Agri agenda for Amrit Kaal

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    In News 

    • As India celebrates 75 years of Independence and enters the Amrit Kaal toward 2047, it is time to salute Indian farmers and scientists who transformed the country’s food situation from “ship to mouth” in the mid-1960s to emerging as one of the largest food grain exporters in the world.

    Agriculture at the time of Independence

    • Immediately after Independence, India faced food shortages and limited avenues to raise production.
    • Its rising population and their growing food demand meant a hand-to-mouth situation for most and the country had to implore other nations to feed its people.

    Efforts to improve the situation

    • Under the leadership of Chidambaram Subramaniam,  M. S. Swaminathan and others, India did an outstanding job of bringing the Green Revolution into the country.
    •  It aimed to increase the output of agriculture to prevent shortages of food.
    • The network under the National Agricultural Research System worked on adaptation of the improved seeds for local conditions, while a mammoth extension infrastructure was established to disseminate technologies to the farmers.
    • Irrigation capacities were created to make precious water available
    • Fertiliser and other inputs were subsidised and made affordable
    • Outreach of formal credit was expanded, output prices were assured and procurement guaranteed.

    Achievements 

    • The initiatives helped in attaining self-sufficiency in foodgrain production and  laid an institutional architecture for the subsequent growth and development of agriculture, pulling millions of farmers out of poverty.
    • India’s food situation has been improved from “ship to mouth” in the mid-1960s to emerging as the largest exporter of rice in the world (21mmt in FY22).
    • The famous slogan of late Lal Bahadur Shastri, “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan,” was extended by Atal Bihari Vajpayee to include “Jai Vigyan”. Now, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has extended it to, “Jai Anusandhan”.
    • Poultry and fisheries have the fastest growth, while it has been the slowest in cereal production. 
    • Government intervention is the most in cereals through the massive procurement of rice and wheat

    Challenges 

    • Population Pressure: India’s population at the time of independence was roughly 340 million which is likely to touch 1.66 billion by 2050, as per the latest UN Population reports, thereby surpassing China. Thus the biggest challenge is feeding over a billion mouths.

    • Emerging demands: As the per capita income of people increases, people are likely to demand not just more food but safe and nutritious food.  So, India’s agri-policies should align to these emerging demand patterns. 
    • Irrigation issues: Heavy subsidy and free supply of power for irrigation led to indiscriminate overuse of water which led to decline of water table and distorted crop choices. Also even now various areas are untouched by Irrigation facilities and are dependent on Monsoon.
    • Environmental impacts: The indiscriminate use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides and crop specialisations favouring a few crops during the post-Green Revolution played havoc with natural resources, environment and ecology. 
    • Cost of production: In most of the crops, increase in productivity has been accompanied by an increase in average cost of production. 

    Suggestions 

    • In the next 25 years, we need to go beyond just increasing production and focus on the food system as a composite entity. This has five dimensions: (1) production, (2) marketing, (3) consumption, (4) environmental sustainability of our food systems and (5) their nutritional outcomes. .
    • We need to arrest the dramatic decline in our groundwater table, particularly in the northwest, rejuvenate our soils, and improve the air quality by stopping/reducing stubble burning and methane emissions.
    • We need to develop carbon markets so that farmers can be incentivised to change existing farming practices that are not compatible with environmental sustainability. The digitisation of agriculture can help in this.
    • We need to become a nation of innovators in agriculture like Israel, Holland, and the US. 
    • Making the agri-food system vibrant and competitive requires significantly augmenting farmers’ incomes.
    • “Solar as a third crop” on fields can almost double farmers’ incomes quickly. On one acre of cultivated land, which grows two crops a year, farmers can have more than 400 solar panels (trees) with the help of power companies.
    • Finally, a well-coordinated strategy between the Centre and the states is needed to ensure that agriculture moves to the next stage of development.

     

    Mains Practise Question 

    [Q] Discuss the achievements of India’s Agriculture since independence and what more innovations need to be made in the agri-food  to have a well-fed India?