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Such a long journey calls for celebration

Nagesh Prabhu
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State Agriculture Department to observe its centenary with a slew of programmes

Charming facade:The offices of the Director and Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture functions from this building constructed during the British rule.— Photo: K. Murali Kumar
Charming facade:The offices of the Director and Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture functions from this building constructed during the British rule.— Photo: K. Murali Kumar

The State Agriculture Department has entered its 100th year of service this year and is planning a slew of programmes and measures to mark the occasion.

Besides rendering yeoman service to farmers, the department has established several institutions and implemented several programmes to boost agricultural production in the last 10 decades of its existence.

Among its recent measures is the one providing crop insurance to all small and marginal farmers by paying their insurance premiums.

The Government has decided to bring out a book featuring the historical developments of the department for the occasion.

The Agriculture Department was established on February 15, 1913, by the British, and Leslie C. Colman, entomologist, was its first director. He was also the longest serving director of the department (21 years).

Mr. Coleman also headed the Mysore Agriculture Residential School established in Hebbal in 1913. Sir M. Visvesvaraya, the Dewan of Mysore (1912-1919), played a key role in establishing the school. The school's intake used to be 15 students a year and it offered Licentiate in Agriculture (L.Ag.).

With multiple schemes launched for the benefit of farmers, the Government had to create the post of Commissioner in 1998 to ensure proper monitoring. M.N. Vidyashankar, IAS, was appointed as the first Commissioner of the department.

During its long journey, the State's foodgrains production increased from 38 lakh tonnes in 1955-56 to 100 lakh tonnes in 2000-01 and crossed 130 lakh tonnes in 2010-11.

Self-sufficiency

R. Dwarakinath, who was director of the department from 1973 to 79 and Vice-Chancellor of UAS, Bangalore, from 1979 to 81, told The Hindu that Karnataka's farmers had begun using high-yielding variety of seeds in the mid-1960s. Indica and Japonica variety of paddy seeds contributed to the self-sufficiency in foodgrains production in the 1970s, he said.

The department also played a key role in the introduction of land reforms by the D. Devaraj Urs Government, the establishment of the University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS) in Bangalore and Dharwad in 1964 and 1986 respectively, officials said. On account of land reforms and fragmentation of land, the average size of operational holdings declined significantly from 3.2 hectares in 1970-71 to 1.63 hectares in 2005-06, a drop of 49.1 per cent. The number of operational holdings increased from 35.51 lakh in 1970-71 to 75.81 lakh in 2005-06, according to agricultural census report 2007.

The credit for formulating the first agricultural policy goes to the former Chief Minister H.D. Deve Gowda (1995). As the Agriculture Minister, the late C. Byre Gowda announced a policy to increase area under irrigation. The second agricultural policy was announced in 2006 by the H.D. Kumaraswamy Government.

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