To rule the roost, India needs to strengthen its roots!

It is high time for our country to revive the culture of agriculture as it plays a critical role in taking nation’s economy to new heights. For long, India has been an agrarian country and prosperity of agriculture has direct impact on its overall Gross Domestic Product. Unfortunately, the economic contribution of agriculture to India’s GDP is declining steeply in the backdrop of the country’s broad-based economic growth across a wide range of sectors which in parallel are trying to register lucrative outputs.

A complete overhaul in the agriculture sector becomes even more crucial as over 58% of the rural households depend on agriculture as their principal means of livelihood. Going by the latest report of India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), the share of Primary Sector including agriculture, livestock, forestry and fishery is estimated to be 20.4% of the Gross Value Added (GVA) during 2016-17 which is estimated to have grown at 3% in FY 2017-18.

Promising facts and figures appear to be in stark contrast to rising number of farmers’ suicide cases, which our nation cannot afford to sweep under the carpet as yet another in a series of other impeding causes. It goes without saying that farmers of our country who have always been a reckoning force in ensuring food resources to citizens of the country, themselves often run short on easy access to basic amenities of life. The situation seems to show a slightly different picture on practical ground. Apathy and negligence meted out to agriculture sector over the past few decades has been one of the prime reasons in slipping this sector into a state of tatters. Encroachments in prohibited forest regions, rampant deforestation and unchecked expanse of urbanisation have brought the field of agriculture to its knees. The interest of the youth has drifted from agriculture owing to the exacting demand in this sector which seeks laborious efforts and requires them to exercise patience that too with unsatisfactory returns. Rising interest in white collar jobs promising handsome remunerations has been one of the main factors in putting the agrarian sector to risk and in a state of sheer apathy.

In no uncertain terms, agriculture sector seems to keep on losing its sheen against the many odds stacked against it, but the need of the hour is to bring it back to its purple patch.  If the agrarian sector is doing well, automatically scores of our national problems will be solved. There are hosts of reasons that boldly underscore the urgency of injecting new vim and vigour into the wilting agriculture sector. Connecting youth to their roots via agriculture could be a significant step in reviving the sector. Prosperity in this sector is the stepping stone for bringing health and wealth to the whole nation. In view of the fact that our population is increasing at an alarming pace, resuscitation of agriculture could be the last ditch attempt to open new avenues to cater to the needs of rising number of stomachs to be fed.

The agriculture sector was at its lowest point after Independence when the nation was in the grip of a severe famine. In the 21st century, we need to repeat the lofty efforts made by many people including visionary scientist Dr. Norman Borlaug who played a pivotal role in bringing the Green Revolution especially in Punjab and Haryana. Anointed as father of Green Revolution in Punjab for his stupendous work in reviving the nosedived agrarian sector, US-based scientist Dr. Borlaug, winner of Nobel Prize for Peace, visited India in 1963 and brought the country to self-sufficiency by increasing wheat proficiency from 12.3 million tons in 1965 to 20.1 million tons in 1970. He also advocated the need of introducing Blue Revolution along with Green Revolution for optimum water-use productivity in the 21st century to enhance land-use productivity. Envisioning biotechnology as instrumental in the facelift of agriculture sector, he urged leveraging biotechnology to create a revolution in the coming decades in order to meet the colossal demands of food and fibre.

Smart and prudent fusion of Digital Resolution to create disruptive revolution with Agriculture can bring dramatic improvements both in quality and quantity. To bridge the digital divide existing among the farmers and end-users presently poses one of the toughest tasks and if this lacuna is effectively plugged into, lots of solutions will be at our disposal.

Held across 28 centres across the country, Smart India Hackathon, a unique initiative run by the Union Government in 2017 and now in 2018 has sparked new hopes that the giant digital divide can certainly be bridged effectively by tapping into highly productive professionally driven and growth oriented young techies. Through this initiative, the Government is trying to cash in on the rising impact of technology by drafting novel ideas of techno-geeks across many Ministries to improve governance and bring transparency into the system. The Ministries of Agriculture and Health and Family Welfare invited new ideas from young minds across Educational Institutes from all over the country as to how socio-economic life of the farmers could be improved by channelising the potential of internet and technology in a planned manner. In 2017, over 27 ideas were implemented in the Ministry and this year too, students came up with novel concepts to give an impressive facelift to the farming sector.

There has always been a huge gap between farmers and end users and in the wake of that, farmers incur heavy losses despite putting strenuous efforts in procuring their produce. With the advent of futuristic websites and mobile apps, young techies suggested ways to replace the concept of middlemen with technological interface in which farmers can directly make their produce reach the end user at lucrative profit. Crop damage owing to erratic weather conditions can too be contained through mobile app trackers which would equip farmers with information beforehand about the ominous weather conditions, current moisture of the crop and nutrition in the soil, exact quantity of pesticides to avoid excessive usage and save their money being squandered away without specific directions. Farmers benefit from gadgets telling them water content in the soil which help in saving water proficiently and using it in the exact quantity that is required.

With the help of technology, problem of stubble burning too can be contained effectively as through a mobile app, it is quite possible to connect farmers directly with the Government agencies including requisite logistics support to ferry the stubble to Government warehouses. Not only would such ideas help in reducing pollution, these would also give farmers additional money for the stubble which they usually burn with no benefit at hand.

The Modi-led NDA Government is now aiming to fulfill its goal of doubling farm income by 2022. The agriculture sector in India can witness a positive fillip if it is pushed with added impetus of better agricultural infrastructure, farming subsidies, transparent loan schemes and waivers, upscale irrigation facilities, proper warehousing and cold storage facilities. Making farmers abreast of the growing use of genetically modified crops will likely improve the yield for farming families.

In this entire process of uplifting the farming sector, our prime focus ought to be on generating maximum awareness among farmers through informative seminars and workshops. This is only possible through proactive involvement of public, private and voluntary organisations which should work hand-in-hand in liaising with Gram Panchayats at smaller levels and formulate new plans and policies in ensuring that correct and useful information is delivered to the end farmer with rational results. The Government should initiate necessary schemes to repose faith and loyalty among farmers about vitality of agriculture in nation’s growth to recreate a belief that farming can be a self-sustaining and self-sufficient profession per se.  

For our nation to be self-sufficient in pulses in the coming few years, the concerted efforts of scientists are required to get early-maturing varieties of pulses and increase in minimum support price. In view of the fact that the Union Government is targeting to increase the average income of a farmer household at current prices to Rs. 2,19,724  by 2022-23 from Rs. 96,703 in 2015-16, many new reforms and policies need to be framed and then regulated to implement them in both letter and spirit.

New spur in agriculture will bring forth cheering news across a wide spectrum of our society as this sector impacts many other sectors due to close interlink. Our nation is bedevilled with a host of problems which primarily include high demand of rising population, reducing agricultural land, menace of unemployment, urbanisation taking over rural lives, declining interest in farming sector and so on. To every problem, lies overt as well as covert solutions in agriculture. There will be a conspicuous rise in the demand for manpower, generating employment to a colossal number of youth with the rise in agricultural produce. Less import and more export opportunities will give an additional spur to the nation’s development.

Green rippling fields have all the possible potential in causing positive ripples of prosperity, helping India bear the stamp of a nation advancing ahead imposingly on the wheels of sustainable development.     

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