KHALSA Diwan Society, Gurdwara Sahib Sukh Sagar, New Westminster, recently paid tribute to Dr. Khem Singh Gill, former vice chancellor of Punjab Agricultural University, who passed away at the age of 89 years last September in India. The farmers of India admired Gill for two reasons – one, for his expertise as an agricultural scientist and stalwart and, two, for his humble and tireless sewa ( volunteering) for the cause of the upliftment of rural education.
Dr. Gill joined Punjab Agricultural University in 1962. He was selected for Rockefeller Foundation fellowship for pursuing a doctorate degree from the University of California, Riverside Campus. He was the only Sikh student with unshorn hair and turban at the campus and always got respect from everyone.
A dedicated plant breeder, Dr. Gill developed more than 30 varieties of different field crops. These include 17 improved varieties of wheat, five high-yielding hybrids and composites of pearl millet, three varieties of linseed, two of sesame, one of barley and two of cluster bean. Of these, nine varieties of wheat and five of pearl millet were released at the national level. Most of these varieties were resistant to diseases like yellow rust, brown rust, Karnal bunt, ergot and / or loose smut.
He was awarded with highest honor of India Padma Bhushan for his contributions to the Green Revolution. He was also the founding Vice President of the Kalgidhar Society and Chairman of Akal Academies , one of the largest Sikh charities and rural education school chains.
Akal Academy Surrey students opened the program with kirtan, followed by Balkar Singh and Angrej Singh from Calgary. Then the program continued with Bhog of Sri Sehaj Path which was organized by the Gill family. Sikh societies, schools and organizations and sangat from across the Lower Mainland were in attendance. Dr. Pargat Singh Bhurji said Gill will always remain in our hearts for his contribution to mankind. Tarlochan Singh Bhamdi said he was ‘Jesus of farmers.’ Dr. Harcharan Singh Dhaliwal, Vice Chancellor of Eternal University, said Gill trod the road less travelled and carved a niche by proving his finesse with utmost humility. Gurdwar Sukh Sagar President Harbhajan Singh Athwal noted that Gill played a major role in augmenting the Green Revolution in India.
Other speakers included Rajbir Singh from Sikh Seva Foundation, Dupinder Kaur from One Voice , Dr. Guzar Singh Villing from PAU Family Association , Lakhbir Singh from SUS Helping Hand Society of Canada. Newly-elected MLA from Winnipeg and PAU alumni, Dr. Diljeet Singh Brar, remembered Gill in his video message, recallinmg how accessible he was even when he was Vice Chancellor of PAU. Gill’s elder son, Dr. Baljit Singh Gill, was also in attendance along withthe Gill family and was honoured by the society. In closing, Avtar Singh Gill shared his valuable experiences and thanked the sangat on behalf of the family. A documentry on Gill’s remarkable life (Pioneer of Green Revolution ) by Reema Anand was shown at the end.