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The National Research Centre for Banana in Tiruchi faces the prospect of losing its status as Central institute

Three Central institutes of the Indian Council of Agriculture and Research (ICAR) functioning from Tamil Nadu would be reduced to mere sub-centres of institutes of other States, if the Centre goes ahead with its merger proposal.

According to the proposal, the Central Institute of Brackishwater Aquaculture (CIBA) in Chennai will be merged with the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) in Kochi, while Sugarcane Breeding Institute (SBI) in Coimbatore will be made a sub-centre of the Indian Institute of Sugarcane Research in Lucknow.

The National Research Centre for Banana (NRCB) in Tiruchi will also lose its status as a Central research institution if the merger plan mooted by the expert committee headed by T. Ramasami, former secretary of Department of Science and Technology, is approved by the Centre.

“The institutes which are addressing different mandates should not be merged even though they are working in the same commodity and resources as they are specialised in nature and created for addressing special issues and problems of farming community,” said the Agricultural Research Service Scientists’ Forum in its letter to Union Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minister Radha Mohan Singh.

Funds cut

Scientists working for these institutes alleged that the merger would not only result in substantial cut in funds, but deprive the institutes of focus, original research and modern equipment.

The objective of the government, they alleged, is to merge, corporatise and in some cases it may result in closure.

“In CIBA we are concentrating on low saline brackish water while ICMFRI in Kochi is focusing on capture fisheries. There is enormous scope and huge potential for brackish water aquaculture, as Tamil Nadu alone has 56,000 hectares of area and per annum generates Rs. 1,200 crore. Brackish water aquaculture empowers all sections of society while CIMFRI can benefit only trained fishermen,” said a senior scientist of the CIBA, which has achieved many breakthrough in captive breeding of seabass, milk fish, white shrimp, karimeen , a delicacy in Kerala, and scat, an ornamental fish.

Scientists explained that aquaculture technologies had contributed Rs. 35,000 crore of foreign exchange in the last couple of years. “Instead of focussing more on aquaculture development which is the only scope for expanding fish production in the country, merging an aquaculture institute with capture fisheries will diminish scope of fisheries development in the country,” they said.

In fact, the ICMFRI, launched in 1947, originally functioned from Mandapam in Tamil Nadu, but moved to Kochi because of political reasons.

Of the major States, T.N. has only three institutes. As many as 14 ICAR institutes are functioning from Uttar Pradesh, seven from Karnataka, five from Kerala and seven from Andhra Pradesh.

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