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India's food security at risk : Prof Gill

By Staff
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New Delhi, Apr 16 (UNI) Drawing a grave picture of the Indian agricultural scene, Professor Sucha Singh Gill, former Planning Commission member, has warned of a dismal future threatening food security of the country unless new technology is introduced to increase the declining yield and production.

''The situation has reached such a stage that more than 36 per cent of the farmers in Punjab no more want to continue in agriculture and want to quit in disgust, said Prof. Gill at a lecture on ''Agricultural crisis in Punjab: Tired land and retiring farmers'' at Observer Research Foundation here yesterday.

The National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSP) figure shows that more than 66 per cent of the Indian farmers thought that agriculture was not profitable while the percentage of such farmers in Punjab, once the granary of the country, was as high as 73.71.

Severe agricultural crisis is being faced by marginal and small farmers even as the farming is becoming ecologically non-sustainable.

There is high incidence of indebtness among the farmers with more than 65 per cent of the farmers reportedly under debt, with private money lenders charging high interest rates ranging from 18 to 24 per cent, Prof Gill noted.

The annual growth rate of rice, wheat, sugarcane, cotton and others were declining in terms of cultivated area, production and yield per hectare. The growth rate in the period 1971-81 was 12.56 in terms of area, 17.82 in terms of production and 4.66 in terms of yield per hectare. Now it has come down to 0.77, 3.59 and 2.8 respectively in the case of rice.

In the the case of wheat, the growth rate in the same was 2.34 in terms of area, 4.66 in terms of production and 2.27 in terms of yield per hectare. Now it has declined to an abysmal 1.79, -2.28 and 7.93 respectively. In the case of sugarcane, it is even worse, he said.

Foodgrains production is completely dominated by wheat and paddy while other food crops are marginalized, Prof. Gill added.

On the incidence of suicide by farmers, Prof. Gill said the situation will reach an alarming stage unless corrective measures are taken up.

''Between 2500 to 5000 farmers committed suicide due to financial constraints in the last 10 years,'' he said.

Another negative factor is that the farmers are now dependent on hired labour and this is why the peasants could be termed as ''Retiring Peasants'', Prof. Gill added.

Prof. Gill listed three policy options to improve the farmer's conditions: Diversifying economy with progressive shift of population from agriculture to secondary and tertiary sectors, introducing the policy of corporatisation of agriculture through contract farming and involving big corporations in agri-business.

Prof. Singh also favoured the involvement of farming community through co-operative activities in agriculture production, processing and marketing. There is a need to build ''genuine'' cooperatives with full ownership and management rights to farmers.

Prof. A K Chaddha, former Vice Chancellor of the Jawaharlal Nehru University and Chairman of the Agricultural Commission, drew the attention of the fact that 65 per cent of the labour engaged in agricultural sector only contributed 22 to 23 per cent to the GDP and stressed the need to correct this imbalance.

The prominent journalist, H K Dua, said it is high time that farmer's interests are taken care of by the state and Centre to ensure food security. He hoped that the Agriculture ministry would come up with some effective measures for the farmers.

UNI JSS MA RAI1222

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