Amongst around 490 million workers in India, around 47% of the total employment is provided by agriculture , largely to the workers at skilled and semi skilled level. Of this 28% are women. When agriculture goes through crisis , millions of workers in the lower income group at vulnerable level are driven to impossible conditions.
The problem is that the fortunes of agriculture almost entirely depend upon monsoon conditions and agriculture suffers in the case of excess rain or drought conditions. The government of India and state government during the last sixty decades of independent India have not been able to find a solution for this vulnerable scenario facing Indian agriculture.
Modi government appears to think that millions of workers in agricultural sector can be provided adequate and remunerative employment only by rapid industrialisation. The finance Minister has gone to the extent of saying that 300 million people in India would get jobs when land bill proposed by Modi government would be passed. Those in the know of things cannot but conclude that Modi government’s expectations are utopian.
What is needed by the country today is more agricultural operations and not less, which alone will ensure steady progress , employment generation at various levels and overall growth with equanimity. Industrial growth is needed but it should complement the agricultural growth and not substitute it and cannot be encouraged at the cost of agriculture. It would be suicidal to sacrifice the interests of agriculture for the sake of industrial growth.
Even without land acquisition bill, India has lost around 16000 sq.mt. or 0.8 % of the cropped area in the last ten year period due to buying spree of agricultural land for various non agricultural purposes. This should stop. The agricultural share in the GDP has declined to 13.7% in 2012-13 , which is an extremely disturbing trend.
There are around 18000 hectares of allotted industrial land in twenty states which are lying unused. There are many sick projects in India occupying huge area of land without any operations. There are many educational institutions which possess hundreds of acres of land whereas actual utilisation is less than 5%. 63.85 million hectares in India are now waste lands which remain unused. It is surprising that Modi government has not thought about utilising such waste and unutilised land for industrial and other productive purposes before focussing on land acquisition bill.
There exists enormous scope for investment in agriculture and the sector can be considerably stabilised by improving productivity , optimising seed quality and promoting large number of agro based chemical projects and herbal projects that will give value addition. Government also should give guidelines to the farmers at periodical intervals about the choice of crops for cultivation based on the forecast of monsoon, demand supply and price factors and shape it’s supportive policy according to the need.
There are many appropriate projects like algae, which has around 40% oil content, which can be cultivated in thousands of acres of waste land in India. Algae needs only waste water , sun light and carbon dioxide to grow. Bio fuel , methane gas and power can be produced from algae farms and this can be a game changer. While millions of dollars are being invested in USA and other western countries in algae sector, nothing has been done in India. Several suggestions submitted on this to government of India do not seem to have been heard.
It is high time we realise that the recurring crisis of Indian agriculture can be overcome only by adopting innovative and appropriate technology practices in tune with India’s strength and ground realities. Government should focus on this , instead of diverting national attention to land acquisition bill , which is proving to be counter productive now.
Sadly, instead of technologists and scientists discussing about agri problems and government listening to them to find solutions, we are only hearing politicians talking about agri crisis with obvious intention of getting sympathy of the agricultural workers who could be a big vote bank for them.
It is high time that the politicians should be told to move away and let the space be filled by knowledgeable farmers, scientists and technologists, who can lift Indian agriculture to it’s potential , if they would be facilitated to do so by efficient government and bureaucracy.
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