative farmer who died in utter penury

Mumbai: The Congress in Maharashtra has demanded that the varieties of rice that Vidarbha farmer Dadaji Khobragade developed be patented in his name to consecrate his contribution and also prevent theft of intellectual property rights.

Khobragade died on 3 June and on 13 June Congress president Rahul Gandhi visited his native place Nanded in Chandrapur district of Vidarbha to console the family. The Congress president’s visit to the Khobragade family was a significant part of his farm and Dalit outreach in Maharashtra.

Maharashtra Congress president Ashok Chavan, who had accompanied Gandhi, said at a press conference here on Thursday that the central and state governments should address the demands made by the Khobragade family to honour the innovative farmer who died in utter penury.

The Dalit farmer had developed as many as 8 varieties of rice, the most famous among them being the HMT rice variety. He developed most of these varieties in the 1980s in his marginal 1.5 acre farm.

Since Khobragade did not patent his varieties, the Nagpur-based Punjabrao Deshmukh Krushi Vidyapeeth (PKV Agriculture University) had released the HMT variety as PNB HMT following which Khobragade fought a long but unsuccessful legal battle to claim ownership of the HMT rice. His struggle and claim got somewhat acknowledged in 2005 and 2006 when he won the National Innovation Foundation’s award for original innovation and Maharashtra government’s Krushi Bhushan Puraskar, respectively.

Chavan said since Khobragade died as a poor farmer despite such a voluminous contribution that had changed the lives of millions of rice farmers, the Centre and Maharashtra government should now patent those varieties to commemorate Khobragade’s work. Chavan said the family made this and some other demands during their meeting with Rahul Gandhi.

The Maharashtra Congress president also demanded that rice research centre be set up over 100 acres at Khobragade’s native village and a Dadasaheb Khobragade Krushi Bhushan Puraskar be instituted to encourage innovation in agriculture.

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