(Last Updated on : 03/05/2013)
Suman Sahai is a scientist, an academic, a campaigner, a family person and most importantly an agent of change. Armed with a PhD in Genetics and years of research experience, she took on the establishment and has been campaigning for the rights of the farming community for decades now.
Early Life of Suman Sahai
Suman Sahai hardly faced the roadblocks in her way. Only a fortunate few exists who can follow their dreams and she is unbiased to be one. Although her roots are deeply ingrained into a traditional feudal family, her parents never subscribed to any of the regressive practices that are common among such families. In fact she was always encouraged to study whatever she wanted and wherever she desired. The nit fall is the woman, the achiever she is.
There were never any restrictions or any pressure to leave her studies and get married. In those days in rural India, few parents would have let their daughters float around and study science of all things. But she never had to fight any such battles with her folks. The ability to explore and find her own path was always encouraged. In fact her clan was very progressive and supportive.
Science had been in her veins. She can still remember excitedly a certain anecdote during her school days when the chemistry laboratory was inaugurated at her school. The first thing she did was to explore the properties of hydrogen peroxide. A friend of hers was keen to become a blonde. So one day she stuck her head into a sink containing hydrogen peroxide, and made her a blonde.
She loved exploring beyond the known parameters the known knowledge. The excitement of just hanging around the laboratory, and the thrill that follows when an experiment works has always motivated her.
Career of Suman Sahai
Fortunate to have completed her PhD from Indian Agricultural Research Institute, one of the best institutes for genetics in the world she belonged to the generation when genetics was developing. It was an exciting new frontier, there were new papers published every week and noble laureates would visit the campus and give lectures.
There were a small amount of women who were passionate about science in that decade, and most people looked at her incongruously. It seemed as if going to an agricultural research institute was akin to stepping into tropical forests. After that she went to the University of Heidelberg, Germany, which was a major centre for research in genetics. For that reason, she desired to stay in Europe. Fortunately, she got a chance to research as well as teach at Heidelberg for over a decade.
Achievements of Suman Sahai
Dr. Suman Sahai, who has had a distinguished scientific career in the field of genetics, was honoured with the 2004 Borlaug Award for her outstanding contribution to agriculture and the environment. Dr. Sahai has served as a faculty member at the Universities of Alberta and Chicago as also the University of Heidelberg. She returned to India and organized Gene Campaign, an organization dedicated to protecting farmers? rights and food and livelihood security. Dr Sahai chaired the Planning Commission Task Force on ?Agro biodiversity and Genetically Engineered Organisms?, for the Eleventh Plan. She has received s several national awards and was appointed Knight of the Golden Ark (Netherlands) in 2001, Padma Shri
awarded by the President of India
In 1993, she formed the Gene Campaign, a research and advocacy organisation, which has been instrumental in empowering the rural and tribal community of India.
She was appointed Knight in the Royal Order of the Golden Ark, the Netherlands in 2001 and was honoured with the Norman Borlaug award in 2004 for her outstanding contribution to agriculture and environment. She spoke to Diksha Madhok about her distinguished scientific career and her take on development issues.
Contribution of Suman Sahai
In 1993, she formed the Gene Campaign, a research and advocacy organisation, which has been instrumental in empowering the rural and tribal community of India. She was appointed Knight in the Royal Order of the Golden Ark, the Netherlands in 2001 and was honoured with the Norman Borlaug award in 2004 for her outstanding contribution to agriculture and environment. She spoke to Diksha Madhok about her distinguished scientific career and her take on development issues.