Is agriculture to India a forced choice? No, it was never. Many economic commentators are wondering why the Indian miracle has suddenly scaled down. By filling the technology and mechanisation gap will make the agriculture boom. Let’s face some of the actual facts and thought process implemented down the lines to prove agriculture to be country’s own born profession.
A quick glance in the Indian agricultural sector rooted facts.
Agriculture continues to be the backbone of Indian economy.
The sector employs 54.6 percent of the total workforce, and nearly three-quarters of India’s families depend on rural incomes.
Despite, agriculture sharing a large portion of India’s GDP, the latest data reveals a decline – from 14.6 percent in 2009-10 to 13.9 percent in 2013-14 at 2004-05 prices. Falling share of agriculture and allied sectors in GDP is an expected outcome in a fast growing and structurally changing economy. Merely because the industrial and service sectors have taken over the growth. But why some 770 million people or about 70 percent of India’s population is found in rural areas? Aren’t they getting employment? Or sufficient assistance for livelihood ?
On the food security front, India wholesomely depends upon cereals production. What about the vegetables, fruits and milk? It might go for a toss to meet the demand of the growing population. And thus to have a productive yet sustainable agricultural front, does the sector needs to revise its system or need to emerge at an accelerated pace?
For the betterment of farming community
Agriculture in India is like religion wherein more than 70 percent of the population engaged directly and indirectly. Agriculture and farmers in India need due respect, consideration and value. The following are some of the experts ideas that require immediate focus and correction.
“To avoid high fluctuation of price which is a big risk for the farmers, the regional cropping planning is extremely important. The farmers should be advised to grow alternative crops best suited to that agro climatic condition which have compatible price and low cost of cultivation with sustainable use of natural resources particularly water,” says Pawan Kumar, Program Leader – Agricultural Development, Sehgal Foundation.
A generalised policy like MSP does not work in India because of variable ago-climatic conditions, market hub and cost of cultivation. The cost of cultivation and market are different in different zones that decide farmers profit and choice of cultivation. Like the cost of cultivation of paddy (Rice) is different in coastal areas of India where rainfall is for long duration when compared with Haryana and Punjab where water is underground only and cost of pumping water is very high along with other agri-inputs. The same is applied for fruits and vegetables.
“The extension system in India is almost collapse and for example many farmers still lack soil testing and don’t know how they can increase their crop productivity and what is the status of soil. Hence, the role of KVK’s should be redesigned and need to make more accountable and responsible for agricultural development in their defined territory,” adds Kumar.
Here comes the role of village-level extension worker "Gram Sewak" which is a link between farmers and agriculture department. They need to be constantly trained on better agricultural practices, schemes, policy and market.
Likewise, one of the leading non-profit organisation, Rural Minds’, Director- Communication, Sobham Thakur speaks about the importance of India having its own agricultural module rather than sharing it from foreign alliance. “We haven’t borrowed agriculture from neighbouring countries, then why can’t the idea to cultivate food be ours. India has its own entity. The total geographical area of the country is 328.7 million hectares, of which 141.6 million hectares is the net sown area. Indeed a huge area to feed the nation,” says Thakur.
“To improve access to irrigation, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sichayee Yojana (PMKSY) has been initiated with a sum of Rs 1,000 crore, this year. Only to be too equipped with machineries won’t help nation to prosper. Farmers should be equally trained and well versed and imparted full-fledged knowledge about climate, crops and fields. A planned strategy should come up and implement depending on the area for farming. It’s not always about technology but farmers to be given healthy opportunity for farming as there are now 263 million people working in agriculture, over half of all workers. Even as there has been a 3.6 percentage point decline in the proportion of people working in agriculture over the last decade, their absolute number has increased from 234 million a decade ago,” adds Thakur.
On the other hand, the loss of some traditional sectors of the economy is producing an ever great interest in agriculture sector and rural economy. As per Second Advance Estimates for 2013-14, total production of rice in the country was estimated at 106.19 million tonnes which is a new record. The current year’s production is higher by 9.5 lakh tonnes than the last year’s record production. Production of wheat estimated at 95.60 million tonnes is also a new record.
Challenges to overcome
To reinforce agriculture, the government has applied policies like Agricultural Credit, Kisan Credit Card, special rehabilitation Package for distressed farmers, agriculture insurance and many others.
Manish Panigrahi, a government official in Agriculture Board Department, explains in brief about the ‘National Policy for Farmers’ (NPF), and reason behind the gaps between the farmers and policymakers. “NPF aims at improving economic viability of farming and increasing net income of farmers. It includes land, water, livestock, fisheries and bio-resources; supply of good quality seeds; farmer-friendly insurance instruments etc. Many of the schemes or programmes being implemented by Central and State Governments,” says Panigrahi.
Yet the farmers are not able to avail these schemes. “Lack of information, usage importance and unable to reach the source makes the farmers back-end the whole process of making agriculture bloom,” adds Panigrahi.
Apart from the agriculture hold, India also stands world’s largest producer of milk, pulses and spices. The country recorded to produce 137.97 million tonnes of milk in a recent year.
As per the data, Amrit Grover, Chief Marketing Head, Kamdhenu, highlights that in India there are largest bovine population in the world and represent by nearly 37 breeds of cattle and 13 breeds of buffaloes.
Therefore, Grover suggests that cattle farmers and companies should be aware about Rashtriya Gokul Mission, a project under the National Program for Bovine Breeding and Dairy Development. “They had launched this mission with the objective of conserving and developing indigenous breeds in a focused and scientific manner. The potential to enhance the productivity of the indigenous breeds does not merely depends upon the technology and machinery but through professional farm management and superior nutrition, as well as gradation of indigenous bovine germplasm.”
Similarly, Shilpi Jain, Associate Professor, FORE School of Management, refreshes the idea of getting farming/ agriculture subject in the main stream to endure professionals to advocate farm fields. “I wish agriculture to be taken as a professional. Technology no doubt has become a prime part in today’s life. Education modules have been introduced for schools which are more technology-oriented. We should definitely encourage technology in farm but as a helping aid and endorse more employment strategy,” says Jain.
Ankit Agarwal, Global Head, Telecom Products, Sterlite Technologies, supplements the thought process and says, “The country will newly be introduced with optical fibre internet services. Though we are adopting technologies that had done wonders internationally, yet we should even be aware in preaching the usage of technology to our countrymen and even take advantage of having maximum farming for our land.”
Nevertheless, Sachin Suri, Managing Director, Crop Data wishes to prepare the nation from the future consequences. “My team and I had put a lot of efforts in collecting the facts the nation underwent and will face on agriculture front. Our country has to be totally prepared and aware about future needs to feed the nation, as we are the largest producer as well as largest consumers and no nation can feed us, if we collapse in the running time of cultivation.”