Sreekant S Mehta
Receiving the “Udhyan Shri Award - 2018” from the then Governor of Rajasthan
Sreekant Surajmal Mehta, veteran award-winning horticulturist and well-known philanthropist, passed away in Salem on October 22, 2021. He was the son of Late Jasudaben and Late Surajmal Bhaichand Mehta and husband of Late Anitaben, and managed the family plantations in Tamil Nadu consisting of Coffee, Pepper, Orange, Pomello, Hill Bananas, Jack, Litchi, Avacado and other fruits since 1963.
Mehta’s pioneering work and achievements were in the field of horticulture. He set up “The Nursery”, now recognised by the Horticulture Departments of various state & central government as an approved source of fruits and other plants, specialising in obtaining new varieties, multiplying and quickly making them available to farmers.
In recent years, Mehta focused his efforts on various social and philanthropic causes with which he had been involved for a number of years. During the Covid pandemic, he played a stellar role in distributing rations and supporting labour and small self-employed individuals who were out of work. He also worked along with and contributed to the campaigns undertaken by Palanpur Samaj Kendra, Ratna Nidhi Charitable Trust, Madras Anchorage Round Table 100, and others for relief work and strengthening of medical infrastructure.
Mehta was a Director of National Horticulture Board upto 2010, and was honoured with an Honorary Fellowship by the Horticultural Society of India during its Platinum Jubilee celebrations. He received many other honours, including being a recipient of the Rishi Chaman Award for Amla, the Nalla Valai Award for Banana, the Lt. Amit Singh Memorial Foundation Award and Best Pinery Award for three years in Coorg. He has also been honoured by the Arboriculture Association of India and IIHR.
In 2018 he received the Indian Nurserymen Association’s INA Excellency Award and the “Udhyan Shri Award - 2018” by the Indian Society for Arid Horticulture, Bikaner (Rajasthan).
There were two areas of horticulture where Sreekantbhai’s contributions were especially significant – nursery development and his focus on amla cropping, which was earlier seen only as an arid zone fruit..
He is known for having established and developed scientific nursery management and standardised practices for it throughout the state, and is commonly referred to as “Father of Scientific Nurseries” in South India. Today, thanks in no small measure to his foresight and contributions, Tamil Nadu is recognised as the “Nursery Hub of India”.
Sreekantbhai also worked specifically on Amla with Govt departments and other private organisations to develop it as a leading commercial crop in the state. He was the President of the Amla Growers’ Association of India for a long time. He also played a key role in popularising the health benefits of the crop and helping to develop processing industries and health-based products with it. Once again, he can be credited with helping Tamil Nadu emerge as the largest producer of this crop in India.
Mehta is also credited with having popularised commercial cultivation of other Arid Zone fruits like Tamarind, Bael, Cordia, etc. over South India. He also a member of the team formulating the National Horticulture Mission and an Invitee of the Task Force on Micro Irrigation formed by the Govt. of India. He also was an Invitee to the Budget Discussion on Horticulture with the Minister of Finance, Govt. of India during the years 1996-2000. Mehta was a Member of Research Advisory Committee, Central Institute of Arid Horticulture, Bikaner for three years and is currently a member of Research Advisory Committee, Central Institute of Sub-Tropical Horticulture, Lucknow for six years.
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