The Indian Agricultural Universities’ Association (IAUA), an umbrella organisation of all the 47 agricultural universities in the country, is making a strong pitch for introducing agriculture as a subject right from the primary school in rural and semi-urban areas.

IAUA Executive Secretary R.P. Singh, who is in Bangalore to attend a symposium in which vice-chancellors of 20 agricultural universities are taking part, told The Hindu that the issue would be taken up before the Union Government by the association, while the two agricultural universities in Karnataka would take it up before the Governor, the Chief Minister and Education Minister of the State.

The objective of the move was to ensure that those who do not take up graduation and postgraduation also acquire formal education on agriculture, Mr. Singh said. At present, the educational courses on agriculture and allied subjects begin at graduation-level. But a large number of students from rural areas, especially those from agricultural families, were missing out on formal education on agriculture as the dropout rate among them was high at SSLC and PUC.

Mr. Singh said introduction of agriculture as a subject from the school-level would help increase the number of persons undergoing formal education on agriculture. This, in turn, would have a positive impact on agricultural development, he maintained. Already Maharashtra had responded positively to such a request by agreeing to introduce agriculture from sixth standard, he said.

Infusing funds

Dr. Singh said the association had also recommended that about 2 per cent of the cess on transactions in the agricultural produce marketing committees should be passed on to the respective agricultural universities as fund towards research activities. “The agricultural universities have contributed towards increasing crop yield. In return, if they are allowed to collect two per cent cess, that would help increase yields further through intensive research,” he said. If that happens, Karnataka’s agricultural universities should be able to get a minimum of about Rs. 50 crore a year for their research activities, he said.

The association has further recommended setting up national and regional 24-hour agricultural television channels and radio stations to telecast programmes on agriculture. Mr. Singh said it was a matter of concern that despite being a predominantly agricultural country, India did not have a dedicated agro TV channel. Dedicated TV channels and radio stations would go a long way in disseminating information on agricultural research to farmers besides strengthening the agricultural extension activity, he noted.

Another important recommendation pertains to prescribing a minimum tenure of five years for vice-chancellors of agricultural universities. Mr. Singh was against short tenures for VCs and said it would take at least one year for the VCs to understand the functioning of different wings of the university. The association had also favoured increasing the retirement age for VCs to 70 years as is being done by Central research institutions.