`Ex­treme weather, un­favourable mar­ket to be blamed '

Noted agri­cul­ture sci­en­tist M S Swami­nathan headed the Na­tional Com­mis­sion on Farm­ers. Way back in 2005, when the com­mis­sion sub­mit­ted its re­port, it had said that In­dia was star­ing at an un­prece­dented agrar­ian cri­sis. Swami­nathan speaks to Down To Earth

Down to Earth - - COVER STORY -

Your re­port rec­om­mended how to im­prove farm­ers' con­di­tion. Do you see any changes in their con­di­tion? Un­for­tu­nately, our rec­om­men­da­tion, although col­lated as a na­tional pol­icy for farm­ers and placed in Par­lia­ment, re­mains yet to be im­ple­mented. We are wit­ness­ing one of the most dis­tress­ing events as farm­ers, in life giv­ing pro­fes­sion, are tak­ing their own lives. This dis­tress is aris­ing from ex­treme weather events and un­favourable mar­ket. In West Ben­gal, farm­ers who raised a good potato crop had to take their lives be­cause of very low price of­fered to them. What are the im­me­di­ate steps to ar­rest the sit­u­a­tion? As­sured and re­mu­ner­a­tive mar­ket­ing holds the key to stim­u­lat­ing and sus­tain­ing farm­ers' in­ter­est in farm­ing. While tech­nol­ogy can help im­prove crop yield, it is only public pol­icy that can make the eco­nom­ics of farm­ing favourable to farm­ers. We, there­fore, need syn­ergy be­tween tech­nol­ogy and public pol­icy.

To­day, agri­cul­ture faces eco­log­i­cal degra­da­tion and land di­ver­sion. How do we re­vive agri­cul­ture? Con­serve prime farm­land by set­ting up Spe­cial Agri­cul­ture Zones. Rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing should be made manda­tory both in farms and at homes. In case of small farms, com­mu­nity wa­ter har­vest­ing will help. We can pro­mote eq­uity in wa­ter shar­ing through pani pan­chayat. En­vi­ron­men­tally sound tech­nolo­gies should be de­vised for fight­ing pests, pathogens and weeds.

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