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Evergreen Revolution Reloaded – Agriculture Reforms through AgriTech, Skills & Financial-Restructure’ Conference held in Delhi

Union Ministers Shri Parshottam Rupala (MoS Agriculture, Panchayat & Farmers Welfare) and Shri Anantkumar Hegde (MoS Skills & Entrepreneurship Development) inaugurated ‘Evergreen Revolution Reloaded

Chander Mohan

Union Ministers Shri Parshottam Rupala (MoS Agriculture, Panchayat & Farmers Welfare) and Shri Anantkumar Hegde (MoS Skills & Entrepreneurship Development) inaugurated ‘Evergreen Revolution Reloaded – Agriculture Reforms Through Agri Tech, Skills & Financial-Restructure’ Conference on 1st Feb 2019 in New Delhi. The two requested the organisers to collate the suggestions of the various participants – to help the GOI administer much needed reforms to the Agriculture policy to help Marginal & Small farmers. The conference was aimed at gathering Intelligentsia, Academicians, Agriculturists, Researchers, Economists, Statisticians, Politicians, Bureaucrats, Students, Farmers as well as Activists – to conscientiously & apolitically debate – feasibility of an expedited short-medium-long term solution for the Marginal & Small Farmer distress, faced by the entire nation today. The term “Evergreen Revolution” was coined by MSS (MS Swaminathan) – in order to stress the need for “sustainability“in Agriculture to help the vast and distressed Marginal & Small Farmer populace of India.

Mr. Rupala and Mr. Hegde debated and discussed the rationale behind the conference since many months to ascertain the objectives and takeaways of such a conference, given the plethora of such events in the recent past. Once convinced of the conscientious and committed objectives they thoroughly researched the root-cause of the Agrarian Distress as highlighted by the Organisers. The two Ministers displayed heart-warming resolve to research great levels of details to speak regarding their commitment to expeditiously address policy reforms for resolving the Agrarian crisis. Highly pointed and objective issues like Productivity-Increase, New & Alternate Crops for Higher Profits, Direct-to-Market Mechanisms, Impediments due to Middlemen & Import-Lobbyists, delayed MSP announcements, lack of MSP for all crops including Fruits & vegetables, Lack of Medical/Life/Crop insurance, Lack of ESI & EPF, Structured Financing, Fixed Direct Minimum Incomes, 0% Farmer Loans (like China – as suggested by MSS), Research-to-Farm delays & reachability, Skills for Women Farming to have alternate sources of income, etc. were all discussed, empathised and committed for consideration.

Mr. Rupala emphasised that many politicians & executives of the past and present have unfortunately been addressing symptoms and not the cause of the distress. He said it was sad indeed that various recommendations of the MSS Report had been sidelined, while focusing on only short term measures that suited the “wants” of a few and not really the “needs” of the many Marginal & Small Farmers. He committed his resolve the GOI would consider Fixed Direct Minimum Incomes as well as Restructuring the Panchayat & Credit Systems to provide help all the way to the Grassroots of Marginal & Small farmers. He also shared his experience of best AgriTech that could do wonders if provided to all Marginal & Small farmers to combat Soil, Weather and poor ROI due to unplanned Crop-to-Land matching by Farmers today

Mr. Hegde while reiterating the above, emphasised the need to Skill the Rural populace to help create greater employment & entrepreneurship as well as relook age-old traditional Organic methods, to circumvent the scourge of overdosing soil with Inorganic chemicals, fertilizers & pesticides. He said it is imperative to skill men & very importantly – women, to create new enterprises in rural areas to create a model for risk mitigation and wealth generation – to help lead lives with pride &a much needed quality of life that is critically missing. He felt, skilling Marginal & Small Farmers at new AgriTech to generate awareness of New Profitable Crops that could be grown on smaller lands and yet exported at higher costs – is a way to combat poor ROI due to unplanned growing of cash crops on sub-optimal lands.

Dr. HS Gaur, Professor-in-Charge Agriculture Sciences and Dean Basic Sciences & Research at Sharda University opined, that there is a critical need to get Laboratory Research to the Fields of Marginal & Small Farmers – to help them understand and practice best-of-breed framing. Dr. Prashant Goswami, former Director of the CSIR-National Institute of Science Technology and Development Studies (NISTADS) and Founder-Chairman of Institute of Frontier Research and Application (IFSA), and a recipient of the prestigious Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Award in Earth Sciences (2001) said that Research & Technology must reach the grassroots and a mechanism must be devised. Dr. Sangita Ladha, VP- Marketing &Bus Dev at Jain Irrigation Ltd, who has an M-Tech – Agricultural Engineering from IIT-Kharagpur and Doctorate in Agricultural Development with years of expertise in Conceptualization, Development and Promotion of advanced and practical training programs in hi-tech horticulture, handling turnkey contracts largely in area of  Greenhouse/Protected Cultivation, Irrigation and Water Management sector  mainly on Integrated Irrigation systems with  Drip/Sprinkler/landscape irrigation; opined, that many successes as case-study exist in India wherein dry lands have been converted into profitable farms lands through the use of Drip Irrigation and Greenhouse/Protected cultivation and these case-studies could be considered by GOI for the distressed Marginal & Small farmers.

Mr. Dan Alluf, Counsellor of MASHAV at the Israel Embassy; opined, that Israel helps its’ farmers before sowing the crop as to what-is and what-isn’t profitable, while ensuring farmers have know-how as well as access to credit for infrastructure to apply Agri Tech ensuring profitability. Dr. Dimple Tresa Abraham, currently work at the Centre for Women's Development Studies (CWDS) was the lead researcher for a study on MGNREGA commissioned by the National Institute for Rural development &Panchayati Raj, she also co-ordinates the Monitoring and Evaluation work for Ministry of Rural Development Programme as CWDS is an empanelled National Level Monitor for MoRD, she has a Masters in Agricultural Economics from IARI and a PhD in Economics from the Gokhale Institute of Politics & Economics; opined, that MGNREGA needs to be better utilised and rural women need to be trained on alternative skills to risk-mitigate respective families.

Dr. S. B. Dandin, presently working as Liaison Officer, Bioversity International was the Former and Founder Vice-Chancellor, University of Horticultural sciences, Bagalkot and has held several important positions at Central Silk Board, Bangalore and rose from the position of Sr. Research Assistant (1977) to Director, CSR&TI, Mysore Central Silk Board, Bangalore (1999). He has also worked as Crop Botanist in Indian Cardamom Research Institute, Myladumpara, Kerala (1978-81) and Director KSSRDI, Bangalore (1989-99). Dr .Dandin in his scientific carrier of nearly 30 years has developed and popularized two high yielding cardamom varieties, four improved, high yielding mulberry varieties and evolved three silkworm races. Besides, he has developed a good number of supporting technologies .He is a life member of 13 National/International Organizations and also recognized as a fellow of six Academic Societies. Dr. Dandin has 518 publications to his credit and he is serving as a member, expert/advisory committees, task force, peer groups and member editorial boards in 24 organizations such as DBT, DST, ICAR, NCERT etc. He has been recognized as research guide from FIVE universities and has guided 19 students in their Doctoral degree programme; he opined, that alternative cropping methodologies will surely provide much needed risk mitigation for Marginal & Small Farmers.

Mr. Sameer Sonpavde, an industrialist & technocrat who also conceptualised, sponsored & organised the Conference; opined, that Marginal & Small farmers could be classified as unemployed/unemployable and both man/woman could be provided MGNREGA-wages while deducting amounts towards GOI ESI, EPF, Medical/Life/Crop-insurances. He also opined that the ill planned MGNREGA could be better utilised by up skilling the MGNREGA-labor with new Agri skills and then diverted on a requirement-basis, to work on the Marginal & Small Farmers lands at the GOI’s cost. This could solve immediate cash-flow as well as labour distress faced by Marginal & Small Farmers – while increasing rural employment through skilling. He however strongly felt that best technology and consulting should be provided for farmers through MEITY & Gram-Panchayat portals as advisory-circulars & video tutorials – to understand scientific ROI & Land Optimization to grow profitable crops and sell at high profits to/through the right buyers.

The conference participants are now engaged in creation of a white paper for the consideration of both Ministers and the Government of India therein to consider the recommendations for empowering the farmers to be in the main stream with pride.

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