By M.S. Swaminathan
To solve the agrarian crisis, India needs to look at the human dimension of agriculture and focus on the problems faced by the farmers
India’s agriculture strength has grown up substantially, I have been a witness to it for many decades. There will be a day when we will be able to feed the foreign nations as well. Agriculture in our country is a livelihood industry. Our first task is to produce enough food to fulfill the commitments of the Food Security Act. We should always produce more than other nations to earn additional income for our farmers. This will require greater attention in post-harvest technology and management.
I sense a very positive vibe for an encouraging future of agriculture in India during next 30 years. A quick look back at what the agrarian trend had been in pre- and post-Independence eras, resolve many doubts. I recall both during colonial times and post-Independence, no commission had ever been set up to look at the problems of farm families with special emphasis on the human dimension of the ancient profession of farming. The most important commission set up in the days of British rule was the ‘Royal Commission on Agriculture’, headed by Lord Linlithgow. An important statement made by that Commission was that ‘however efficient the organisation which is built up for demonstration and propaganda be, unless that organisation is based on the solid foundation provided by research, it will be merely a house built on sand.’
My assessment of the need for scientific backstopping for extension advice led to the birth of the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) in 1928. The council was given concurrent responsibilities in the fields of research, extension, and education. In spite of the steps taken from time to time to make farming profitable and save farmers from undue economic distress, the agrarian crisis continues and India has become known for widespread occurrence of farmer suicides. The size of landholdings is also getting smaller and water resources are becoming scarce.
The vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to double farmers’ income by next five years is a very positive and welcome step. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s approach to agriculture also seems balanced. I would only suggest to stick to basics of credit, insurance and indigenous breed’s development.
There are ailments in agriculture but they exist with fairly possible solutions, the crisis in Indian agriculture is due to many factors. Some of which are common and few specific.
There is a projected decline in the growth rate of the agriculture sector. Net sown area, gross cropped area, gross irrigated area, fertiliser use, electricity consumption — all declined. The growth rate of the terms of trade for agriculture declined from 0.95 per cent per annum in 1990-96 to (-) 1.63 per cent per annum in 1996–2005. The plight of farmers is evident from the fact that Punjab farmers, with an average farm size of 3.79 hectares growing wheat and rice, earn an income that is less than the starting salary of a Class IV employee. There is a simple solution to this. What we need is an ever-green revolution leading to increase in productivity with perpetuity without ecological harm.
I envision the entire agrarian scenario and I would emphasise upon the use of recommendations made by National Commission for Farmers (NCF). Improve the economic viability of farming by substantially increasing the net income of farmers, and ensure that agricultural progress is measured by advances made in their income; provide opportunities in adequate measure for non-farm employment for farm households; introduce measures that can help to attract and retain youth in farming.
The NCF had also recommended the renaming of the Ministry of Agriculture as the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, in order to emphasise that an important responsibility of the Ministry is to ensure the economic and social well-being of farm families.
Initiatives such as Kisan Credit Card, Nabard’s easy loan for rural development and promoting women in agriculture will also play key role in future sustainability of agriculture. It is good to stay hopeful about 100 per cent foreign direct investment in agriculture marketing activity’s future. I have a clear view on GM seeds. India does not need GM seeds, we have enough genetic variability for all the important characters.
Whatever assessment the United Nation’s agriculture arm FAO does give to a serious note of projected population explosion in India, my recommendation for the same are simple. India’s population is growing, and with advances in healthcare, the population will certainly grow. What is important is to preserve prime farm land for agriculture purpose. We should also declare good agricultural areas as ‘Special Agriculture Zones’.
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Source: BW Businessworld