PM talks of timely information in agriculture : Only IT revolution can change agriculture too!

Sharad Pawar may be a competent administrator and an agri expert. But is days in the agri ministry hasn’t shown any dramatic initiatives Our agri sector is deprived of latest information and innovations There is simply no public-private sector interaction in new investments. We have been writing often about what is missing in our agriculture policy making. There has recently been a meet of the Krishi Vignan Kendras (farm extension service centres) meeting in Delhi. The Prime Minister and the Agriculture Minister had participated. The PM made a nice speech. The theme song is the same we have heard from him for quite sometime 0.8 per cent growth needs 4 per cent growth in agriculture.

Said the PM: “Unfortunately, this has not been so in the recent past with average agricultural growth rates of just 1.5 per cent in the first three years of the Tenth Five-Year Plan” Then the PM goes on to narrate how agriculture plays a” vital role” in the economy, how the agriculture contribution to our GDP is coming down to 22 per cent today and yet the people depending upon agriculture remain as high as 65 per cent and so on and so forth.

One important point the PM made newly at the meet, in our view is him emphasis on timely information and latest information about agriculture as a business. Policy initiatives and market intelligence.

On the same day this news appeared in the newspapers there were reports on the farmers’ suicides in Vidharba. P.Sainath of The Hindu had written on the same day: “Vidharba sits on a volcano. And agrarian one. Official data given to the National Commission on Farmers shows that yavatmal district alone has seen over 300 farmers’ suicides since 2001” Not just that tragedy alone. The very day on which the Commission headed by M.S.Swaminathan toured the area the one farmer’s family that had a tragedy was paid the compensation just 72 hours before the visit of the Commission! Not only the definition of farmer changes when such a tragedy occurs in a family and compensation denied and even the actual compensation to be paid it is not paid quickly.
We in this magazine know well the Vidharba region for we had spent a week in Nagpur and had toured the area well. The Commission now had actually seen and confessed that “without a huge infusion of credit, there is no hope” It is here we come back to the basic missing links in our agriculture policy making.

There is practically no interaction between the agri universities network and the private Internet sites. These are by ITC and Pepsi. This is a cruel joke. The few big corporate like ITC is no role model for contract farming projects where small and marginal farmers can participate. We need more grass roots level contract farming models. There is not even a proper legislation.
If the agri minister is really serious then he has to personally look into some of the latest development, he should almost everyday talk to Vice Chancellors of the agri universities and engage them in a face to face discussion through video conferencing.

Unless the agri minister takes personal interest nothing is going to change. There are so many other Centrally-funded bodies, as in Hyderabad and they are all living on expired mandates. New mandates, new condition to work the Public-Private concept has to be imposed on them. We speak with much personal experience. Most State agri dept are hostile to new information!

Farm extension services themselves need to be privatised or partially privatised. There are any numbers of agri graduates without jobs. The agro entrepreneurship scheme floated by Nabard. What is its current status? There are so many dead horses in the ICAR stable. So, let us wipe out the useless schemes that are now a drain on our budgets. Revamp the mandate of most of the current centrally funded centralised agencies. They must come out with, as the Prime Minister desired “crop specific, region specific, resource specific and farm specific solutions”

It is time we hear agri minister openly speaking about and lamenting about the Vidharba farmers suicides and also about the need for online-driven quick time-bound solutions to the multiple problems that bedevil our agri sector.

The agri minister might not care to know what is going on in the private sector initiatives, be it in agriculture websites or the sort of new agribusiness models based on contract farming and  new practices. He talks rather casually about private initiatives in contract farming.

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