The greatest challenge facing Indian agriculture 50 years back was achieving self-sufficiency in foodgrain production. There are two major challenges before Indian agriculture today: ecological and economical. The conservation of our basic agricultural assets such as land, water, and biodiversity is a major challenge. To make agriculture sustainable is the challenge. Increasing productivity in perpetuity without ecological harm is the need of the hour. In Punjab, and in the other Green Revolution States, the water table has gone down and become saline. The NDA government has said it wants to double farmers’ incomes by 2022. But they haven’t implemented the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission Report that was submitted to the UPA government in 2006. All kinds of excuses have been given by governments for not implementing this recommendation like food price inflation.There are three ways to improve the incomes of farmers. MSP and procurement are one. We also need to improve productivity. The marketable surplus from agriculture has to be enhanced.
He said that the solution for ending farmer suicides is not only paying compensation. One of the first projects we initiated in Vidarbha at that time was to rescue children and give them the education. Farming is the most important enterprise in this country and farmers are an integral part of our country. The Green Revolution of 1967-68 may have resolved the food crisis in the short run, but the heavy use of pesticides and high-yielding varieties of paddy have resulted in environmental degradation and loss of biodiversity.
He added that the Prime Minister recently went to Israel. We have several practices to emulate from there. They have a clear sense of where water is needed and where it’s not. The idea of more crops per drop has been implemented well in Israel. We should adopt those practices here. You should see how a water controller works on an Israeli farm. Everything is remote-controlled. They know exactly which portion of the field requires how much water and release only the exact amount. We cannot sacrifice productivity now because the land under crop cover is shrinking. Post-harvest technologies like threshing, storage, etc. will have to be given greater attention now.
India has done well in production, but not in consumption. What we are witnessing today is grain mountains on the one side and hungry millions on the other. The Food Security Act must be implemented properly to address the situation. We should also enlarge the food basket to include nutri-millets.