"Urgent measures needed to stave off agrarian crisis"

RECOGNISING TALENT: M.S. Swaminathan, Chairman, National Commission on Farmers, at the second convocation of the Tata Dhan Academy at Melakkal near Madurai on Tuesday. — Photo: K. Ganesan

RECOGNISING TALENT: M.S. Swaminathan, Chairman, National Commission on Farmers, at the second convocation of the Tata Dhan Academy at Melakkal near Madurai on Tuesday. — Photo: K. Ganesan  

Commission on Farmers to recommend Food Guarantee Act, as ryots faced gamble of markets and monsoon: M.S. Swaminathan

Staff Reporter

MADURAI: : The mid-term appraisal of the Tenth Plan has come as a `wake-up' call for the economy and highlighted the need for urgent steps to avert an agrarian crisis, M. S. Swaminathan, Chairman, National Commission on Farmers, said on Tuesday.

The commission would soon submit its second report to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, calling for a National Food Guarantee Act to ensure `zero hunger'. The Act was essential, as farmers were facing the gamble of markets and monsoons and drought or flood, he said.

Dr. Swaminathan was addressing the second biennial convocation of the Tata Dhan Academy.

Slow progress

He said the appraisal of the first three years of the Plan revealed that progress in agriculture was slow and the growth fell below four per cent. Food production was below the population growth rate. Hence, the `off-track' performance had to be set right.

Dr. Swaminathan said reversing the decline would help to stave off an agrarian crisis. The Food Guarantee Act should facilitate creation of a decentralised network of grain storage structures. It would enlarge the composition of food security basket. The commission's second report would suggest steps to give relief to farmers. Brazil and Kenya had announced `zero hunger' programmes.

The first report suggested setting up of 50,000 farm schools covering all States to facilitate `farmer-to-farmer' learning and promote role models in agriculture. It also recommended digging one million wells under the community water security system.

Dr. Swaminathan called for a comprehensive plan to eradicate hunger, malnourishment, sanitation problems and infant mortality. India could launch a `Make Poverty a History' campaign as in the Western countries.

He lauded the role played by movements such as Kalanjiyam and Vayalagam for developing the self-help group network and facilitating community banking/micro-credit in villages.

M. P. Vasimalai, Executive Director, Tata Dhan Academy, said the Dhan Foundation was working in 6,000 villages.

Academy chairperson A. Umarani and Kalanjiyam founder Chinnapillai were present.

Dr. Swaminathan presented certificates to 25 students who completed Post-Graduate Diploma in Development Management.

"Outsource works

to rural areas"

The country's greatest challenge is to retain the rural masses in villages. Outsourcing of works from urban places to rural areas will help to solve the problem, M. S. Swaminathan, Chairman, National Commission on Farmers, has said.

Addressing presspersons here, he said that with e-governance, even the transaction cost of outsourcing works to rural areas would be low. The challenge of food security was caused not by the lack of food grains but the lack of purchasing power among the rural masses. The huge human resource in rural areas could be utilised in post-harvest value addition and marketing. The self-help groups were charged with maintaining land records in villages in Andhra Pradesh, he said.

The private sector, especially the chain stores, had a critical role in outsourcing works. They could partially manufacture their products in rural areas. China had developed hi-tech rural township enterprises. Such programmes would benefit the companies as well as the rural people. The companies would get cheap labour and the rural people employment, he added. He advocated creation of opportunities in villages for a job-led economic growth.

Regretting that the younger generation was not attracted to farming, he said the intellectual challenge in biotechnology and information technology was lacking in agriculture. Farming technology should be upgraded to stimulate the educated youth. The investment in rural areas should be increased and infrastructure provided to help rural literates have a reasonable earning.

On the environmental impact of the Sethusamudram project, Prof. Swaminathan said the eco-system in the Gulf of Mannar had already been overexploited. However, he referred to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's assurance that the environmental aspect would be looked into while implementing the project.

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