BIHAR, not so long ago supposed to be a laggard, most uninnovative, lacking will to take a new initiative, may become leader in setting new trends in agriculture and create food safety for the country that Centre has failed to do.
Two developments are taking place. The people of Bihar as seen in the Nalanda district are breaking away from the past by growing new kinds of crops. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has taken up the cause of farmers in opposing the Seeds Bill as tabled in Parliament.
Another event that has not caused much stir is the visit of Microsoft chief Bill Gates, now heading his Philanthropic Foundation with his wife and foundation co-chair Melinda to the state. They announced to partner with the state in agriculture sector. The foundation has invested $ 80 million worth partnership to the state in health sector during his last visit to Bihar in May last year.
Endowed with good soil, adequate rainfall and good ground water availability Bihar has now realised its agricultural potential. Its agricultural productivity is one of the lowest in the country, leading to rural poverty, low nutrition and migration of labour.
The change in political culture and improvement in law and order situation has started reversing the process of migration of skilled farm labourers, who have turned Punjab and Haryana into granary of the country.
Nitish Kumar believes that the hungry bowl of Bihar would turn into the bread basket of the country. He feels the Seeds Bill as drafted now is too favourable to the multi-national genetically modified seed producers and “is brazenly anti-farmer”. He has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar asserting that the bill in its present form would lead to unrestricted commercialisation of varieties in public domain. It would make seeds expensive with doubtful qualities.
He advocating the cause of public sector says their seeds are affordable and scientists take keen interest in interacting with the farmers to improve the seed quality and farm output. “The cost of private sector seeds runs into hundreds or several thousands rupees in case of hybrid seeds while public sector seeds are affordable”.
He took up the cause with Bill Gates who visited some Bihar villages and met farmers. “The foundation has shown interest in seed improvement in agriculture sector,” Nitish Kumar says.
This new road map is aimed at triggering processes of development in agriculture and allied sectors.
The state is trying to revolutionise the farm sector by creating self-help groups (SHG), many being led by women. Nalanda has emerged as the pioneer. The district administration and the Agriculture Ministry have also come forward to help farmers in finding the markets for their produce.