Mumbai: For the past four weeks, the media and politicians have been full of talk about the Budget. Agriculture, however, has not quite figured in all the talk. Farm scientist M.S. Swaminathan, known as the father of the Green Revolution, and Abhijit Sen, a member of the Planning Commission and an expert on the farm economy, spoke to CNBC-TV18 on the subject. Edited excerpts:
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Dr Swaminathan, is agriculture suffering from serious neglect?
Swaminathan: If you look at the 100-day programmes, one of the important ones is the assurance of a food guarantee... Of course, it deals with making available wheat and rice at a low price. Nevertheless, this promise cannot be fulfilled unless there is a considerable step-up of agricultural productivity all over the country.
You have pointed out that while food security is mentioned, a game plan for agriculture is not there. How would you write that game plan?
Swaminathan: As you know, food guarantee has two aspects. (One is) availability of food in the market at a low price or supply to the (people) below (the) poverty line. The other is increasing production... Some steps have been taken earlier like the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, National Horticulture Mission, Food Security Mission and so on. But these are largely on paper... Above all, the productivity revolution must extend to eastern India...and the rain-fed area. With this year’s monsoon seeming to be rather erratic, I think we’ll neglect agriculture at out own peril.
Dr Sen, how serious is the delay in monsoon? Is it now given that ‘kharif’ (summer crop) output in this year is not going to match up to expectations or perhaps not even as much as we did last year?
Sen: Well, we are taking it very seriously. But I don’t think, as of now, we can actually say anything quite definite on production performance. But yes, we are taking it very seriously and, yes, it is not what we would have liked at this stage.