beyond agril

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 22 Feb 2018 11:43:05

AGROWING number of marriage proposals by youth involved in farming are being rejected in rural India by girls who are preferring their life partner opting for any petty job other than agriculture. Agriculture is not being considered as a reliable source of earning livelihood. In the backdrop of this grim scenario Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi’s suggestion to farmers to go for allied businesses along with agriculture to double their income is a sound stepping stone towards changing the fortunes of our food producers.

The Prime Minister has rightly pointed out that farmers, who take care of the nation’s food security, are themselves trapped in income insecurity. For a country that once boasted of a rich agro-based economy nothing should be more important than reviving the agriculture sector and strike a balance in rural and urban economies. The suggestion of allied business, low crop waste and advanced techniques to enhance farm produce sounds quite lucrative but it needs solid and unmitigated backing by the Government to make it a reality.

Mr Modi’s suggestion to go for alternative resources along with farming is actually reiteration of an age-old agriculture technique that our forefathers had adopted before the old form was lost and there were no efforts to revive it by the powers-that-be.
Allied business was an integral part of Indian agriculture since ages. In Maharashtra, the hereditary system of ‘bara balutedar’ could be seen as a form of allied business. All the twelve trading systems had a common base of agriculture as supporting business. Modern methods of such additional businesses came in the form of poultry, goat farming and milk production. The village economy always thrived on these integral components. Unfortunately, this entire system was affected by a lot many reasons, ranging from nature’s vagaries to government apathy. It resulted in exodus of village youth towards growing cities in search of an assured income even if that came in the form of petty labour work. The villages started feeling the pinch but no government took comprehensive steps to change the scenario.

This systematic failure of a concept called agriculture has changed the socio-economic structure of rural India. Lack of electricity, poor irrigation facilities, spectre of drought and repeated crop failure have taken its toll on the agriculture sector. The concept of community farming was also lost forcing farmers to carry their own burden. Hope is still not lost though. The Central Government’s focus on reviving the rural economy and subsequent budgetary allocations for the farm sector is a welcome sign towards changing the farmers’ fortunes.

The Government is now putting in place a mechanism to implement its policy decisions. One big step in that direction was the crop insurance coverage for farmers. Now with the Prime Minister insisting on allied businesses like building apiaries, solar farms, poultry, animal husbandry, growing sea weed, agro forestry and bamboo plantation a conscious effort is visible to recognise agriculture as a culture and not just farming. A melange of agro and culture would benefit both the farm producers as well as the consumers. But it also needs raising infrastructure like cold stores and dry stores, better road connectivity from villages to cities and a strong supply-chain system.
The Government has a ready template in the form of White Revolution by Verghese Kurien. A huge chunk of small farmers were benefitted by the Amul revolution. More such revolutions are needed to change the face of farming in India. Mr Modi talked of having Blue Revolution, Sweet Revolution and Organic Revolution. The talk must be followed by a concrete action.