The original green revolution of the 1960s was supposed to save 58 million hectares land. Today, 120 million of the 142 million cultivable hectare land, over twice the magnitude that the green revolution attempted to save in 60s, is degraded. In the state of Punjab, 84 out of the 138 developmental blocks are recorded as having 98 per cent ground water misuse. The critical limit of the use of ground water is about 80 per cent.
The result has had a devastating impact on the agricultural community, leaving farmers with little choice of action. According to the data collected by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), which records the number of suicides across India every year, and scholars at MIDS headed by Professor K Nagaraj, 1.5 lakh farmers committed suicide across the country between 1997 and 2005. Why is this happening? And why do media give little attention to this crisis?
Indian economy has been doing very well from last 5 years or so. With the overall growth rate almost touching the double-digit growth, the direction of economic policies being followed in the country are very much clear. We are doing very well in few areas but the lackluster growth in agriculture sector (4 per cent approx) is an area of concern. Without the development of rural India and the farmers, a high growth rate of economy is meaningless to an agrarian country like India.
Not only is the growth rate in the agriculture sector low, but also the share of the sector in country’s GDP has come down drastically in the past few years. The problem of low rate of capital investment, smaller capital formation and low share in the national income are some of the main problems facing by this sector that needs to be addressed very urgently.
Farmers committed suicides because of several reasons. Most of the cases of suicide occurred in states such as Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala and Punjab. A particular study says that more than 40 per cent people, who are currently engaged in agriculture, want an alternative option for their livelihood. Daniel Webster once said, “Let us not forget that the cultivation of the earth is the most important labor of man. When tillage begins, other art follows it. The farmers, therefore, are the founders of civilization”. But, we as a country have forgotten them and instead of being grateful to them for providing us food grains we have refrained from them.
There are many reasons for this crisis, which mainly includes absence of adequate social support, uncertainty of agricultural enterprise in India, lack of credit availability etc. Almost 60 per cent of country’s work force is still employed in agriculture sector and self-sufficiency is quite important for a country as big as ours, due to increasing needs of food grains for teeming millions.
Need of the hour is to increase the productivity of the primary sector by ushering in a new green revolution to raise the annual average growth rate of this sector to about five per cent per annum. It would help the country in achieving sustainable and higher growth rate of the economy as whole. Sluggish growth rate of the sector is also responsible for accentuating disparities and divides in India in the recent years.
Socio-economic indicators in the rural areas are still way behind in comparison with the urban and industrialized areas. The green revolution of the 1960s was the result of synergy among technology, public policy and farmers’ enthusiasm as well. The post-60th anniversary era in agriculture will depend upon our determination to implement Jawaharlal Nehru’s exhortation, “Everything else can wait, but not agriculture” in both letter and spirit across the country.
Proper pricing should be given to the farmers for their crops and some sort of exemption in loans should also be provided. People should be encouraged to make more investments in this sector. Research in this field should also be placed high on agenda and making farmers aware on optimum use of the land and methods of yielding better crops will also help to some extent.
Equally important is to improve the irrigation system in the country and it is extremely important to cover more and more areas under assured irrigation. The task is Herculian and it needs great show of will power from the political leadership and bureaucracy both. Backwardness of the rural sector has been perpetuated over the past several decades and it would be foolish to believe that the deficiencies of rural sector would be removed in a short span.
The Agriculture sector needs very serious and urgent reforms because if this sector is in crisis then we can’t prosper as a nation. We need to focus on the solutions of the problems and will do only the harm by neglecting it. The loan waiver will not help in the long run. The government needs to realize the fact that we cannot prosper if the ‘food provider’ starves.
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