Thursday, September 25, 2008

More People Need To Quit Farming

Sometimes the best piece of news does not come from the traditional sources - Newspaper, TV or Radio.

I chanced upon the following in a BBC Podcast. I have tried my best to reproduce what the Indian Agriculture Minister, Mr. Sharad Pawar has to say:

"There are certain regions where drought (lack of water) is a regular phenomena and in such situation agriculture doesn't become viable. Along with this we have to divert sizable population from agriculture to non-agriculture. If you have two sons let only one son continue in agriculture. Let the other son go service sector, let him go to industry ... there are number of avenues that are available - this country is prospering ... one can develop industrial bases near the villages, Why only in cities? ...Now we have to go the second agriculture revolution"

I have never come across any statement like this in the newspaper. I am sure in an election year, the political parties are sure to twist the wisdom of this interview out of context and attack Pawar. In fact in the same podcast a JNU professor, Jayathi Ghosh has a go at him - a sort of personal attack ("he is more interested in cricket than in agriculture"), totally uncalled for. She makes no attempt to find out during the interview the context in which the statement was made.

I am no fan of Pawar or for that matter any politician and I know everything is not hunky-dory with Indian agriculture, but I think Pawar is referring the load on drought-hit agricultural land.

There is a definite need to improve the agricultural situation - and that is an understatement - but at the same time there is also a need to reduce the load on the land. It doesn't make economic sense to continue beating a dead horse. Common sense would dictate that land that is rich or that which can be made rich with little effort should produce.

As the industry grows, the appetite for more land will continue. To avoid the Tata Nano like misadventure, perhaps areas that are of marginal utility to farming could be converted into industrial areas. This will also ensure correct focus of agriculture-revival effort. What is required is, of course, political will.

Note: The photograph used belongs to Dominic Morel. Please go here to see more such photographs.

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