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Analysis of Yojana Magazine – India: A Global Agricultural Powerhouse!

Introduction

  • India is efficiently feeding and managing nearly 18% of the world population with only 2.4% and 4% of global land and water resources respectively.
  • Consistent agricultural and land reforms, progressive and inclusive policies, and application of ‘Science and Technology at the ground level pushed-up productivity, production, and quality of agricultural products at a remarkable pace.
  • Consequently, India is now the largest producer of pulses, jute, and milk, and ranks as the second-largest producer of rice, wheat, sugarcane, cotton, and groundnuts in the world. It also holds the second position in global fruit and vegetable production with a high rank in the production of mango, banana, papaya, and lemon.
  • With many feathers in its cap, the agriculture sector is now a proud entity with global acclaim, but the situation at the time of independence was quite deplorable.

How Agriculture Sector was handled after Independence?

  • In 1950-51, India produced around 50 million tonnes of foodgrains, which was not enough to feed the population of 350 million.
  • To save its growing population from hunger, India resorted to the import of foodgrains which ultimately led to ‘ship to mouth’ living.
  • Meanwhile, Indian leadership realising the critical importance of agriculture in the National Food Security Act (NFSA), proclaimed ‘everything can wait, but not agriculture.
  • Hence, a slew of measures was initiated mainly to improve and extend irrigation facilities and bring in a ‘scientific temper’ in agriculture and allied sectors.
  • The strengthening of the nationwide agricultural R&D network was fast-tracked, along with the creation of agricultural education facilities and extension services to farmers.

Towards Self-Reliance

  • After independence, Indian policy planners accorded top priority to agricultural development with the ultimate goal to make the country self-reliant in staple foodgrains, i.e., wheat and rice.
  • Accordingly, several specific initiatives were taken in the first Five Year Plan to uplift agricultural growth along several verticals. Major irrigation projects were launched and land titles were given to actual cultivators under land reforms.
  • Co-operative credit institutions got a boost due to better financing and an initiative was taken up to bring institutional changes in the agriculture support system.
  • Consequently, India harvested nearly 70 million tonnes of foodgrains (wheat, rice, coarse cereals, and pulses) during 1956-57, but due to the growing population, it could not lessen the country’s reliance on imports.

Five Year Plans and Agriculture

  • In the Second Five Year Plan, agriculture was shifted downwards in the priority list to accommodate industrial development for boosting the economy.
  • During the 1960s, India continued with the escalation of imports, mainly from the USA under the PL-480 scheme.
  • In and around 1965, the country suffered three major setbacks on the food front- severe drought, war with Pakistan, and imposition of strict curbs by the USA on delivery of wheat. India somehow managed to avoid the severe trap of famine and hunger by importing an all-time high, 10 million tonnes of foodgrains in 1966 from various sources.
  • In the Third Five Year Plan, the Government emphasised agriculture production. Development of irrigation, from large as well as small works, soil conservation programmes and supplies of fertilisers, improved seed and credit, along with the provision of extension services reaching down to the village level, are measures undertaken directly to increase production.
  • The approach to Fourth Plan emphasised the need of creating favourable economic conditions for the formation of agriculture, a systematic effort to extend the application of science and technology to agriculture and in general intensify agricultural programmes to the maximum possible extent in selected areas.
  • The objective of the fifth plan was food self-sufficiency and self-reliance.
  • During the Sixth plan the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) was set up in July 1982.
  • The major programmes adopted during the seventh plan were a special rice production programme in the eastern region, a national water-shed programme for rain-fed agriculture, a national oil-seed development project and social forestry.
  • Self-sufficiency in food grains and development and diversification of agriculture to generate export surplus are the main objects of the eighth plan.
  • The agricultural development strategy during Ninth Five Year Plan is based on the Policy of food security announced by the Government to double the production and make India hunger-free in ten years.
  • 10th five-year plan was the period of record agricultural growth.
  • The Eleventh Plan adopts a multi-pronged approach towards this end. It provides for a major expansion in the programmes for irrigation and water management. The Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) has been launched.
  • The twelfth plan includes policies aimed at supporting the diversification of agriculture and greater involvement of the private sector in marketing agricultural produce.

What GOI is doing for the development of agriculture in the country?

  • Agriculture being a State subject, the State Government is primarily responsible for the growth and development of the agriculture sector and developing perspective plans for their respective States and ensuring effective implementation of the programmes/schemes.
  • However, the Government of India supplements the efforts of the State Governments through various Schemes / Programmes.  The details of various schemes, reforms and policies are given below:
    • Unprecedented enhancement in budget allocation
    • Fixing of MSP at one-and-a-half times the cost of production
    • Increase in procurement from farmers
    • Income support to farmers through PM KISAN
    • Pradhan Mantri Fasal BimaYojana (PMFBY)
    • Institutional credit for the agriculture sector
    • Providing Soil Health Cards to farmers
    • Promotion of organic farming in the country
    • Neem Coating of Urea
    • Agri Infrastructure Fund
    • Promotion of FPOs Scheme
    • National Bee and Honey Mission (NBHM)
    • Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY)
    • Micro Irrigation Fund
    • Agricultural Mechanization
    • Changes in Disaster Relief Standards
    • Setting up of E-NAM extension Platform
    • Improvement in farm produce logistics, Introduction of Kisan Rail
    • Creation of a Start-up Ecosystem in agriculture and allied sector

How to overcome challenges faced by the agriculture sector with the help of technology?

  • Despite splendid growth, Indian agriculture is facing some major challenges such as small and fragmented land holdings, post-harvest losses, and poor market infrastructure.
  • Recently, the Government has launched several new schemes and programmes to address such issues by adequate fund allocation and devising innovative measures that include cutting-edge S&T interventions.
  • For example, Artificial Intelligence and Machine learning are paving the way for intelligent farming, and the use of loT-enabled sensors to prevent excessive use of harmful chemicals.
  • Specialised drones and robots are poised to revolutionise modern farming. Drones, aerial as well as ground-based, and satellite imagery are helping farmers to remotely monitor crops, diagnose issues, and also make informed decisions regarding crop protection and nutrition.
  • Digital transformation is changing the face of agriculture and farmers by providing the right knowledge, resources, and technology on a real-time basis.
  • Online marketplaces (e-Mandis) and regular market updates are empowering farmers to maximise their income.
  • Recent thrust and support to agri-startups are helping the promotion of agriculture as an enterprise with attractive returns, the future of Indian agriculture lies in sustainable agriculture.
  • Integration of resources, technologies, knowledge, and policies is paving the way for better agriculture and a brighter tomorrow.

Conclusion

In agriculture, emphasis must shift to converting farmers to ‘agripreneurs’. A strong push should be given to ‘Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF)’ techniques that reduce costs, improve land quality and increase farmers’ incomes. This is a tested method for putting environmental carbon back into the land. Therefore, ZBNF allows India to significantly contribute to reducing the global carbon footprint.

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