She recalled that the Prime Minister, on hearing about the poor condition in her village Kombhalne in Ahmednagar district, had promised a visit to her village when she had gone to receive the award at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
By that time, she had spoken for almost 20 minutes before her speech was cut short. Popere is known as a crusader of traditional farming and has built a massive bank of indigenous seeds. She is chased by the academic and agriculture sciences community for her knowledge and insights.
Popere was the guest of honour for both Farmers and Women’s Science Congress inaugural function during the 108th Indian Science Congress. Speaking in colloquial Marathi, she minced no words to say that nothing had changed life in her village which had no roads and women have to walk even for three kms to fetch water.
Her speech at Farmers Science Congress began with her success story and childhood full of hardships as she also diverted to the present conditions. Later in the afternoon at the Women’s Science’s Congress, she quickly got into the criticism mode. Her sarcastic comments targeting the politicians evoked huge applause and laughter from the audience mainly women.
It was just when she was talking about Modi and the former revenue minister from BJP Chandrakant Dada Patil, making a list of demands, that Popere was asked to end her speech by the convenor of Women’s Science Congress Kalpana Pande.
President Kovind presents Padma Shri to Smt. Rahibai Soma Popere for Agriculture. Popularly known as ‘Seed Mother’,… https://t.co/JIE68nAWu7
— President of India (@rashtrapatibhvn) 1636379567000
Speaking to TOI earlier at the inauguration of Farmer Congress, Popere said she got Padmashree and before that it was Nari Shakti award but nothing changed in the village. “So many people come to visit my seed bank and they to walk down long distances. Drinking water remains a problem,” she said.
“There is a lake in the village but the water is only used for drinking and not farming. I am lucky that the lake is close to my home, others have to walk longer distances,” she said.
“Last year, a person from Nashik built a tank. It can have water enough to meet drinking water needs and irrigation. Now, I’ll have to only wait for the coming rainy season for the tank to fill. If it does not rain enough the tank would remain empty,” she said.
There is no irrigation facility in the village that depends only on rainfall. When asked if she grew sugarcane, which is a major crop in the district, she said it needs to have enough water to grow the crop.
During the Women’s Congress, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari‘s wife Kanchan Gadkari, ISC president Vijayshree Saxena and Vice Chancellor SR Chaudhari were seated on the dias.
Pande and Chaudhari didn’t answer TOI’s calls.