Big plans for mechanisation of farming in 2012-17: Pawar

New Delhi, Oct 19 (PTI)

Faced with labour shortage after the rural employment guarantee scheme, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar today announced that the government plans to launch a mega programme in the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17) for mechanisation of the farming sector.

He expressed the confidence that the country’s foodgrains production in the 2011-12 crop year would surpass the previous year’s record of 241.56 million tonnes and said four per cent targeted growth in the farm sector will be achieved.

Addressing the Economic Editors’ Conference, Pawar said, “With successful implementation of MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) and other anti- poverty programmes of the government, there is now pressure on availability of farm labour.

“While we are attempting to innovatively utilise MGNREGA for augmenting activities that directly add to farm productivity, for compensating scarcity of labour, I am proposing a large programme for agricultural mechanisation during the 12th Plan,” he said.

Pawar said there is “nothing wrong” if rural population was getting better wages under the MGNREGA, but underlined that the farm sector would have to find some alternative to deal with the labour problem.

“Whenever I go to any state and discuss with Chief Ministers, one general complaint I keep hearing about is non- availability of labour, particularly, at the time of sowing and harvesting. “So, in that period, we have to see there is availability of labour and if it is not there…We have to find some alternative mechanism,” he said.

Citing the example of farming of sugarcane wherein a large number of labourers are required at the time of harvesting, Pawar said many states had requested for introduction of sugarcane harvester.

On production outlook for 2011-12 crop year (July-June), Pawar said the monsoon had been very encouraging this year and the country is estimated to have produced a record production in the kharif season.

“We hope to see a substantial expansion in crop area and to achieving record production in the coming Rabi season, too. We are confident that we will be able to surpass our own production record set last year,” he said. Pawar noted that the government’s strategies to rejuvenate the agriculture sector “have been working well and will now be able to achieve targeted four per cent growth”.

He said the agriculture sector posted a 6.6 per cent growth rate during the last fiscal and an average 3.2 per cent in the current plan so far. The minister, however, said that the country needs to produce more to meet the rising domestic demand and this could be achieved through raising the yield from existing area.

Book on farmers suicides released in Chandigarh

The plight of debt ridden farmers seems to have found an ear which resolved to shake the illusion of many a self-congratulatory eye.

The paradox is painful. You are hailed as one of the building blocks of the nation, shoulder to shoulder with the soldiers. A slogan like Jai Jawan Jai Kisaan establishes your glory for posterity. But when the illusion breaks, reality hits hard. That is the paradox our farmers have to face. If they are not rich landlords, they can be doomed to a life crushed by debt and penury.

For those who cannot face the prospect of a lifetime of servitude, death is the next best option. One farmer less, one orphan with strangely empty eyes more and life goes on. That is the reality of farmers across the nation. A reality no one sees or does not want to see.

But we met someone who is determined to make everyone see. Aman Sidhu and Inderjit Singh Jaijee released their book called debt and death in rural India: The Punjab Story at the Chandigarh Press Club on Tuesday. What made this different from any other book release was the presence of the widows of farmers who committed suicide.

Chasing the story of farmers suicides is difficult, reducing that story to statistics for the powers that be is even more so.The authors want the story of Punjab farmers to cut through the self congratulatory illusion of fertile fields and happy farmers riding imported tractors, their sons in universities and their wives bedecked in jewels.This book is a chilling story. One that exposes the yawning gulf between the haves and the have nots.

Green revolution and Climate change

the book looks at issues of agriculture in terms of quality & quantity of
production and food security under climate change perspective. We can achieve the goal of
meeting the healthy food needs of ever increasing population along with protecting the
environment by organic farming under cooperative farming setup using farmers’ localized
innovations under better water management practices. This also revitalizes animal husbandry
component. The author termed such a system as green revolution technology. The book analyzes the issue in this direction. .
Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

Growth of Cotton in India: 1847-48

We are all told that Indian cottons are not of quality and American cottons were introduced in India in early 1900.  Please see the REPORT from the SELECT COMMITTEE on the Growth of Cotton in INDIA: together with the MINUTES of EVIDENCE.
Growth of Cotton 1847-48 Committee Reports download

Shankar Acharya: Agriculture: be like Gujarat

Other states have much to learn from Indian agriculture’s star performer
Shankar Acharya / New Delhi July 14, 2011, 0:11 IST

In the 60 years since 1950 Indian agriculture has recorded an average growth rate of 2.7 per cent per year. In the past 30 years, the rate has crept slightly above three per cent, well short of the four per cent target set in successive recent Five-Year Plans. Most analysts infer that it would take great good luck (with weather) or a sweeping revolution in policy design and implementation to achieve and sustain four per cent growth. Is that really so?

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For a more optimistic answer let’s look at the variation in agricultural performance across India’s 20 largest states (by population) in the last decade (see Table). It’s striking that agriculture in seven sizeable states (Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa) grew faster than four per cent between 2000-01 and 2007-08. And that fact doesn’t change when the relatively bad agricultural years of 2008-09 and 2009-10 are included. What’s more, most of these states are more water-stressed than average. The star performer is semi-arid Gujarat, clocking eight per cent (nearly triple the national average) agricultural growth over the decade.
So let’s dig a little deeper into the reasons behind Gujarat’s stellar agrarian success, especially as it comes after the decade of the nineties when growth averaged less than five per cent. The story is persuasively documented in the recent monograph compiled by Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, professors Ravindra Dholakia and Samar Datta: High Growth Trajectory and Structural Changes in Gujarat Agriculture (Macmillan, 2010). Broadly speaking, professors Dholakia, Datta et al (henceforth, DDEA) identify six factors that were given a concerted push by the Gujarat government from 2002-03 onwards:

a sustained programme of water conservation and management;
a massive and well-coordinated extension effort;
a successful overhaul of rural electricity distribution;
a strong emphasis on non-food crops like horticulture, Bt cotton, castor and isabgol;
sustained and comprehensive support to livestock development;
major revamping of agriculture-supporting infrastructure, including roads, electricity and ports.
Some of these factors merit elaboration.

With only a quarter of its agricultural land irrigated, efficient conservation and management of water has been a continuing challenge for Gujarat’s agriculture. Three major programmes received a fresh impetus from 2000 onwards. With assistance and encouragement from the Planning Commission, watershed development programmes were rapidly scaled up, adding about 100,000 hectares per year. By 2009, nearly 2,000 projects covering 2 million hectares had been completed and another 900,000 hectares were under execution. Second, the Jal Kranti programme for constructing check dams, recharging wells and reviving village ponds/tanks was vigorously pursued. By the end of 2008, “a total of 113,738 checkdams, 55,917 bori bandhs and 240,199 farm ponds were constructed by the Water Resources Department” (page 25, DDEA book). Third, micro-irrigation (through drips and sprinklers) received an enormous boost in the past decade spearheaded by the Gujarat Green Revolution Company. During 2006 to 2010 nearly 2 lakh hectares were covered, benefiting a similar number of farmers.

2007-081 2000-01–
2009-102 Sectoral share of
agriculture in state
GSDP* (2007-08)1
Gujarat 11.7 8.0 16.0
Chhattisgarh 9.4 6.7 17.0
Rajasthan 5.8 3.5 23.9
Maharashtra 5.6 4.0 13.0
Andhra Pradesh 5.6 4.7 22.4
Madhya Pradesh 5.5 6.2 24.2
Orissa 4.6 4.8 23.3
Himachal Pradesh 4.0 1.6 19.4
Jammu and Kashmir 3.6 3.1 24.1
Haryana 3.6 3.4 21.0
Uttarakhand 2.5 2.2 16.1
Tamil Nadu 2.5 2.0 12.2
Punjab 2.4 2.2 31.7
West Bengal 2.1 2.0 18.5
Uttar Pradesh 1.7 1.8 27.3
Bihar 1.5 1.1 23.0
Karnataka 1.2 0.6 15.4
Kerala 0.7 0.9 12.4
Assam 0.5 1.6 24.6
Jharkhand -0.7 1.1 8.6
(1) Based on national income data at 1999-2000 prices
(2) 1999-2000 prices data up to 2007-08 and 2004-05 base data for growth in 2008-09 and 2009-10
*Gross state domestic product Source: Central Statistical Organisation
As in the rest of India, the system of agricultural extension established in the years 1950 to 1970 had suffered serious entropy and decay in next 30 years. In the early noughties, a systematic and massive renewal of agricultural extension systems was carried out under the Krishi Mahotsav programme. It included an “ambitious programme for issuing soil health cards and kisan credit cards for each farmer and micro level planning for each block and village for recommending profitable alternative crop patterns…” (page 27, DDEA book). The programme required a month-long deployment of about 100,000 personnel from across 18 government departments. It has been carried out each year since 2005.

Along with revamping water management and extension services, the Gujarat government also achieved a major breakthrough in rural electrification. The Jyotigram Yojana was launched in 2003 and ensured 100 per cent electrification of the state’s villages and reasonably regular supply in three years. The scheme included a crucial component of power supply for groundwater management with eight hours a day of full voltage power made available on a pre-announced schedule.

These major initiatives on the supply side facilitated a robust response of the agriculture sector to the changing composition of demand as Gujarat’s overall economy grew at double-digit rates during the decade. The state was quick to seize the opportunities for diversification into non-food crops. Despite some controversy, Gujarat was an early and successful adopter of Bt cotton, which fuelled rapid growth in cotton production. Other commercial crops such as castor and psyllium (isabgol) also did very well. Household incomes grew apace, so did the market for horticulture products. The production of both fruit and vegetables was about four times higher in 2008-09 compared to 1991-92 and the output of spices was almost five times greater. This robust growth in horticulture owed a lot to improvements in infrastructure and marketing.

Apart from crop production, agricultural policies also encouraged rapid expansion of the livestock sector. During the past decade, milk production grew at five per cent per year, egg production at 19 per cent and meat output at 10 per cent. With rapidly rising incomes the mainly vegetarian orientation of the state’s population has gradually lessened. Besides, cross-border sales have also grown.

How much of Gujarat’s agricultural success story can be replicated in other Indian states? In the preface to their book, professors Dholakia and Datta claim that “this story is certainly replicable by other states and regions within and outside the country”. Well, maybe. A few sentences earlier they write “It is not a miracle that happened exogenously. It is fully endogenous, systematically led by long-term vision and comprehensive strategy requiring solid commitment and dedication to the cause, political will to pursue market-oriented reforms of policies and institutions, interdepartmental and inter-ministerial coordination and cooperation, and a responsive and entrepreneurial farming community”. Well, in much of today’s India that doesn’t sound too “endogenous”; it seems closer to an “exogenous” miracle!

The author is honorary professor at Icrier and former chief economic adviser to the Government of India
The views expressed are personal