Dr Pravin Togadia
* Thousands of hectares land is dry with no greens seen.
* Thousands of cattle died without fodder and water.
* Farmers worried and forced to end lives.
* Food grains, vegetables and fruits costlier.
* Exports of crop related products worse affected.
This is the situation in the drought affected states namely Maharashtra, Karnataka, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Haryana. If not all areas, then larger areas of these states have been affected with severe droughts. Union Government has allocated Rs 2,000 crore package to these states to be used in relief work.
In a country that still depends on rains for its agriculture and also for its food security, no rains or excess rains both are scary situations. And the yearly fear situations at that! Agriculture getting affected has its spiraling adverse impact on Bharat due to this. Apart from individual farmers’ well-being, which is must in Bharat – entire economy takes a beating if agriculture gets affected.
The situation has become complicated in Bharat, not because Bharat does not know how to handle droughts or excess rains. Bharat knew it from ancient times. There were ponds/wells/lakes (Natural as well specially created)—water storages were allocated for drinking water and for agriculture and more importantly, there was planning. Planning while respecting the ecological balance! Most rivers had teerthas around them right from their origin until they meet the sea. These had religious connotations for sure, but they also worked wonderfully for storing excess water of the rivers as well as preserving the natural strains emerging from the earth. Big wells and small wells (koopa) played a major role in not only water supply to the agriculture land but also for human habitats water usage in houses, industries etc. Excess water from the rivers would seep into the mother earth in such a way that it would get mixed with the natural strains already existing there and the well would store fresh water. There were specially reserved cow grazing large fields (Gouchar lands). They belonged to the cattle! Nobody had right to sell them or occupy them for anything.
In a hurry to ‘develop’ the nation, western or whatever way, the first axe fell on the agricultural land and ancient effective systems. Millions of hectares of agricultural and Cow grazing lands came under industries, housing and other projects. Water sources were abruptly disturbed/cut due to deep foundation high rises, artificially changing rivers’ flow with big dams/power projects and constructions/digging in river beds. Natural water sources/strains in under the earth surface were curtailed due to uncontrolled ‘snatching’ of water for excessive usage needed for alarmingly high population.
Instead of the traditional crop taking/crop preservation systems, which had inbuilt ways to conserve the soil quality and use less water, there came the robust aggressive systems of BT and other seeds/ chemical fertilizers and pesticides in place of natural organic ones. The turns of crops that the farmers would plan earlier was never the same crop again and again like cotton or sugar cane. Alternating crops were taken to protect the minerals water absorption capacity in the soil. Natural organic fertilizers made of cow dung, cow urine, turmeric, Neem leaves, etc preserved the usefulness of the soil and saved water.
Apart from cow grazing large fields, farmers skillfully would cut the residue/stems/leaves of the used crops like Jawar/Wheat/Bajra, etc. dry them well and bunch them in such a way to store them for over a year as fodder. In the area where I come from it is called ‘Ganji’. I have myself done it as a poor farmer’s child and have seen many doing it. It ensured that the cattle will survive despite droughts at least for a year. Today, in the rat race of competing with the American treasury, Indian farmer even in the remotest village has no such crops, no time to think much for the year ahead and the skills to do such things are fast vanishing. In southern states, they still use banana, coconut leaves and barks for such things.
The basic pint is not the detail; but the focus on systematic planning for the better and also for the worse. Proactive planning only can save Bharat from not only drought or other natural calamities but also from many other dangers looming large on the nation. Rather than getting into any blame game of who, what, why, where etc, let us see how it could be proactively done at this stage and also for as a permanent relief so that the rush rush delayed useless relief work does not hamper the growth.
There has to be a specific ratio of the cultivated land vis-à-vis other land. In Bharat it has to be at least 70:30 (70 being cultivated) if not more considering Bharat’s population that needs food. Perhaps it also can ensure food security and exports growth helping farmer well-being.
Alternate crop taking systems depending on the structure of the soil has to be followed rather than the same money yielding crop each year which results into no yield after five years from the same land. Soil Research units should be set up for each district/tehsil to guide farmers and the alternating crop like pulses, vegetables in place of cotton or along with cotton/sugar cane/potato/soya bean, etc. must be made compulsory with the marketing support.
Union and all State Government must detect and protect all cow grazing lands and fields with a specific national law. Selling/ occupying, encroaching such lands should be made non-bailable offence with the minimum punishment of seven years in jail. Those who are directly or indirectly involved in buying and selling such lands should also come under this law. Local village administration with the local citizens’ committee should handle and supervise cow grazing lands and maintain special revenue records. Such lands already sold since 1947 (The British had continued the law of Cow Land Protection) until today for any purpose should be re-acquired/ vacated and given back to the villages, towns and cities.
Preservation and planning for the worse time like droughts/excess rains are the matter of skills now. Well-meaning socially aware citizens and governments together should plan the training programmes for the farmers to impart such skills of usage of the used crop for preserved fodder, recycling the crop waste for roofs/fertilizers/making/storing, using the natural organic fertilizers, pesticides, etc.
In a hurry to jump the bandwagon of short term extra income, farmers are forced to buy tractors, expensive water pumps, etc. The loans for the same should be interest free and long term without any collaterals. This will ease stress from the farmers and they can focus on agricultural improvements. This also will attract young generation to agriculture.
Sale/acquisition of agricultural land for any purpose should be strictly prohibited by the strictest law. Making agricultural land ‘N.A.’ for industries/residences has become a practice and it should be prohibited.
Foreign Direct Investment in food grains/vegetables/fruits and other agricultural produce should be a strict NO NO. The dream that FDI will come, malls will come and farmers will get better prices is a big humbug. If managed well the agricultural production, soil / water conservation and marketing in Bharat itself, the farmers will still get better prices.
Big dams, big power projects in place of alternative sources of energy, occupying river beds, cutting trees on mountain ranges/breaking mountain stones should be also prohibited to ensure ecological balance that will further ensure timely and naturally distributed rains. This will to much extent avoid the situation like drought in some places and floods in some.
There are many solutions on this complex situation. But in any situation, proactive positive planning helps. Bharat’s farmers need it on war footing. They want to LIVE!
(The writer can be contacted at [email protected])