India can lead towards sustainable Development goals in all important agriculture sector and proactive in the climate change initiatives.
Today, 30 th December, at noon a book launching ceremony will take place in virtual mode, which will be Released by Hon’ble Vice Chairman, Dr.Rajiv Kumar, NITI Aayog. The book is atply titled “Atmanirbhar Self Reliant and Climate Smart Farmers – Roadmap for Agriculture: 2020-2030 – India” and has a number of excellent selcted articles by liminaries in the field. The book has been published by National Council for Climate Change, Sustainable Development and Public Leadership (NCCSD) under the leadership of Dr Kirit Shelat. We take the opportunity to put in some more of our inputs in this all critical sector.
India has always been an agriculture driven country. All though the contribution of GDP is at number three towards overall contribution to India’s GDP ( after services and Industry), it also provides the perfect cushion to the nation. Agriculture in India employs nearly 50 percent of the population but contributes only about 17 percent to GDP. It is also the occupation of a majority of employed women in rural India.. A good example of this was seen during the present corona virus pandemic. Agriculture was the only sector to grow for April-June 2020 among eight used to compute India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
With the new wave of pandemics and viruses also gripping the world it is important that India remains self sufficient ‘Atma-Nirbhar’ in this all important sector. Estimates say that 300 million people across the world will likely fall into poverty because of the direct negative consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Recently there was news that China has imported indian rice after many years and requires due attention. Further God forbid if some other viruses prop up in future, besides humans , food and other items can also get banned. Therefore no country can afford to remain complacent on the agriculture and farm production policies.
The Modi government has brought many changes to the agriculture sector and the 3 farm bills were just addition to the list of such reforms and actions.
Agriculture is a big sector and is largely owned by small and marginal farmers who rely on it for livelihood. MSP and selling the crop is the last step for any farmer before which one has to cross many hurdles. More than 80 percent of the country’s farmers in India are small and marginal.. From farm maintenance to fertilisers , seeds to water, electricity to infrastructure , one can see many dimensions of farming sector. Thus there is also a direct linkage of agriculture sector with climate change issues as all these issues are connected with nature and environment.
It is expected that the economic fallout of COVID-19, in turn, will influence climate action. The US has reversed more than 100 environmental laws on the grounds that it would affect industry and businesses. After President Trump’s guilt free walk out from Climate change talks (Paris and others), it is incumbent upon the new President Biden to tighten the screws. India has this opportunity to work with the new administration on this front and take initial lead.
Led by the revolution in electric vehicles, solar energy farms, renewable energy, storage cells and many other important developments India can truly be a leader in a green agro based economy. Further newer technologies like AI and machine learning, Block chain can be made more people friendly and propagated for mass usage. There are many start ups that have come up in all these ‘greener’ sector though the overall government funding for them is not adequate.
The biggest challenge to a greener agriculture based economy comes from Infrastructure and supply chain management systems. India needs good clean Ware housing, cold storage and processing technologies.
Usage of blatant fertiliser also affects the environment adversely. In a comprehensive study released earlier this month, scientists report that pesticide poisonings on farms around the world have risen dramatically since the last global assessment 30 years ago. Based on an evaluation of available poisoning data from countries all over the world, the researchers conclude that there are about 385 million cases of acute poisonings each year, up from an estimated 25 million cases in 1990. The systematic review of unintentional acute pesticide poisonings was published today in the peer-reviewed journal BMC Public Health. The article, “The Global Distribution of Acute Unintentional Pesticide Poisoning: Estimations Based on a Systematic Review,” is the first such global estimate since 1990. Total fatalities around the world from unintended pesticide poisonings are estimated at around 11,000 deaths per year. Nearly 60% of which occur in just one country, India, indicating serious problems with pesticide use, according to the researchers. ( source: Pesticide Action Network International)
Agriculture will become more important in the future as there will be more uncertainties. While it is necessary to go for reforms and increasing infrastructure in the sector we also have to make sure that we follow the sustainable development goals and a green environment. We are in an excellent position to drive this two fold objective. The US has been caught in a typhoon of her own while Chinahas shown how aggressive it can be to rely upon. Thus India can take the lead in joining hands with USA and European Union to drive the climate change initiatives and taking Agro as a sector. There are huge potential in this sector and they all have to be taken forward vigorously.
We request the government to continue her focus on agro reforms with special attention to technology and infra driven schemes. NCCSD which has ben doing exceptional work in this direction may continue guiding the country with its invaluable research, discussions and inputs.
Dr Asheesh Shah