GANGTOK: The only nominee from Sikkim for the Padma Shri Award in 2023 is 98-year-old Tula Ram Upreti from Assam Lingzey village in Pakyong district.

Upreti, who has been an organic farmer for the past eight decades, is a pioneer in the cultivation of paddy and other vegetables without the use of fertilizers. To date, he continues to promote Sikkim’s tradition of organic farming.

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Upreti has continued the legacy of his forefathers in farming, even after reaching the advanced age of 90.

According to his family members, he only stopped working about five or six years ago due to a recurring knee problem.

Prior to Sikkim’s adoption of democracy, Upreti was also involved in trade with Yatung in Tibet during the 1940s and 1950s. He said he had to transport cargo of rice, buckwheat and maize on foot to Tibet along the famous silk route.

Upreti cultivated his 12-hectare field using only his bare hands and domestic cattle, along with the help of assistants. He grew various crops such as paddy, fresh vegetables, buckwheat, and maize.

In addition to farming, Upreti also served as a local Panchayat from the Lingzey ward under the Assam Lingzey Gram Panchayat Unit for 25 years. He was elected as the Panchayat President twice and retired from social service around 1996. Upreti studied until the fifth grade at the Tashi Namgyal Higher Secondary School (now TN Senior Secondary School).

Upreti has eight sons, seven daughters, 104 grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. One of his sons, KN Upreti, served as a Minister and Legislator from the Rhenock constituency from 1979-1999.

Due to his age, Upreti was unable to respond to media queries. His daughter-in-law, Sunita Upreti, said, “Upon hearing the news yesterday, we as a family wanted to be sure of his accomplishments before making him understand what award he was receiving. We received a call from the Home Ministry on Wednesday afternoon. Around early evening, we received similar confirmation from the Chief Minister’s office and later from the Pakyong District Collector. Today, he has been invited by the DC to be part of the Republic Day celebration where he was felicitated. The family has been jubilant about his achievement, given how even as a 98-year-old he is making his family proud and giving us a legacy to hold on to.”

Today, Upreti’s accomplishments and contributions to organic farming are being recognized and appreciated by the state government. Many refer to him as the “Father of Organic Farming” for his pioneering work in this field, 20 years before the Organic Mission was initiated in Sikkim.

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