THE NATIONAL Rainfed Area Authority (NRAA) is working on developing a comprehensive drought-proofing action plan for 24 districts in Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka this year, said NRAA CEO Ashok Dalwai. The NRAA will develop similar action plans for other districts in a list of 151, including in Maharashtra, identified as drought-prone according to a study by Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), based on parameters set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
“For the 24 districts, 12 plans are ready and the work on 12 more is on. We are working on finding how to delineate rain-fed areas, which are not just restricted to dry land areas. Sometimes, despite very heavy rainfall, we continue to have a poor agricultural system. For this, we have appointed a technical committee to study and tell us what we mean by rain-fed area and define it. This will enable development of technological packages in consonance with each of these areas,” Dalwai told The Indian Express.
A panel led by Dalwai submitted the report on doubling farmers income (DFI) to the government last year. The committee is now overseeing implementation of the panel’s recommendations.
Speaking at a national conference hosted at Nehru Science Centre last week, Dalwai pointed out that the overall research system, instead of focusing on professional development, should focus on output and delivery.
“The entire research system is oriented towards personal and professional development,” he said. Most researchers are worried about their scorecard, which shows the number of studies published or the probability of a promotion but not so much the impact that an individual’s research has had, he added.
“In a country like India where the resources are scarce, every rupee invested in science must have an impact on society. We have one of the best agricultural research systems in the world – 5,500 scientists in ICAR, 4,500 scientists in Indian Space Research Organization and scientists working in 77 agricultural universities in the country,” Dalwai said.
For over the past 10 years, India has stopped being an agricultural economy. Today, only one-third of the rural economy forms agricultural economy. The manufacturing, service and agriculture sector is roughly in the 1:3 ratio, he said.
The share of agriculture in the economy is declining. However, the number of people dependent on agriculture continues to rise. “From 80 per cent in 1951, it has come down to 48 per cent. However, 48 per cent of 1.3 billion people means two times the population of the United States. Hence, challenges continue to face Indian agriculture,” he said.
He added, “If today Indian farmers are facing any problem, it’s not because of production but more their ability to monetise the produce. Today, Indian farms produce 1.3 billion tonnes of agricultural produce. We have all kinds of agro-climatic zones in the country. India is vast in terms of its arable land, only next to the United States.”
He further said while agriculture had done well in India, the farmer had not. “We’re in the situation where we have surpluses exceeding the demand and therefore the market prices are not good. With the global commodity prices further backward, the situation has got compounded. Experts have also pointed to the fact that our food security, based on carbohydrates, is just one-sixth part of nutritional security.”