In his article “From Bengal Famine to Right to Food” (Feb. 13), M.S. Swaminathan has recalled how, during his college days, he and his friends used to discuss different ways in which they could contribute to the development of the nation. It touched my heart. The youth (including me) I see around today are unable to raise their thinking to such a level. The maximum they are willing to do is protest, that too only when something disturbs their conscience. There is as such no informal or friendly discussion on engaging actively in policymaking or contributing to the country’s growth using whatever skills one might have.
Ajish Jimmy George,
Dr. Swaminathan’s article on the Bengal famine will serve as education to youngsters. I was 13 when the famine struck. Famine and starvation were a regular feature in our taluk — the Mudukulatur taluk in the south-east end of India. We saw rainfall only once in three or four years. My maternal grandfather owned 1,000 acres of land and was a leading lawyer. His house faced the Revenue Tahsildar’s office on the north and the Vaigai on the south. It had 14 rooms, seven of them with lofts filled with grains. Unlike the Bengal famine, the Ramnad district famine was caused mostly by hoarders. Dr. Swaminathan and others like him have saved me and my next generation from starvation.
I would like to add to the threats outlined by Dr. Swaminathan to the future of food production — the disinterest among the youth in farming. Youngsters do not want to take to farming as a profession. Even if they do, their parents and society discourage them.
Although we have changed our agricultural destiny from “the ship to mouth” situation to the “right to food” commitment, we have miles to go before fulfilling the commitment. It is said that we produce less than what we sow, harvest less than what we produce, procure less than what we harvest, and consume less than what we procure. This phrase should give us an idea of the losses incurred in various stages of agricultural production to consumption. Although most of these losses have been covered through the intervention of modern techniques, the last stage of loss — storage — has not been tackled. The lack of poor infrastructure and ignorance of existing facilities are among the prime concerns.
The use of farmland for non-farm purposes is indeed a cause for concern. It may cause serious consequences such as import of food grain, non-availability of grains for PDS and black marketing. The government must ensure the unhindered use of farmland for agriculture to sustain food security.
Prafulla K. Rai,