YOUNG INDIA CAN SAVE THE FUTURE OF AGRICULTURE

Undoubtedly, India’s economic security continues to be predicated upon the agriculture sector, and the situation is not likely to change in the foreseeable future. Even now, agriculture supports 58% of the population, against about 75% at the time of independence. In the same period, the contribution of agriculture, and allied sectors, to the GDP has fallen from 61 to 19%. In spite of all these downfalls, around 51% of India’s geographical area is already under cultivation as compared to 11% of the world average. The present cropping intensity of 136% has registered an increase of 25% since independence. There is also an unprecedented degradation of land (107 million hectares) and groundwater resources, and also a fall in the rate of growth of total factor productivity. This deceleration needs to be arrested and agricultural productivity has to be doubled to meet growing demands of the population by 2050.The schemes which the central government introduced to improve the situation of rural India were promising initially, but the recent release of the socio- economic and caste census report shows a totally different story. That is why in the past several days, several farmers have committed suicide. Somewhere untimely rains and the lack of basic facilities can also be a cause of farmer suicides. The question arises: how long can poor farmers and villagers be denied rural infrastructure?

Even after spending crores of rupees in the twelfth five-year plans, villagers are forced to live in rural poverty. About 13.34 crore households, 75% of rural India, having [such] low monthly incomes that it is not even sufficient to feed their families. They feel helpless. The latest data released by the government stalked the reality of government schemes and programmes which are running for the villagers [and have been] for many years. In order to bridge the gap between the government and people, more and more people’s participation through NGOs and voluntary organizations is very important to disseminate [information] and the government schemes to the rural people. The real experience of associating with the farmers in Tamil Nadu clearly shows that the simple tinkering of ongoing schemes will definitely improve yield and profitably. A single variety of rice, CO R51, has doubled the yield in one season. One technology (PPFM - drought protectant) drought proofing attempt has saved four lakh acres of rice farms in the delta in 2012-13. Hence, farmers are receptive to technology and they love agriculture. They also know that urban poverty is more cruel than rural poverty. Youths have introduced and tested protected cultivation in the delta. Alternative agriculture is picking up. The future holds the key for the production of enough food from less land, less labour, less input and less water – without damaging the ecosystem. Young people need to see live examples of other youth who made it in agriculture before they believe what they can do [in the field]. Youth need to own this; it is one thing to convince them agriculture is not a risky sector to venture into, and it is another thing for them to believe it themselves. As young people, they need to own and believe that within them lie many possibilities, and the future is in their hands to own. The Indian government is making lots of efforts in bringing youth participation to agriculture. In this line, a recent scheme, Attracting Rural Youth in Agriculture (ARYA), has to be promoted jointly by all the state governments in coordination with the central government to promote the evergreen revolution in the country. The scheme will not only attract rural youth to agriculture by making them skilled but also make the state self-dependent in agriculture. Under the scheme, Agriculture Technology Management and Training (ATMA), the programme will provide training to rural youth. From each village, two youths will be selected and trained on how to make proper use of barren and uncultivated land and grow pulses. There is also a special programme for rural youths which is aimed at benefitting the entire rural area in terms of carrying out farm operations and services at reasonable costs. Some of the activities to be linked with the ARYA scheme include identifying barren land in villages under the guidance of the Agriculture-Science Center, promoting suitable crops, encouraging the growth of different crops after harvesting paddy, inspiring farmers to use fertilizers as per the Soil Health Card, registering farmers on the Farmer Portal, providing new technology and constituting farmer groups.