“The farmer takes care of the needs of one billion people. His condition must be improved”
Stressing the need for a “a second green revolution” as called for in the current Economic Survey, Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said this would be one of India's major achievements in the coming years.
“We feel, with our efforts, our nation's major achievement in the next five years will be a second green revolution, not just in crops, but also in fisheries, meat, eggs, fruits and vegetables,” Mr. Pawar told reporters on the sidelines of a party meet on Panchayati Raj on Saturday.
He highlighted various areas of thrust, namely water availability, reduction in interest rates on farm loans from 12 to five per cent and more, the need to factor in cost of cultivation in the prices of agricultural produce and the need for research in agriculture.
In his address, he cautioned against ignoring 62 per cent of the country dependent on agriculture. “India covers two and a half per cent of the total land in the world. It has three and a half per cent of the world's water resources. However, it accounts for 17 per cent of the world population. [Given this imbalance], the farmer takes care of the needs of one billion people. His condition must be improved,” Mr. Pawar said.
He hailed the 5.6 per cent agricultural growth as “a good sign” and said this should continue. “I think the UPA [United Progressive Alliance] government is paying a lot of attention to agriculture. On the 28th [the day of the budget], we expect to see this focus,” he said.
On the issue of food security, Mr. Pawar called for boosting food production. “To improve agricultural production, budgetary allocation for irrigation has to be expanded, increased power has to be made available and more investments in seeds need to be brought in,” he said.
He called for advancing the food processing sector and packaging facilities to reduce wastage of farm produce. “We lose Rs. 50-crore worth of produce due to a lack of processing units. In Thailand, 70 per cent of the food is processed, whereas in India only two per cent is,” he said.
Mr. Pawar endorsed the controversial Jaitapur nuclear power project, saying it would address the country's energy needs without affecting the environment. “Maharashtra has been facing a shortage of power since 1995. The pace of investments has slowed owing to energy concerns. So, it is the government's responsibility to generate power. The Jaitapur project will generate power at cheaper rates. There was opposition to the Dabhol power project, originally Enron, but there was no effect on the environment. I speak knowingly, since Dr. Anil Kakodkar [former head of the Atomic Energy Commission] and other experts have given an assurance on Jaitapur's safety. If the people have any concerns, the government should address them,” he said.
In response to a question on the various scams, Mr. Pawar said he had “no doubt about [Prime Minister] Manmohan Singh's integrity and honesty” and neither did the Opposition. “Some issues have come before the nation and they are at the stage of investigation. Our responsibility is to cooperate with the probe. The truth will come out,” he said.