The Broad Mind | A farmer’s perspective

By Ravichandran VKV

Farming, once considered to be a lucrative and enviable avocation is now perceived as the last option and a less attractive career option by the younger generation in rural India. Though it is a major employment source in our country, people who depend on farming still reel under poverty. In other words more than 50% of our population is in economically distress conditions as they depend upon farming for their sustenance. What are the underlying causes for these appalling conditions? Before answering these questions as a farmer, I would like to make an introspection and retrospection of farming since 1960s.

Our population in the pre-green revolution era was less than .45 billion i.e less than 40% of the present population.  Our grain production was 50.8 million tones and the arable land area was 184 Million hectare. During those days, in order to increase our food production we had to extend the cultivable land area by converting forest lands in to farm lands. India was at that time facing acute food scarcity. A series of droughts coupled with diminishing agricultural productivity had left India in the unenviable position of having to depend on large quantities of foreign imports. It was in such a scenario that late Prime Minister Shri Lal Bahadhur Shashtriji made an appeal through All India Radio “If every Indian skips at least one meal a week, millions would get the only meal of the day“. Of course being a true leader, he himself set an example and he and his family practiced it. Shashtriji’s appeal received overwhelming response from the people and restaurants downed their shutters on Monday evenings.

If it were not for visionaries like the then agriculture minister Shri. C. Subramaniyam; tireless and dedicated efforts put in by hundreds of scientists like Dr. M.S. Swaminathan and thousands of extension workers, many people would have starved to death. The high yielding semi dwarf wheat and Japonica Indica rice varieties introduced during Green Revolution were instrumental in creating history and upheld our self esteem.

Now we have bigger challenges in hand. The arable land area is fast depleting, population is exploding at an alarming rate, adverse effect of climate change on farming is threatening and the input costs have been steadily increasing. There is mismatch between the cost of cultivation and the price we get. Contrary to the universally accepted principle, in any economic venture return, should be commensurate with the risk involved. Perhaps farming is the only exception.

Besides these issues farm hands are in short supply due to the exodus of farm hands from villages to towns. Youngsters are reluctant to take up farming as their career. If one goes to a village and looks out for a farmer who is less than 35 years age, he can seldom find a young farmer. Even if he is lucky enough to come across a young farmer, he will soon realize that he is a farmer by default not by choice. Like other professions, youngsters must have the sense of feeling that farming offers them a better future and it is worth considering. Mere freebies and writing off of loans are not the permanent solutions. We need to adopt new technologies in farming. We can achieve the desired results only through the adoption of the latest technologies in farming. The main factors responsible for the poor profitability in farming are the biotic and a biotic stress factors reduce the yield.

We need crops that are free from pests, diseases and weeds, crops that are tolerant to drought, submergence and salinity. We need food crops that are rich in nutrition. We need to develop new varieties with these desirable traits. During green revolution in late 1960s, we achieved success through the introduction of High Yielding Varieties. Considering the bigger challenges confronting us, we have to produce more with fewer resources. Fortunately better irrigation technology, nutrition management and agricultural bio technology have the potential to offer workable solutions to these problems and more. When all other industries enjoy the benefits of science and technology, the technology adoption rate in farming is not at the desired level. All decisions must purely be based on valid scientific reasons and explanations, and not on emotional and political grounds.

If farming has to thrive we need to introduce new technologies otherwise we will be facing bigger crisis in the near future and the damage will be much severe than the pre green revolution era. I would like to refer Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s famous quote, “Everything else can wait but not agriculture.” We the farmers fondly wish and hope that we will not be put on hold any more.

Ravichandran VKV is a third generation farmer who has been cultivating crops like paddy, sugarcane, cotton and pulses for last 27 years at his farm in Nannilam Taluk in the Cauvery delta. Follow him on Twitter at @FarmerRaviVKV

DISCLAIMER: This is an archived post from the Indian National Interest blogroll. Views expressed are those of the blogger's and do not represent The Takshashila Institution’s view.