Dr. M.S. Swaminathan, president of the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, who had headed a task force to study scientific opportunities available for making agriculture a potent instrument of rural and agrarian prosperity in Rajasthan, has recommended that the Indira Gandhi Nahar Pariyojana (Rajasthan Canal) area should be declared and developed into a Special Agricultural Zone (SAZ).
Stating that the canal area would be ideal for being developed into a SAZ, he said that small farm families needed urgently life-saving support and incentives, more than the rich industrialists do.? A predominantly agricultural country like India should become a world leader in the establishment and nurturing of Special Agricultural Zone. This is the pathway to a second green revolution? he added.
Dr. Swami-nathan was requested about two years ago by the Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje to head the Task Force. He had recommended a seven-point action plan for shaping the State'sagricultural renaissance.
The country, he had said, was now in the early stages of a ?land war? involving small and marginal farmers possessing fertile agricultural land on the one hand and those who wish to purchase them for establishing industries or ?Special Economic Zones? on the other. ?Nearly 80 per cent of our 115 million farming families own one hectare or less of cultivable land .
In rain-fed areas, the average ownership may extent to 24 hectares or more. A distinctive feature of Indian agriculture is the very low pace of progress in creating livelihoods in the non-farm sector. Therefore, the pressure of population on land is increasing. The answer to this question is not just to persuade small farmers to quit farming by selling their land, however attractive the prevailing prices may be. Most small farmers, after selling their land, will become landless labourers after a year or two when the money gets exhausted?, he said.
?Therefore?, Dr. Swaminathan said, ?any ?exit policy? for small farmers through land markets should be accompanied by an ?Entry Policy? which will provide them with alternative and sustainable non-farm livelihoods. If, this is not done we will be swelling the number of landless families with disastrous social consequences.?
The major purposes of such special agricultural zones, were, Dr Swaminathan said:
To conserve prime land for agriculture;
To optimize the economic and social benefits from the good farm land and the available water;
To realise the untapped production potential of rain-fed areas;
To ensure nationals Nutrition Security and Food sovereignty; and
To bring about a system approach with concurrent attention to all the links in the conservation cultivation consumption commercial chain.
As in the case of the SEZ, he recommended, special incentives and support must be given to farm families in the SAZ areas. These should include support for conservation farming, timely supply of credit, effective extension and insurance system, and above all, post-harvest infrastructure for value addition to primary produce, biomass utilisation and for producer-oriented marketing.
Sounding a warning, Dr. Swaminathan said: ?If agriculture goes wrong, nothing else will have a chance to go right?.In a country where over 60 per cent of the population depend on agriculture for their livelihood, building a national food security system based on imported food will lead to a serious social crisis. This is why not a day should be lost in setting up Special Agricultural Zones both in irrigated and rain-fed areas to serve as flagships of India'sever-green revolution movement?.