India Intelligence Report

 

 

   Second Green Revolution Needs Major Reform

  Investigations and studies behind consistent suicides by farmers around the country is increasingly pointing to “avoidable, man-made” conditions ranging from drop in financial support, lack of agricultural support systems, to impractical Federal policies.
 

 

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Investigations and studies behind consistent suicides by farmers around the country is increasingly pointing to “avoidable, man-made” conditions ranging from drop in financial support, lack of agricultural support systems, to impractical Federal policies.

  1. 1. The number of Agriculture graduates every year is .67% of the total while the number of people engaged in this sector equals 65% of the population. Hence, there are just not enough knowledgeable advisors who can guide the farmers. Part of the problem is that Agriculture based jobs for such graduates is sparse, available only with the Government, and is not considered “cool.” Moreover, the pay scale for motivated and qualified labor is not very encouraging.

  2. 2. Agricultural budget allocation dropped from 30% to 12% in a very short span of time and the available money was spent giving sops to influential states or farmers or used to up Government procurement prices. The net result was that there is no investment in infrastructure or even maintaining millenniums old tanks, waterways, and wells. Further, ill-advised sops such as providing free power to farmers, have squandered scarce resources. Therefore, these water storage systems have silted, ground water storage depleted, water recharge systems blocked by politically inspired “development,” and tanks are used as means to develop residential areas. Hence, when farmers could once grow 2 crops a year, can only grow 1 at best and that too if the monsoon succeeds.

3. Most of the focus of agricultural reform has focused unduly on high-technology such as hybrid seeds, genetically modified seeds, tissue culture, fertilizer, and fertilizer. However, with no investment in basic infrastructure such as land development, soil study and monitoring, crop advisory, weather and rain change patterns, water storage, improving agricultural practices, raising farmers’ awareness, marketing infrastructure, technical support systems, and productivity enhancing practices, developments in high-tech is useless.

4. Federal Government policies are also introduced without consultation with local expertise or academics. Some cite the National Horticulture Mission program as a prime example of one heading for failure. By initiating this program to create horticulture products without processing and marketing infrastructure, experts say that this program will fail to provide revenue to farmers as they will have no scope to add value or sell their products.

5. The Federal Government also runs its agriculture, animal husbandry, and fisheries departments as bureaucracies that manage subsidies and has not empowered the directors of various bodies to evolve their institutions and organizations as knowledge or resources centers.

6. In poorer states like Chhattisgarh, marginal farmers are forced to sell their land holdings to richer farmers from Punjab and Haryana as they are unable to grow more than 1 crop a year. By some estimates, the below the poverty line (BPL) population in such states have grown by 15% and hundreds of thousands migrate every year seeking employment and means to making a living.

7. The cuts in budget have also greatly affected Indian farmers’ ability to get low-cost loans for productive purposes. While many of the loans have been misused to celebrate family functions, even those who sincerely desire a growth in their livelihood are unable to access loans. Further, University faculty or research institutions remain out of reach for most farmers and therefore not connected to the realities of the marginal farmer. Therefore, even when they are in a position of influence or help, they are unable to advise them neither is the farmer able to take advantage of this advice.

Fortunately, the Federal Government is becoming increasingly sensitive to the performance of the Agriculture sector as a pre-requisite to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth-rates of over 9%. Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia recently emphasized that

Agriculture needs to grow at 4% to sustain an overall growth rate of 9%. He indicated that this parameter will be factored into the 11th Financial Plan and said that the focus will be through efficient use of water through expansion of irrigation projects so dry-land areas can be cultivated.

Inaugurating the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) — Triennial Conference 2006 on the theme "Reorienting Agricultural Research to meet the Millennium Development Goals," President Abdul Kalam pointed out that “a second green revolution” is necessary to “increase productivity.” He suggested research and newer production methodologies as means to gain capacity to grow 340 million tons of food-grain. He also called for efficient use of land, water and people so food sufficiency levels can sustain a billion-plus population. He even challenged the scientific community to create newer seeds that can withstand “constraints of water and land” and double “the productivity of the available land with lesser area being available for cultivation with less water and limited number of farmers.” While highlighting technology, Kalam also pointed out that this “second green revolution” is “a knowledge graduation from characterization of soil to the matching of the seed with the composition of the fertilizer, water management and evolving pre-harvesting techniques for such conditions.”

While there is growing consciousness and acceptance on the importance to refocus on Agriculture, a detailed action plan on how to go about this effort is seriously lacking. While Federal Agriculture and Food Minister Sharad Pawar asked scientists to adopt a people centric approach so the nation can “address poverty by concentrating on profitability, productivity and permanency,” he has not produced a call to action that will galvanize the nation into action. While Pawar wants “food, nutritional and environmental security, locally, regionally and globally” his Ministry has not come up with any plan that can provide direction. India has been successful in conceptualizing the issue but not been able to translate those concepts and vision into an architecture that can be adopted and implemented irrespective of which party is in power.