The 1973 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service
CITATION for Tan Sri Balachandra Chakkingal Sekhar
Ramon Magsaysay Award Presentation Ceremonies
31 August 1973, Manila, Philippines
The Rubber Research Institute of Malaysia (RRIM) scientists and technicians are showing that farmers in developing lands, guided by effective application of systematized knowledge and organization, can compete with great, multinational corporations and safeguard their means of livelihood.
Since the cultivation of Hevea brasiliensis trees to tap their latex began with 22 seedlings shipped from Kew Gardens, London, to Singapore's Botanic Gardens in 1877, the fortunes of the rubber industry have been elastic. As automobiles multiplied before, during and after World War I, several million acres were planted to Hevea in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Burma, India and Sri Lanka. From the peak in the 1920s to the nadir in the Great Depression, rubber prices fluctuated from US$1.23 to three U.S. cents per pound. Japanese occupation of Southeast Asia during World War II prompted massive production of synthetic rubber by the West. Subsequent technical advances resulted, by the late 1960s, in a synthetic "natural" rubber, Cis-1, 4-polyisoprene. The livelihood of many millions growing natural rubber in rural Asia seemed doomed.
Dr. B. C. SEKHAR's emergence to leadership of the RRIM parallded this challenge to natural rubber, which was felt most acutely in Malaysia as supplier of 40 percent of the world's total production. Born less than four miles from the Institute's 3,400-acre experiment station at Sungei Buloh, the now 44-year-old chemist knew rubber firsthand: his father, an immigrant from India in 1916, had worked on rubber estates and become an estate assistant. Joining the Institute in 1949 SEKHAR led research, especially in physiochemical changes, in rubber. He was the first Malaysian to head the Chemistry Division, in 1964, and to become Director of the Institute, in 1966.
As the largest research organization in the world devoted to a single crop, RRIM has reversed natural rubber's prospects by effective action on five fronts: 1. developing Standard Malaysian Rubbers (SMR) grading to buyers' technical specifications; 2. producing "Heveacrumb" that is uniform and superior to bales of ribbed, smoked sheet, and recently a tire-rubber blend; 3. conducting botanical research which has resulted in faster-maturing, higher-yielding, sturdier trees by budding clones and now by tissue culture techniques; 4. simplifying gathering by tapping directly into plastic bags thus also avoiding contamination of the latex; and 5. developing stimulants to paint on rubber trees to double or triple latex yields.
While distinguishing himself as one of Asia's most effective scientists, SEKHAR has remained sensitive to the human dimension. Research is aimed at reaching and benefiting all through energetic extension by the Institute's Smallholders Project Research, Training and Advisory Services divisions, and the cooperating Malaysian Government Rubber Industry Smallholders Development Authority.
In electing BALACHANDRA CHAKKINGAL SEKHAR to receive the 1973 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service, the Board of Trustees recognizes his leadership of scientific and technical advances that assure a more prosperous and stable future for rubber growers, large and small, in South and Southeast Asia.
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