G’nY. What are your views about the trend of agricultural productivity in India?
Agriculture productivity in India is not declining. However, it is not growing at the desired extent either, since output is related to input. Much depends upon the economics of farming in relation to the decision of farmers on the supply of inputs. Green Revolution.
G’nY. What according to you is the reason behind the current widespread farmer distress? Farmers’ distress owes its origin to the economics of farming. The major causes of the agrarian crisis leading to the farmers’ distress may be attributed to reasons like variation of rainfall; high input costs and non-remunerative output costs and the resultant income insecurities faced by the farmers; limited access to institutional credits and fallacies of non-institutional credits; limited availability of irrigational facilities coupled with the problems induced by unsustainable extraction of groundwater; declining factor productivity and erratic supply of electricity and rising fuel prices. Therefore, one must assure access and control over the basic resources like land, water, bio-resources, credit and insurance, technology, knowledge management and markets for the farmers. Further, as suggested by the National Commission on Farmers there should be greater emphasis on income per hectare not just on yield per hectare. The technological transformations being introduced in agriculture should have the potential to enhance the per hectare income of the farmers in an environmentally sustainable manner. Green revolution.
G’nY. What can alleviate or eliminate the possible agrarian crisis?
In my view the present day agrarian crisis arises out of an increasing climatic variability at local levels. Our cropping choices and patterns are not adapting to this climatic erraticism, leading to greater seasonal vulnerability, inadequate nutrition levels and enhanced distress linked migration. Market mechanisms have dug even deeper into rural areas and crops today are grown with the sole purpose of economic gain, even if it is not appropriate for the soil and water conditions—case in point being sugarcane in Maharashtra. On the other hand, while a gamut of research exists, mechanisms for sharing public sector research knowledge have virtually collapsed. From this perspective efforts need to be put in, to improve the economic viability of farming by substantially increasing farmers’ net income. It is important to ensure that agricultural progress is measured by advances made in farm income and opportunities are provided in adequate measure for non-farm employment for farm households and besides introducing measures which can help to attract and retain the youth in farming.
G’nY. Do you agree with loan waivers as a measure to ease the agrarian crisis? What do you make of farmer agitations?
Loan waiver should not become part of agriculture policy. Instead policies should prioritise making agriculture viable and profitable and resort to schemes of waivers only when there is no other way to enable farmers to get back to farming. It is, however, unfortunately clear that issues are attended to only if there is agitation. Farmers too have also taken the path of agitation to get attention.
G’nY. What do you perceive is the potential of GM crops in India?
It is my belief that the green revolution should not become greed revolution and that ensuring long term productivity of the soil and water should also become integral to new agricultural technology. I strongly believe that genetic modification is the ideal pathway for breeding crop varieties and build resistance to abiotic stresses. We at M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) have developed sea water tolerant rice varieties based on donor genes from mangrove species (Avicennia marina) as a part of the anticipatory research programme in response to the challenges of rising
G’nY. How feasible do you think it is to adopt precision technologies in a country like India where small holdings dominate the rural landscape?
Precision technologies are more important for small holding than large ones. We should emphasise on ‘more crop per drop’ of both water as well
as nutrients. Green revolution.