Renowned spiritual leader Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev has made a strong call to aggregate investment in irrigation and make farming “lucrative” for farmers in India. Sadhguru, the founder of the Isha Foundation which offers Yoga programmes around the world, was at United Nations to attend the commemoration of the World Water Day and the launch of the International Decade for Action – Water for Sustainable Development 2018–2028 at the United Nations headquarters.
“If you ask across the section of farmers in the country, how many of them want their children to go into farming, believe me it is less than 10 per cent. Nobody wants their children to go into farming. So what will happen in the next 15-20 years, they will sell their land to real estate and then how do you produce food in a country with such a massive population,” Sadhguru said. If farmers are to stay back in the villages, “we have to make farming lucrative” and the infrastructure in the villages should become “reasonably urbanised”. It will be then that farmers will have an incentive to live in the villages and not move to the nearest towns or cities, he said.
“My vision for the country is to urbanise rural areas. What is available in the cities must be available in the villages,” the spiritual leader said, adding that it will be very important to urbanise rural India rather than concentrating over a billion people in cities. The plight of farmers is that they are debt-ridden, Sadhguru said. “The biggest expense on the farm is the irrigation system – we are looking at how to aggregate irrigation through farmer producer organisations,” he said.
Sadhguru expressed optimism that this is “very much doable”, adding that if irrigation is aggregated, there will be no debt burden on the farmers and they will need to pay only rent for the water used in their fields. “Investment in irrigation and marketing should be aggregated. Large corporations should be brought into this. The fear is that the corporations will come and dominate you. This is why the farmers’ bodies must become large,” he said.
Currently farmers come together only to protest on the streets but “the farmers should come together for irrigation and marketing. The farmer producer organisations (FPOs) can help in that,” he said. Sadhguru said that he is looking at demonstrating successful large-scale FPOs with 25,000-50,000 farmers where they could “come together and become large corporation themselves. Then they will have marketing and purchasing power”.
On addressing challenges and seizing opportunities on water security, he said that there is no solution “without marrying ecology and economy”. “A dynamic policy is needed but what is very important is a mass involvement of people,” he said, underlining that without people’s participation, progress is not possible and “people participation will not come unless there is economic benefit attached to it”.
“People understand economy as today’s issue, and ecology as the next generation’s issue. But ecology is this generation’s issue,” the spiritual leader said. “Unless we make ecology into a lucrative process, large masses of people will never involve themselves in these issues. We must look for economic solutions because economic solutions mean both the parties benefit. Only when both parties benefit, there is a sustainable deal,” he said.
On the UN’s launch of the decade of action on water, Sadhguru said what is required is determination by nations and people to achieve progress. “It can be done, it needs a committed approach to the whole thing,” he added.