‘Nel’ Jayaraman who revived 150 rice species suffers from skin cancer

Chennai: Following the footsteps of Nammalvar- a widely acclaimed agricultural scientist, in 2004, ‘Nel’ Jayaraman began his quest to revive native paddy varieties.

It led him to conserve and preserve more than 150 species. But he did not just stop right there and continued to distribute seeds to farmers at rice festivals.

What started in a small-scale level grew into a huge movement. Today, around 40,000 peasants across Tamilnadu are cultivating the indigenous rice.

But things are not rosy for Jayaraman on his health front, as the 53-year-old is battling with skin cancer (malignant melanoma).

His family is running out of money to meet his treatment expenses and several social activists were seen spreading the message. However, the humble Jayaraman and his family requested them to take off their posts.

“The government hospitals gave up hope as the tumour is in its final stages. Hence we have resorted to a private hospital in Chennai. So far, he has been given immunotherapy and chemotherapy treatment, a couple of times. Since his condition has been deteriorating, he was admitted to the hospital on 19 October and would be here for a month. The doctors opine that he must be operated if the cancer cells spread rapidly. We hope to see him back doing what he loves the most,” says Raju, his nephew.

Hailing from Tiruvarur district, Jayaraman is the State coordinator of ‘Save Our Rice Campaign’ and was honoured with Best Organic Farmer Award in 2012 and 2013 from the State Agricultural department and National Award for best Genome Savior in 2015.

Initially, he was able to collect only 15 varieties, which after cultivation he started circulating during the seed festival in 2006 that was held in Tiruvarur.

The response was so encouraging that it led him to go in search of the lost grains and he ended up reviving around 156 species. In addition, the crusader has trained several farmers, who in turn, take his ideology to every nook and corner of the State.

“I do not wish to pause my journey, as still there are many varieties that have to be given a new lease of life,” says Jayaraman.

With financial aid from friends and well-wishers, the family has been taking care of the treatment costs. Those who wish to chip in and help can contact 63854 12226.

Bhavani Prabhakar