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Farmer-the most endangered species

Need for a second green revolution

Posted by Ramoo on January 15, 2007

Need for a second Green Revolution
G. K. Nair
India needs a paradigm shift in its agricultural policy
India needs a paradigm shift in its farm policy to overcome the “fatigue in the green revolution due to increasing cost of production, dwindling natural resources and climate.”
The Food Agriculture Organisation Director-General, Mr Jacques Diouf, while addressing a meeting of the World Affairs Council of Northern California in San Francisco, recently, said: “In the next few decades, a major international effort is needed to feed the world when the population soars from six to nine billion. We might call it a second Green Revolution.” The original Green Revolution of the 1950s/1960s doubled world food production by bringing the power of science to agriculture, but “relied on the lavish use of inputs such as water, fertiliser and pesticides,” he said.
In the Indian context, with reports of farmers committing suicides in several States such as Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, the need for a second green revolution becomes imperative. The predicament in agriculture speaks of serious flaws in the country’s farm policies.
Appreciable progress
It is true that the nation has made appreciable progress in this sector during the past over five decades. The foodgrains production has made a quantum leap from 51 million tonnes in 1950 to 108 million tonnes in 1970-71, 172 million tonnes in 1989-90, and crossed 200 million tonne last fiscal. Production of rice, wheat and other coarse grains have improved significantly. But this is not enough to cater to the needs of a population growing briskly. The population growth rate for 2005-06 is projected at 2.3 per cent against the projected overall GDP growth rate of 8.1 per cent. The lacklustre performance of the agricultural sector can be attributed to policy flaws.
Rise in population
Significantly, the population, which was 350 million in 1951, shot up to 850 million in 1991 and to an estimated 1,085 million in 2004. Of the population of 1,025 million in 2001, about 740 million were in agriculture. The total economically active population is only 451 million, of which those active in agriculture is estimated at 267 million.
Much more concentration is needed on improving output and area under coarse cereals. Production of pulses continued to dwindle between 11 million tonnes and 14 millions tonnes for decades. As a result, their per capita consumption, which was 69 gram per day in 1971, fell to 35.9 gram/day in 2004. The sharp decline in the consumption of pulses is a cause of serious concern. India has been importing pulses in large quantities to meet the domestic requirement.
Inequitable distribution of the means of production, especially land, could be one of the major reasons for this predicament.
Hence, the land reforms should result in increased agricultural production, in general, and food output, in particular; rational use of scarce land resources;re-distribution of land to the landless class; preventing the exploitation of tillers; use of improved methods of cultivation, and increased per man acre and per unit input productivity.
Agricultural packages
The agriculture packages, announced regularly, which include fertilisers, seeds, irrigation, water and credit, in practice, are invariably siphoned off by influential landowners. They miss out the most precious input — the farmer. He instead has become the passive recipient of inputs, imposed by the superior technology of extension workers.
Even credit becomes useless as a stimulus to innovation without motivation. A vigorous local self-government would have changed all this in favour of the small farmer, but how could articulation of the masses happen when elected bodies are captured by the rural elite?
Besides, new strategies for irrigation and water management need to be implemented. Since water is a scarce resource, it is necessary that emphasis be shifted on its more efficient use. According to the FAO chief, in many regions, water for irrigation is being pumped out of the ground faster than it can be replenished. In Tamil Nadu , over-pumping has lowered the water level in wells by 25-30 metre in a decade.
Focus on small farmer
Given this scenario, deliberate introduction of agrarian development towards the small farmer, that is, what he and his family can do and want to do with their knowledge and labour, be it in developing new techniques, seed varieties, extension service, distribution of inputs, improved farm practices, is the need of the hour. The aim should be to increase his productivity and income.
The economic capacity of the small farm may be restricted, but economic capacities can be socially determined and the Government must encourage the formation of voluntary multi-purpose cooperatives for joint farming, pooling of inputs, marketing to eliminate the middlemen, and involve the small farmer actively in what he does.
Credit institutions also need to be streamlined to support the extremely small and scattered clientele.
Agricultural prices need to be remunerative and incentive-based to make production reasonably safer for the small farmer who is continually sustaining losses; it is not industry alone that needs incentives to promote a healthy investment climate. And its support prices are remunerative and government procurements are well timed lest farmers’ over-dues accumulate.
At the recent Congress Chief Ministers’ conclave, Mr N. D. Tewari, Uttaranchal Chief Minister, said that India needs a paradigm shift in its agricultural policy to overcome the “fatigue in the green revolution due to increasing cost of production, dwindling natural resources and climate”.

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