To boost the growth rate of the agriculture sector, there is a need to strengthen its three important pillars which are cracked. Farmer organizations need to move ahead with the demand for MSP. Also, there is a need for smart farming to retain youth in farming. Unless there is inclusive development in agriculture, total growth will not increase. For this there is a need to promote technology-based farming. These views were put forward by the panelists at the Rural Voice Agriculture Conclave.
The theme of the third and final session of this conclave, organized in New Delhi on December 23 to mark the foundation day of Rural Voice, was “Governance Agenda for Agriculture and Farming for 2024-29”.
Addressing this session, Pravesh Sharma, Director of Agri Startup Samunnati Agro, said that our biggest achievement after independence is to achieve food security. Today's generation is not able to understand this important achievement.
We have achieved this feat on our own resources without any foreign aid. In 1950, 5 crore tonnes of food grains were produced in the country, which has today increased to more than 33 crore tonnes, he said.
He expressed concern that three important pillars of the agriculture sector have been shaken today. This needs to be fixed. These pillars include giving priority to food security at the national level, promoting ecosystem approach (research system, seed distribution, procurement of crops at MSP, their distribution through PDS) and establishing coordination between the Centre and the states. He said that unless these three pillars are strengthened, it will be difficult to achieve inclusive growth in the agriculture sector.
Bharat Krishak Samaj President Ajay Veer Jakhar, while addressing the session, said that MSP of crops alone is not the solution to the problems of farmers. Farmer leaders should move ahead with the demand for MSP at C2 cost + 50 per cent profit. They should not just ask for price but should also focus on profits. Along with this, there should also be movement for other issues of betterment of life like affordable education and affordable health services.
Citing the example of Punjab, he said that the entire crop of paddy and wheat there is purchased from farmers at MSP and payment is also made within 15 days. Despite this, maximum number of farmer movements take place in Punjab.
He raised the question that why farmers organizations do not agitate against the state governments regarding their demands? Agriculture is a state subject, so first of all they should put their demands before the state governments. He suggested that there is a need to support farmers by removing the shortcomings of schemes like Bhavantar. Sardar VM Singh, national convenor of Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan, said that farmers should transcend their caste and community boundaries and become farmers first.
Today the farmer feeds the country but he himself wallows in debt and commits suicide. Farmers want a guarantee of one and a half times the cost from the government as well as a guarantee of getting rid of stray animals. If farming is to be improved then everyone will have to work together to uplift the farmer.
Dr. Rajiv Ranjan, project head of IPL Center for Rural Outreach (ICRO) and senior IAS officer, said that there is a need to adopt smart farming to retain youth in farming. In the last 10 years, the growth of fisheries has been 12-13 percent, that of poultry has been 9-10 percent, but the growth of agriculture has been only 3-4 percent. Unless there is inclusive growth in agriculture, total growth will not increase. For this, there is a need to promote technology based farming and take the technology to the farmers.
The session was moderated by Harish Damodaran, Rural Affairs Editor, The Indian Express.