Indian agriculture seems to be more about promises, inextricable Govt schemes & programmes in which prosperity has been long eluded. Indian agriculture & allied sector contributes around 14% of India's GDP and employs nearly half of Indian workforce. Yet this is the most under developed sector, technologically & policy wise, which certainly have brought our feeders to the brink of extreme poverty and deprivation. Despite being an agrarian economy, farmers in India face lots of challenges- like low quality input, difficult access to institutional credit, poor market infrastructure, old & oblivious land laws, policy paralysis to name a few. These constraints cause even much distress to farmers who are having marginal and small fragmented land holdings making it almost impossible for them to acquire two square meals a day. The country has achieved record production in cereals for the two consecutive years now but due to distorted market laws like APMC acts, food inflation has always remained on a higher side. Dependency of protein and micro nutrient rich foods on imports has exposed our inability to tackle the menace of "Hidden Hunger". Fortification can only solve the problems temporarily but a permanent solution is an imperative to meet the ever growing food requirements of the country.
Lack of Infrastructure
Feeding a billion plus population, and still increasing, was never an easy task and needs a consistent yet dynamic long term strategy. World Bank report estimated that the annual food grain requirement in India would rise up to 450 MT by 2030. To support and catalyse the food production for such large population requires a robust infrastructure with proper planning, at Central as well as State level, mixed with smart strategies to ensure widespread distribution, minimal wastage and adequate returns to the farmers. More funds in the annual and fiver year plans should be earmarked to improve and enhance present infrastructure in the agri & allied sector. Many states like Andhra Pradesh, TN, Kerala, WB, etc have successfully implemented the PPP model in enhancing the back end & cold chain infrastructure to endure better access to market and handsome returns to farmers.
Use of Technology
Technology could prove to be a panacea for all ills to farmers across the country, especially in arid & semi arid areas, if utilized properly. Weather forecasting, pest infestation of paddy, land use pattern of the country and other related data can be collected & processed by cartographers which would help policymakers to draft policies accordingly. This would include generating early warning signals in distressed areas like Vidarbha, Western Rajasthan ahead of monsoon season. Internet kiosks and other e-commerce applications like that of e-Choupal by ITC could really bring farmers close to the markets, a need long felt, which would help them realize the real price of their hard labour. This would give them bargaining and negotiating power ultimately leading to their empowernment in the market currently littered with agents and mafias created by laws like APMC acts. Technology will help farmers choosing right inputs and correct farm practices to increase their yields and soil productivity.
Many states likes Gujarat, HP, MP have repealed their APMC acts and framed laws farmers-friendly. Legislations like Forest Rights Act, PESA Act & Land acquisition (Rehabilitation & Resettlement) Act are forward looking steps to deal with incessant displacement of farmers and tribes and preserve their rights over their lands. This rights-based approach can go a long way in providing socio-economic security to the farmers. What remains to be seen whether they can be implemented in the desired way or not. In the nutshell, future holds promising aspects for Indian agriculture provided that effective steps should be taken in the areas of land reforms, better irrigation & market infrastructure, channelizing redundant workforce into processing and manufacturing sector, better use of technology, forging strategic ties with the neighbours, like Myanmar who is set to become the leading exporter of pulses in the world, to encourage exhange programmes and finally empowering rural masses to shoulder the responsibility of making the nation hunger-free.
Harshavardhan B J