Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu Sunday emphasised the need to promote agro-based industries in rural areas so as to create employment opportunities for rural youth. Referring to the phenomena of reverse migration from cities to villages during the Covid-19 pandemic, he said that entrepreneurship in agriculture could immensely benefit the Indian economy by creating jobs in areas where they were needed the most.
Addressing the second Annual Convocation of Dr Rajendra Prasad Central Agricultural University, Pusa at its Piprakothi Campus (East Champaran) in Bihar, the Vice President said that the farmer producer organisations (FPOs) could immensely help small and marginal farmers with forward (processing, marketing and export) and backward (input and extension services) linkages in the food supply chains. Therefore, he emphasised the need to promote FPOs through handholding and capacity building and appreciated the university for initiating training programmes in this regard. Reiterating that there is a lot of scope for food processing in India, he urged the universities to encourage farmers in their respective regions to form collectives.
Observing that Indian agriculture is characterised by marginal and small farmers with fewer resources, Naidu highlighted the need for increasing the farmers’ income through various sources, including improved resource use efficiency. Calling for greater use of technology in food management to ensure food security for all, he said, “The developed world is already reaping benefits from the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in agriculture and India too must harness its potential to help improve farm income.” In this regard, the Vice President asked Dr Rajendra Prasad Central Agricultural University to work on the impact assessment of technologies and also evaluate alternative farming techniques and their sustainability.
Lauding the farmers for record foodgrain production despite the challenges thrown by the Covid-19 pandemic, Naidu said that our country owes a lot to our hardworking farmers and frontline Corona warriors. Stressing that “agriculture is our basic culture,” he urged the Centre and state governments, public leaders, universities and research institutions, and the media to give more importance to agriculture. “We must see that the agri-sector is given all the support that is needed for the development and sustenance of agriculture,” he said.
Congratulating all the students who graduated this year, the Vice President asked them to strive to excel in their chosen domain and contribute to the growth and development of the country. On this occasion, he also praised several farmer-centric institutes at Piprakothi, Champaran. “I am confident that all these institutes and centres will play a crucial role in alleviating the problems of small and marginal farmers of the region,” Naidu added.
Referring to the stellar performance of the agriculture sector despite challenges thrown by Covid-19, the Vice President said that this was the first time since 2013-14 that agriculture regained this economic prominence. Terming agriculture as one of the main pillars of the Indian economy, he exhorted the young agri-professionals to work for the development of this crucial sector.
Noting that the university is continuously evolving its research and pedagogy, the Vice President appreciated it for introducing courses in contemporary disciplines such as agricultural journalism, agro-tourism management and also for establishing a start-up incubation centre to help students start their own business enterprises. “Agro-based tourism which will boost farm economy and will also act as a detox therapy for urban tourists by letting them experience the natural beauty of the place, ethnic food, unique flora and fauna,” he added.
Stressing that India’s growth strategy is focused on sustainable development, Naidu praised the university for its innovative ‘Sukhet Model’ aimed at creating a circular economy/bio-economy in the village and establishing a self-reliant village. He also complimented the university for coming up with a slew of technologies suitable for migrant labourers, including women and for training them under PM Kisan Kalyan Yojana. In his address, Naidu also advised the students to spend half of their time in classrooms and labs and the remaining half in the fields with farmers to understand their problems and find solutions for the same.
Mentioning several other initiatives by the university for the welfare of the farming community, the Vice President expressed his happiness that the new knowledge created in the laboratories is being transferred to Covid through a strong network of 18 Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVK).
Recalling Mahatma Gandhi’s historic Champaran Satyagraha movement in support of farmers, Naidu said that he felt privileged and honoured to stand on that pious soil. “Champaran is also the land that gave Mahatma Gandhi Ji the name that he loved the most, Bapu,” he added.
Reminding the students that Bihar is the land of great personalities like Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Jai Prakash Narayan and Karpuri Thakur, the Vice President asked them to take inspiration from their lives and high moral standards they followed. “We are witnessing a fall in the standards in every walk of life today, be it politics, legislatures, local bodies or even educational institutions. This fall needs to be arrested because these persons and institutions provide leadership to our country,” Naidu said. In this regard, he also stressed the need to mould public opinion in such a way so that people select and elect their representatives based on four Cs, namely – character, calibre, capacity and conduct.
On this occasion, the Vice President also inaugurated the Pt Deendayal Upadhyaya College of Horticulture & Forestry (its administrative building and two hostels for the girls and boys), Centre-of-Excellence on Embryo Transfer Technology and Indigenous Cattle Breeds – Conservation and Improvement Centre in the university campus.
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