LINGERING AND EMERGING AGRARIAN ISSUES:A WAKE-UP CALL FOR INNOVATIVE REVAMPING
By Dr Jagtar Singh Dhiman, Pro Vice Chancellor, Guru Kashi University
The current Punjab, despite its small size of being the 1.54 per cent geographical area of India, has the history of credibility as it ushered in an era of Indian green revolution in the sixties. This admirable achievement has been well recognized not only within the country but beyond.
The Pre Partition Situation
uring the British Rule Punjab occupied a special status as far as Agriculture was concerned. The Britishers understood the Punjab was region with a huge potential for Agricultural growth because of the five rivers flowing through it. Wherever the land is irrigated, it generally does well in Agriculture. Therefore, the Britishers commissioned a network of canals and moved Sikh farmers from Central and Eastern districts to the newly irrigated lands of Western Punjab and set up the canal colonies. Majority of these Sikh farmers or their descendents under duress returned to Indian Punjab after partition carrying with them rich experience of agriculture and entrepreneurial farming. The policies and priorities of Independent India witnessed Eastern Punjab as a region with huge potential to solve the grave food shortage problem that India faced at that time.
- The International concern
The geopolitical environment of those years of cold war, had dubbed countries like India as “Malthusian time bombs,” whose rapidly growing populations could not be sustained by the slow growth in their ability to produce food.
At the time of partition of India in 1947, its population was 330 million and the food grain production of around 50 million tons was insufficient to feed the masses. There was also inadequacy of foreign exchange required to purchase food grains from foreign countries.
The western political powers, which feared that hunger, could turn the people in India, and other Asian and African nations, towards some ‘socialist revolution’ like in China, had turned communist in 1949.
To avert such challenges, the idea of technology-driven solutions was thought of. The high yielding hybrid seeds being developed in North America during the 1950s were seen as a ray of hope to avoid a human and political crisis looming large in these countries. The western powers successfully sold this idea to India. The PL 480 (Public Law of US 480) allowed India to purchase American food grains with Indian currency. Thus, to deal with near famine like conditions in the country, India imported 10.3 million ton of wheat in 1965 under this programme. Getting ‘food for survival’ from other countries was in fact a compromise with India’s freedom and honour.
- The starting point of Green Revolution
All out focus was given to strengthen agriculture in the country. Efforts were made to build up irrigation and power facilities. The construction of Bhakhra dam on the River Sutlej was completed in 1963 had its impact on Green Revolution. The region witnessed the construction of network of canals, all the way to some parts of Rajasthan and Gujarat. The hydropower generated by the dam was an inexpensive source of electricity for the tube-wells used for irrigation in the region and their number steadily grew from 1.92 lakh in 1970 to 14.76 lakh in 2018-19. Despite the social and political chaos put forth by Partition, Punjab agriculture grew at an impressive rate of 4.6% (in the fifties and sixties) greatly improving India’s food supplies.
Upon Dr M.S. Swaminathan’s invitation Dr Norman E Borlaug, a pathologist turned breeder, at CIMMYT visited India in 1963. Following the visit some 18 thousand tons of seeds of a few good varieties of wheat were imported in 1966 from Mexico. This was the starting point of the Green Revolution in India, which was the outcome of improvement in technology, need based service sector and public policies related to price of inputs and output.
The high yielding variety (HYV) seeds were introduced as a ‘package for the growth’ of the agricultural economy. Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) was one of the institutions to receive seed of Mexican wheat varieties and to start development of new varieties of wheat. The new seeds required larger inputs- irrigation, fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides- than the local varieties to yield the desired productivity. This ‘package’ also included the use of chemical fertilisers and needed a variety of farm machinery.
The state and the central governments enacted and implemented pro-farmers policies and made available the required inputs to give a push to agriculture. For making the programme succeed a variety of incentives, such as cheap credit from commercial banks and subsidies on farm inputs were provided. The farmers keenly accepted these and worked diligently to produce more. Consequently, Punjab could make exemplary progress in agriculture due to this and some other factors.
The important ones are given below:
- Agriculture was given the top priority by the national leadership after independence in 1947.
- A series of reforms and programmes were introduced for promoting agriculture.
- Punjab was able to capitalize on these initiatives and witness positive growth during the early years.
- It was around this period that the state governments were encouraged to have a marketing network in the form of mandis for assured procurement of farm produce.
- To build up stocks of food grains for the Public Distribution System (PDS), the central government too started procuring food grains through the newly set-up mandis at a pre-declared Minimum Support Price (MSP), which was decided after taking into account all the costs incurred by the producers, including the costs of labour.
- The Green Revolution was powered by a scientifically trained professionals educated in the newly set-up agricultural universities.
- The Impact of Green Revolution
With the result of multifarious efforts on the part of governments, universities, state departments of agriculture, and farmers the Punjab’s food grain production increased from 3.2 million tons in 1960-61 to 307.27 million tons in 2019-20. The major contribution in this was of wheat and rice that increased from 1742 to 17,567 thousand tons and 354 to 18912 thousand tons, respectively during this period. As the improved seeds and field worthy production technologies developed by PAU and other farm varsities were well received by farmers India’s annual food grain production increased from 82 million tons in 1960-61 to 308.65 million tons in 2020-21. The farmers witnessed an improvement in their living styles. There was impact on poverty alleviation. In india, the poverty and hunger reduced from 39 to 20 per cent. Farmers started providing their children the best possible education. The per capita income of farmers saw an upward trend. Green revolution resulted in the creation of better employment prospects for farm sectors. Special trains (Kisan Mail) from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and other states plied to and fro from Punjab to carry labour. The farmers became conscious of their rights and this led to the emergence of regional political parties and farmers’ organizations which later played their role visibly at the national canvass. The political monopoly of a single party was transformed toward emergence of religious parties.
However, the agrarian ecology and economy of Punjab presented a range of negatives such as: depleting natural resource base, depleting underground water table, declining income of farmers, rising farmer-indebtedness, lack of alternative sources of employment, youth’s declining interest in farming, and a general sense of social breakup, widespread drug addiction among youth, prevailing social vices like show-off culture, exorbitant spending on social functions, palatial farm houses, acquiring costly weapons and cars. The over dependence on migratory labour had its own intrinsic problems including, mixing of genes in rural areas, increased crime, etc.
The Punjabi farmers have not found it simple to escape from the vortex of an ecologically unviable rice-wheat cropping pattern and its commercial fit-up for the past over six decades or so. The crop diversification options, proposed by farm scientists or the state’s initiative, have been rather non-starters.
- Roadmap for Revitalizing Agriculture
Technology and Policy Planning for revitalizing agriculture.
The need for policy solutions and actionable technology agenda for revitalizing agriculture at various levels are highlighted here. It is not any individual’s responsibility but collective action is called for. Agriculture being the state subject, certain actions are required to be taken up at the state level. However, certain issues are required to be taken up by the different departments of Central Government. A roadmap for strategic planning, policy decisions implementation, technology generation and popularization has to be followed. Since the agrarian situation changes periodically, the roadmap should thus be reprioritized from time to time to make it need-based. All stakeholders should work pro-actively not only for sustainability aspects but on promotional avenues for agriculture.
- Challenges of Agricultural Development and Food Security
India is confronted with challenges affecting its agrarian development and food security goals. The important challenges include problems of fragmentation of landholdings, degradation of natural resources, climate variability and change, exodus of young farmers to non-farming sectors, increasing proportion of ageing farmers, increasing cost of production, market imperfections, etc. The sustainability of water resources, soil health and yields of certain crops is a serious concern. The current agriculture calls for effective measures and strategies. The organizations concerned with the sustenance and promotion of agriculture is, therefore, must draft its actionable agenda.
Addressing Implications of Climate Change
The experts are convinced that climate change, including erratic rainfall, surge in extreme events, El-Nino effect, etc. will have started impacting crops, livestock and other segments of agriculture. The associated high temperatures and extreme drought are likely to reduce crop productivity. It could mean food shortages having serious implications. The climate change thus needs to be viewed as a common risk and needs to be dealt with collectively. A holistic approach involving research on climate modelling and its socio-economic impacts is needed. There is an urgent need to have climate resilient crop production technologies and produce management approaches to mitigate the impact. For this, appropriate contingency plans will be needed. The vulnerabilities and key risks to agriculture should be assessed. The effective micro-plans need to be prepared and implemented at district level as a part of regional planning. Besides adaptation to climate change, a focus on mitigation efforts e.g. reducing energy consumption at different levels, using public mode of transport, saving natural resources, etc. is required to be given.
To mitigate the impact of climate change on the incidence of biotic stresses of weeds, pests and pathogens, agricultural surveillance needs to be strengthened and existing practices should be intermittently revalidated. Monitoring of weeds, pests and pathogens within the crop flora would be required. Monitoring the efficacy of pesticide use vis-à-vis increase in temperature will be useful.
Well functional Agro-advisory System will be required to guide farmers. This can be achieved through collaborating with concerned interdisciplinary experts. Micro-level agro-ecological zoning and regional planning by considering soil fertility and climatic variation will be helpful in understanding and addressing the problem of climate variability.
Since during the past four decades or so, the minimum temperature of Punjab (India) has shown an increase of one degree Celsius, the mitigation and adaptation plans for wheat, the major crop of Rabi, requires strengthening of research for evolving climate resilient varieties and changing climate suited crop rotation. In this context, work on the evaluation and development of germplasm, identifying mechanism for heat tolerance and molecular tagging of the components of heat tolerance will be helpful. Early maturing varieties may be a substitute for terminal heat stress in Rabi crops with high tillering capacity. Further, stress physiology due to temperature and related factors need to be studied.
There is need to strengthen weather forecasting by increasing the network of automatic weather stations. The Agricultural Universities can play a useful role in this direction. The support of India Meteorology Department (I.M.D.) for this may be obtained. Weather network needs to be strengthened to predict accurately.The eight missions of climate change recognized by Department of Science and Technology (D.S.T.) of Government of India are concerned with agriculture.
Punjab has an immense role in national and regional agriculture. A 'Centre of Excellence on Climate Change' may be set up in such states for formulating actionable plans including vulnerability assessment and data management.
The Broad-spectrum Agenda
The following are the agenda which could be given due consideration for revitalization of agriculture through revamping research, education and technology transfer:
Allied Departments of Central Government
Government should support marginal farmers with less than 2 acre holding. The availability of credit loan to farmers must be easy and on the pattern of Sir Chhotu Ram's model.
The Union Government should draft policy to ameliorate farm indebtedness and to affect individual farmer crop insurance plans (urgently for marginal farmers).
The prevailing system of procurement should be bifurcated into the one for domestic and the second for export purpose. These two should be made to function independently. For export oriented production and procurement separate program should be formulated that should take care of the quality and explicit requirements of the importing country.
Cargo and other facilities at Amritsar International Airport needs to be strengthened. Proper infrastructure to facilitate trade between India and Pakistan can be strengthened at Attari-Wagah International Border. Export-import through this route can be encouraged.
The production statistics should be gathered in advance (as is in the case of USA). The information regarding commodity requirement of different countries should be gathered and this will help to plan targets for production for consumption in different states of India in relation to import/export.
The current agriculture faces many pollution related issues. The governments (Central and State Governments) need to work in coordination to provide the needed support to farmers. Market imperfections need to be removed to make sure that farmers are able to sell their commodity at remunerative prices. In Agricultural Produce Market Committees (A.P.M.C.), steps taken by the government through the creation of National Agricultural Market (NAM) need to be implemented actively. Successful implementation of NAM shall protect farmers against exploitation.
The Inter-Ministerial Committee in India set up to examine issues concerning the doubling of farmers' income by the year 2022 has looked into: Improving crop yields, Improving livestock productivity, Reducing production cost through enhancing resource use efficiency, Increasing cropping intensity (In Punjab it is already 206%), Focus towards high-value crops, Improving actual prices received by diversification farmers, Shifting from farm to non-farm occupations, etc. This needs to be viewed from the angle of feasibility.
For the livelihood security of farmers (especially, small and marginal), it is vital to shift to Integrated Farming System (IFS). This will lead to the integration of the best production practices of farming and livestock/ aquaculture.
India is all geared up to propel into the next revolution i.e. Industry 4.0. There are several areas in agricultural production system where automation processes can be usefully employed. Industry 4.0 is a combination of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), put together to finally make decisions regarding remote sensing, drone technology, decision support, automation, etc. with slight human intervention.
Agriculture is prone to different types of disasters that include weather vagaries, floods, droughts, abiotic stresses, biotic stresses (outbreak of serious pests and diseases; infestation of weeds, etc.), wild animals, etc. Small farmers are more vulnerable to the impact of any such disaster. Lack of strategy for disaster management, risk reduction and access to risk information is cause of serious concern. It is high time the Government establishes an exclusive ‘National Agriculture Disaster Authority (N.A.D.A.) with a mandate of bringing in synergy among concerned organizations for assessing crop damage and loss. This will help plan and execute compensation to the victim farmers.
Appropriate Contingency Plans must be made to meet the grave agrarian challenges on short term, medium term and long term basis. To devise desirable strategies, contingent plans, and for their implementation, support from national and global agencies will have to be tapped. India is all set to become the third largest economy of the world by 2030. Millions of youth need to be connected to agro-processing, agri-processing and allied industry and job sectors through enhancing their skills. There is a need to make them confident and competent for entering the global workforce.
Indian Council of Agricultural Research (I.C.A.R.)
The National Agricultural Research cant role in evolvingSystem (NARS) steered by the I.C.A.R. has played a significant role in evolving the need-based farm technologies for different regions. The progress made has been greatly remarkable. To meet the prevailing and emerging challenges of agriculture several initiatives will be needed.
Education, Research and Transfer of Technology (ToT) are the three key pivots for agricultural development. Although All India Coordinated Research Project (AICRP) and Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs), the two backbones of NARS, are doing a good job as far as research for technology generation and technology dissemination are concerned, yet to achieve the required food grain production, these needs to be strengthened..
Funds are provided to agricultural universities through the departments like National Food Security Mission (NFSM), Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojna (RKVY) and National Horticultural Mission (NHM) for different programs. Since funding support is generally scarce and is received late, funds should be released by directly to the universities, rather than through the state governments to avoid delay so that these are available to the scientists timely.
Skill development of farm women in entrepreneurial areas like processing and value addition to farm produce, nursery raising, seed production, computer literacy, bio-crafts, handicrafts, toy-making, candle-making, dyeing, printing and garment making, etc. can be strengthened through network of KVKs.
Transparency and selection on merit should be ensured for recruitment of agricultural scientists at the national level. The A.S.R.B. should create a National Think Tank of experienced retired scientists, administrators, educationists to develop the futuristic strategies and plans for agricultural development in the country. The A.S.R.B. should induct scientists with special training and expertise in the National Research Centres (NRCs) on different crops/research areas.
Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (C.A.C.P.)
The mechanism of deciding M.S.P should be rationalized by considering the escalating cost of farm inputs and consequently the crop production cost. Some state governments provide free power and water to farmers. This cost of which is, however, not counted for working out the cost of crop cultivation that affects the decision regarding M.S.P. of the crop. The suggestion of some agrarian intelligentsia for replacing the C.A.C.P. with an ‘Agricultural Tribunal’ and M.S.P. with ‘Crop Auction at Minimum Reserve Price’ should be considered. The NITI Aayog should form a Group to examine this replacement.
Agriculture is a state subject. There are different Departments and Corporations allied to agriculture such as: Departments of Agriculture, Department of Horticulture, Department of Forestry, Department of Soil and Water Conservation, Department of Animal Husbandry, Punjab State Warehousing Department, Punjab State Container and Warehousing Corporation, Punjab Agri-Export Corporation, Punjab Agro Food Grains Corporation, Punjab Agro Industry Corporation, Punjab State Seeds Corporation cation Authority (P.S.S.C.A.), PunjabLtd (PUNSEED), Punjab State Seed Certi Mandi Board, Department of Colonization, which cater to the agricultural needs of the state. Additionally, there is Punjab Agricultural University (P.A.U.) and Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (G.A.D.V.A.S.U.) which cater to agricultural education, technology generation and dissemination.These departments deal with agricultural activities within their domains and often interrelate among them.
The production must be made market-oriented for consumption within the country and also for export purpose, instead of producing it blindly. The state has to develop its own system of advance surveys and forecast as has been done by most of the exporting countries. We can follow U.S. Model in this regard.
The challenges of food preservation, distribution and processing are diverse and demanding. These need to be addressed on multiple fronts. Due focus should be given to strengthen agro-industries which could result in processing and value addition of commodities besides generating viable employment. It will help in absorbing surplus farm manpower gainfully.
For gainful utilization of surplus farm manpower, small scale industry should be established in or near villages. To promote these industries long term concessions should be given. Perishable crops such as vegetables and fruits should be processed at or near the production points, for local consumption.
A separate Auxiliary Agriculture Cell may be established at the state level to work on the promotion of subsidiary agricultural ventures such as bee-keeping, mushroom growing; seed and nursery production, etc. It can help small and marginal farmers augment their returns.
The farm workers too are under debt. For helping them, the focus on setting up agro-industry in rural areas will be required. Marketing of agricultural produce needs improvement. There is a need to establish a separate 'Market Intelligence Wing' at the State Level. This will ensure advance planning of production as per market demand, assessment of existing and developing market demand, and creation of new demand by surveying domestic and export markets. Farmers need to be made vigilant while marketing their produce online and follow Cooperative/Farmer's Group marketing, Direct Marketing and Home delivery in order that they are not exploited by middlemen or Corporates.
For curtailing post-harvest losses in perishable horticultural commodities the needed infrastructure including cold chains and refrigerated storage should be developed at state level. There is a need to establish state-of-the-art refrigerated transport and cold storage facilities for fruits and vegetables that will help farmers to transport and store their produce at harvest and market it at higher price.
The availability of farm machinery on hiring is meager. To provide easy access to machinery to farmers at reasonable rates, the Village Level Cooperative Societies should be made functional and strengthened. The state government could provide subsidy-cum-seed money to Cooperative Societies. The Cooperative Societies should be run by agricultural graduates.
These should provide custom hiring services.
The Government can organize ‘custom hiring groups’ of young agriculture graduates who could provide services of farm operations such as spray of crops and orchards, harvesting crops, pruning and training operations in orchards, fruit picking, etc. This will create employment for our educated youth and will reduce cost of cultivation.
To encourage export of farm produce/products from Punjab, modern market infrastructure like cold-storage, refrigerated transportation, value addition, chemical residue cation facilities fortesting and quality testing facilities as well as certified organic products should be built.
The Fruit Estates set up in Punjab for Citrus (Hoshiarpur, Takliwala Jattan–Fazilka, Badal-Muktsar Sahib, Bhunga-Hoshiarpur,Abohar-Fazilka), Litchi (Pathankot), Pear (Amritsar), Guava (Patiala), need to be strengthened further through adequate staff and infrastructure, labs, etc. Promotion of Sericulture (in Kandi areas) and Floriculture industry needs a special attention.
The small scale industry should be established in or near villages employing local farmers.
Organic farming in fruits and vegetable crops needs to be promoted.
Individual Farmers Insurance for high value perishable crops needs to be initiated by the state government which will be economical than paying the crop losses compensation. The need for ‘Insurance and Credit Assurance Schemes’ has become imperative now for making agriculture tread on strong footing. The currently prevailing scenario calls for its diversion toward the small and marginal farmers.
The ‘Zero-interest Credit Cards’ to small and marginal farmers with a specified upper limit can be option to expand the credit growth, while keeping a vigil on the burgeoning non-performing assets (N.P.A.s).
Regulatory mechanism should be started for development and utilization of groundwater resources on sustainable basis. The minimum inter-tubewell distance (well interference) in the concerned area should be considered while allotting tube well connections.
The crop produce heaped in the market yards should be protected against rains and subsequent spoilage by moulds. Arrangement should be made so that there is no delay in lifting.
Development of scientific grain storage structures (silos) should catch the attention of policy planners in view of huge post-harvest losses. The storage should be created in the consuming states instead of the producing areas.
The problem of farmer-suicides is unfortunate. Being a multi factorial socio-economic problem concerning human behavior in isolation, it needs to be tackled mainly through counseling. The government and society need a shared effort to start ‘counseling and rehabilitation centers’ using economic and social experts and reformers.
Government should provide skill enhancement trainings to young farmers having less than two acre holding on priority.
Punjab Government offers free water and electricity to farmers but it often leads to wastage of water resources. Government should now think to taper it at least for big farmers. The states need to be directed for giving free water and power to small and marginal farmers only, and not to large farm holdings.
The farm returns have become greatly unfavourable over time. This leads to diminishing interest of some farmers, especially the youth in agriculture. Therefore, all out technological, policy and administrative efforts must be made to ensure that farm returns improve significantly. An ‘Expert Think Tank’ with retired university vice chancellors, scientists, directors of different government departments and other senior functionaries, on it should be formed to review the entire agricultural system and suggest ways to move forward.
State Agricultural Universities (SAUs)
The S.A.U.s cater to the needs of agricultural education, technology generation and dissemination to farmers of the state. The contributions of S.A.U.s have often been remarkable. For example, PAU has a history of being the epicenter of Green Revolution in the country and to take care of food and nutritional security of Indian population through its programs and activities. For the wellbeing of farmers and farming, there should be an intimate linkage between scientists, technocrats, farmers, agro-industry and policy makers. In Punjab and other agriculturally progressive states, this already exists but needs to be followed in other states.
Niche areas of different crops should be identi and research, technology dissemination and other efforts must be directed toward the niche areas. For example, In Punjab SultanpurLodhi can be niche area ower, Narangwal for okra,for muskmelon and other cucurbits, Samrala for cauli Abohar & Hoshiarpur for Kinnow, etc.
The world class methods for extension services are generally not in practice. For this, the research based extension methods involving ICT modules and social media portals need to be perfected and followed. Development of Decision Support System (D.S.S.) for rational use of fertilizers and pesticides, management and prediction of pests and pathogen outbreaks should receive priority.
The research is becoming costlier year after year. Allocation of more funds for R&D purpose in different areas of agriculture needs to be enhanced to at least 1 per cent of the agriculture GDP in the state.
Due focus is required to be given on agriculture sector with management technologies having the potential of water saving. The adoption and development of cropping/farming systems should be guided by the potential water availability.
The number of small farmers ate on the increase due to family subdivision and other reasons. Emphasis must be given on technologies and earning models that are not labor-intensive and suit the need of small farmers.
Focus should be given on enhanced involvement of youth in new-age technologies in agriculture. The huge possibility of the Industry 4.00 revolution in agriculture sector can be harnessed by involving youth in this. Rural youth by way of blending traditional and modern farm technologies can revolutionize agriculture if well supported by public policies. This is important as the increasing proportion of farmers in the villages is becoming aged.
Youth need to be encouraged to adopt farming profession and ultimately entrepreneurship in agriculture. It is the need of the hour to make agriculture remunerative and attractive to sustain the interest of youth. Youth should be provided exposure to skill-based agri-ventures. The skilled youth can turn to be job creator than being a job seeker. Renewed efforts should be made to upgrade the human resource through need-based training tours abroad.
National as well as international collaboration should be further strengthened in academia and research. Capacity building at all levels, e.g., scientists, agro-processors, extension staff, farmers and others involved in agriculture and allied sectors should get priority. The S.A.U.s should formulate an International Advisory Board (I.A.B.) with scientists, academicians, industrialists, management experts etc. from reputed organizations abroad. This will enhance collaborative tie-ups in research and academic areas and enhance the visibility of the S.A.U.s.
State Private Universities
There are many State Private Universities (SPUs) and Colleges that have started agricultural programs. Some of these do not have the required manpower and research facilities including land, laboratories and scientific infrastructure required especially for imparting knowledge and hands-on-experience. The Punjab State Council for Agricultural Education (P.S.C.A.E) has been empowered to spell out the minimum standards and guidelines for imparting agriculture education and training to be followed by Colleges and Universities in Punjab and to regulate the Agriculture Education through grant of recognition to colleges/institutions/departments that meet the norms and standards to run the agriculture education programs. The P.S.C.A.E and I.C.A.R. have made it mandatory that the institutions must get their accreditation for starting agricultural education and training. This is a desirable step to maintain the quality of agricultural education. The State Council of Agriculture Education should also be set up in other states on the pattern of Punjab. The Government of India must tighten oversight of private universities, which have grown almost 14-fold in the last decade, as complaints of malpractices against them have multiplied.
The government should create healthy competition among Private Universities toward achieving excellence in their programs and policies. The Government has started allotting ranking to universities based on innovation achievements e.g., Atal Ranking of Institutions on Innovative Achievements (ARIIA) every year. The Ministry of Human Resource Development's decision to grant graded autonomy to higher educational institutes and to award best institutions with the Institute of Eminence tag are the best decisions which need to be implemented. This will improve the way some of these SPUs are run as they vie for such recognition.
The SPUs need to focus more on research, innovations and offer niche courses to bring in desirable quality. So far, these Universities have not been able to make much brunt on the research front. There is a need to mobilize resources and invest in research in Private Universities. These should conceive new age programs in their vision and mission to achieve milestones by delivering the quality education to students with an eye on desired results. Due focus needs to be given to develop state-of-the-art R&D infrastructure to meet and gauge up to the standards in terms of world class education.
The Universities should adopt villages and involve villagers in activities under their corporate social responsibility. The University should create Centers for Social Impact Strategies to work in the villages in collaboration with the village Sarpanches.
- District Administration
There are inter- and intra-district variations in crop productivity in the state. ‘Reaching the Unreached’ should be the approach in c agro-climaticour extension and technology transfer programs. The speci regional plans need to be designed. The Chief Agriculture Officer (CAO) of the Department of Agriculture should consider this.
Most of our poor farmers who belong to rain-fed areas, have not been reached owing to our prevailing insufficient outreach mechanism. Consequently this segment of agrarian society has been at a disadvantage in terms of less progress in farming centre. This applies to Punjab, Haryana and Western U.P. as well.
In Kandi area (district Gurdaspur, Hoshiarpur, Ropar, Sub mountainous Region of Punjab) the focus should be on technology generation, dissemination and strategic planning for cultivation of fruits and vegetables. For enhancing farmers income efforts for promotion of horticulture through best cultivation practices for fruits (amla, guava, drumstick), vegetables (brinjal, peas, etc.), agro-forestry (poplar, maize, wheat, etc.) should be given.
Further, involvement of women in cottage industry (basket making, rabbit rearing, etc.) should be encouraged.
In Central Region (District Ludhiana, Central Plain Region of Punjab) the focus on technology for enhancing water use efficiency, integrated ower andnutrient management; production technology for rice, wheat, maize, Sunflower, potato, net-house technology for pesticide-free vegetable production and focus on peri-urban agriculture around major cities of Punjab should be given.
In South-Western Region (Bathinda, Faridkot, Ferozepur Regions), the focus is required on cotton, oilseeds, guar and other regional crops. Technology for use of brackish water in conjunction with canal water should be refined and popularized. The bio-drainage of waterlogged areas using tolerant species of eucalyptus should be explored. The salinity tolerant varieties of wheat and rice should be tried for cultivation. The fish farming in the waterlogged areas should be tried.
- Village Heads (Sarpanches)
The farmers need to be guided how they can be availed from the pro-farming schemes of banks and different ministries concerned with agriculture and farmers welfare. The Village Heads (Sarpanches) should make efforts to involve the village youth in constructive activities such as participation in sports and cultural activities. The youth who spend their evenings in the playground cannot go astray as they are able to channelize their energy in constructive manner. The programs slated for rural development must also do well for the poor, landless, women, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.
IV. Dealing with Corruption that Impacts Agriculture Too
Corruption is rampant in the contemporary society. It has many forms and effects on the economy and society. The malpractice of corruption has penetrated particularly in the places of authority and is becoming as an accepted way to get the work done from any office with ease. People are becoming self centered. The work culture is on the decline. The people are becoming easy going. They try to become richer overnight. For this malpractices and dishonest, dishonest and deceitful practices are followed. People are becoming introvert, self-glorifying and materialistic. The politics is not based on principles and ethics.
It must be made mandatory for the elected politicians to take a pledge not to indulge in corrupt practices during office. They must take a pledge to run their office in a corruption free manner. The persons who are found indulging in corrupt practices in public life should be rendered ineligible to seek election during the rest of his or her life time. There is a need of technical and educated persons in politics.
Strong and stringent laws need to be enacted which gives no room for the guilty to escape. There should be one law for everybody in the country. There should be no protection or exemption to anybody. The one thing that needs to be ensured is proper, impartial, and unbiased use of available anti-social regulations to take strong, deterrent, and timely legal action against the offenders, irrespective of their political in power.
V. The Evergreen Revolution
The improvements brought out by the Green Revolution came at the cost of adverse environmental effects in areas subjected to intensive farming. However, where population pressure is high, there is no option except to produce more food. Hence, the need for the Evergreen Revolution was called out by Dr. M S Swaminathan. The Evergreen Revolution, it is envisaged that productivity must increase, but in ways which are environmentally safe, economically viable and socially sustainable. The evergreen revolution involves the integration of ecological principles in technology development and dissemination.