Mahatma Gandhi use to say that India lives in its seven lakh villages. India is an agrarian country with agriculture as its prime culture. Sardar Patel had been asked once, ?What is your culture?? Sardar Patel had promptly shot back, ?My culture is agriculture.? It was on agriculture that our ancestors laid great stress.
Chhattisgarh is situated on the eastern corner of India and its ancient name was Kosal, which changed to south Kosal and Mahakosal over time. Today, it is famous as Chhattisgarh. Because its prime crop is rice, it is also known as the ?rice bowl? and out of the 20,000 strains found in the world, nearly 10,000 are found in Chhattisgarh alone.
Chhattisgarh has had a long history of famine. It suffered one in 1897, in 1909, drought in 1902-02, famine in 1907-08, 1918-19, and in 1920-21. The author discusses the irrigation system and the irrigation of agricultural fields through canals, lakes, wells and lift irrigation. The main problem here is lack of electrical energy of which only 14 per cent is utilised by the agricultural sector. Currently on an average on every 450 hectares of agricultural land, only one pump is provided and in all there are only 28 per cent wells with pumps. Due to lack of electricity, water cannot be converted into electricity for growth of agriculture.
Farmers are constantly facing some problem or other related to farming and agriculture in a major part of the country. At times farmers resort to mass suicides due to droughts or floods. In Andhra Pradesh, 254 farmers committed suicide in 2003-2004 and 1,068 in 2004; 271 in western Karnataka in 2004-2005; 524 in Maharashtra and about 10 in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. Monsoon in the coming years is never certain. In such a situation, the agricultural sector is posing a challenge for the nation ? how to improve the plight of the agricultural sector?
The Centre and various states have promised to reduce the interest rates on farmer loans but its impact will be seen in the far future only. This could be one of the reasons for lack of enthusiasm on the part of farmers. The Minister for Agriculture had told the Rajya Sabha that the reasons for the farmers? plight are inability to pay back loans taken from moneylenders, unavailability of good seeds, drying up of tube-wells and other sources of water in 2005, though Sharad Pawar had cited different reasons like failure of monsoon, damage to crops, mono-cropping and lack of irrigation facilities. However, the prime cause of the plight of farmers is their inability to obtain the right price for their produce coupled with the falling prices of foodgrains. Hence any consideration of the farmers? problems without taking into consideration the other factors or talk of beneficial and commercial agriculture would inevitably prove futile and absolutely worthless. What is needed is to help the farmer receive an adequate price for his farm produce. It is hoped that the National Agriculture Commission has sent its recommendations, giving a comprehensive decision on this aspect. The agricultural policy has to be such that right from good agricultural produce to employment, self-sufficiency in food is achieved so as to make the nation self-reliant.
(Vaibhav Prakashan, Ameenpura Chowk, Purani Basti, Raipur, Chhattisgarh.)