SELF-RELIANCE

The long road ahead

The long road ahead

Photo for representation only

Deepender Deswal

THE agriculture sector is not enthused by the Atmanirbhar Bharat slogan. Farmers feel that the government’s insistence on their self-reliance is a climbdown on its promise of doubling their income.

“As far as foodgrain production is concerned, the peasantry in Haryana and Punjab is not only self-reliant but also contributes to the national food kitty in a big way. What we want is an improvement in our living standards,” says Prabhu Ram, a farmer of Kirtan village in Hisar district who owns five acres. He says despite utilising the services of the entire family throughout the year, he is not able to earn enough to afford good schooling for his children or own a car. “After pouring blood and sweat into farming, we still don’t have a decent lifestyle,” he rues.

Dr Kuldeep Dhindsa, an agriculture expert, says the implementation of the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission can put the farmers in a much better position and uplift the sector as a whole, adding that farmers should be given the minimum support price (MSP) for their produce.

Ramesh Kumar, a farmer of Bhiwani, says flawed policies like the recent ordinances issued in the name of agricultural reforms are ruining farmers. “These retrograde steps could prove counter-productive instead of making the sector self-reliant,” he claims, adding that the attempt to introduce privatisation in the sector would spell doom for the farmers.

The Vice Chancellor of Chaudhary Charan Singh Haryana Agricultural University (HAU), Prof Samar Singh, says the farm sector employs 55 per cent of the population and contributes 17 per cent to the GDP. “A great performance by the farmers of Haryana and Punjab ensured that the country became self-reliant in food production. However, the sharp deceleration of agriculture growth in both states is intriguing,” he adds.

The VC says the state government’s steps to provide irrigation facilities, all-weather roads to provide rural connectivity and assured market for agricultural produce has helped the farmers. “The future of agricultural prosperity lies in the high-value sectors of agriculture. The state needs to promote crop diversification and encourage the food processing industry, besides micro irrigation technology and sectors such as livestock, fisheries and horticulture,” he says, adding that paddy cultivation is leading to massive depletion of the water table.

Prof SS Punia, head of the Agronomy Department, HAU, says milk processing needs to be promoted aggressively by the state government. Although Haryana is among the toppers in ‘per capita per day’ availability of milk in the country, only 10 per cent of the total production of the state is processed by the organised sector (co-operatives and private players), which is very low compared to Gujarat (about 50 per cent).

“The government should provide incentives to the private sector to improve milk processing and set up several plants to process at least 30-35 per cent of the total production in the coming five years. Linking maize farmers with the dairy sector will help increase milk production through the supply of quality feed. But the abundance of liquid milk will put a downward pressure on its price. The government should incentivise the setting up of milk processing units; The state government can also make the rearing of cattle more profitable to farmers through its vibrant dairy sector, besides developing meat processing, especially of buffaloes, as an export-oriented industry,” he says.

Stumbling block

Prabhu Ram, a farmer of Hisar’s Kirtan village who owns five acres, says despite utilising services of his family throughout the year, he is not able to earn enough to afford good schooling for his kids or own a car. “After pouring blood and sweat into farming, we still don’t have a decent lifestyle,” he rues.

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