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Pranab’s 700 crores for extending green revolution actually worth 200 billion of stimulus Agricultural Scientists Hails Revival Of Agriculture

Updated: April 3, 2010 11:54 am

After admitting on February 25 in the Rajya Sabha , while speaking on the issue of price rise, that the present government has neglected agriculture, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee revealed the next day in his budget speech a Rs 400 crore scheme for extending the Green Revolution to eastern India and another Rs 300 crore for enhancing soil productivity in rain-fed areas where, among other things, 60,000 “pulses and oilseeds” villages would be organised.

            The spontaneous welcome to this move by the Finance Minister by senior agricultural scientists at New Delhi-based Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) a few days after the presentation of the budget saying that it would be the beginning of agricultural revival in India reveals that this paltry sum of Rs 700 crores is actually worth Rs 200 billion in the form of stimulus for agriculture.

            For much too long a period, agriculture in India has thrived on the dynamics of the 1967-68 Green Revolution in wheat till this agriculture year 2009-10, when a 23 per cent shortfall in rain during the south-west monsoon of June-September 2009, exposed the weakness in agriculture and sent the Government scurrying for productivity stimulus through diverse means as higher and higher prices of essential items cut large holes in the

pockets of the common man.

            At an interaction with media

persons on eve of the Pusa Krishi Vigyan Mela held in the Pusa campus on March 4 to 6, the Director Dr HS Gupta said that the budget proposals would result in the revival of agriculture in India. He was particularly happy that the Government of India expressed resolve to extend the Green Revolution to Eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Odisha since these are “sleeping giants” of agricultural productivity.

            His colleagues too felt equally enthusiastic and said in reply to questions that the goal of extending the Green Revolution to these States could be achieved within just three years. The Finance Minister too had told media persons after presentation of the budget that more funds would be provided if found necessary for implementing the goals set by him.

            This unprecedented development in Indian agriculture had not, unfortunately, covered States other than Punjab, Haryana, Western Uttar Pradesh and northern Rajasthan, where irrigation was available and farmers were endowed with resources in order to afford fertilisers .The areas which missed the Green Revolution were and are still short of these resources and one is certain that when the farmers decide to launch the second Green Revolution in these areas, sufficient funds would be made available to them.

            This is more or less apparent from Mr Mukherjee’s saying that “in the 60th year of the Republic, it is proposed to organise 60,000 pulses and oil seed villages in rain-fed areas during 2010-11 and provide an integrated intervention for water harvesting, watershed management and soil health to enhance the productivity of the dry land farming areas.” He has proposed to provide Rs 300 crores for this purpose.

            The Finance Minister has also proposed to allocate another Rs 200 crore for sustaining the gains already made during the Green Revolution period through conservation farming, which involves concurrent attention to soil health, water conservation and preservation of bio-diversity.;

            According to Dr HS Gupta, Director of IARI, about 14 million hectares of land are available in these States where the Green Revolution gains are to be extended. This means that even if the new initiatives increase production by just one tonne per hectare, of wheat or rice, the additional production would be 14 million tonnes of food grains.

            This would raise the total food grains production in India by this volume from the highest production so far, 233.88 million tonnes in 2008-09.

            Even without the launch of this proposed stimulus, north-west India has been producing more and more of Basmati variety of rice with the result that of out of Rs 12,000 crore worth of export of the Basmati rice, these areas account for Rs 10,000 crore. Two varieties, both developed by the IARI- the improved Pusa Basmati-1 variety and the Pusa-1121 variety which produces the longest cooked grain in the world account for most of the export.

            It must be admitted that despite all these positive developments, the initiative for extending the Green Revolution to eastern India would not succeed unless sufficient water is available for the rice crop in particular. With a view to conserving ground water, the Government of India has imposed a ban on transplantation of paddy before June 22 every year so that natural precipitation prior to and during the monsoon rains are used for this operation. It is because of this, one surmises, that despite the drought this year, Punjab and Haryana sent more paddy to the central pool during the drought year than during normal rainfall years.

            One must, at this stage, point out that under the Constitution, agriculture is a State subject. So is water, So, the success of Pranab Mukherjee’s Rs 700 crore gamble one might say will depend largely on the performance of the State governments.

 By Arabinda Ghose

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