Agriculture is the mainstay of India’s economy. Indian farmers have made India food sufficient. This is the reason that 80 crore Indians are being provided free rations till November 2020 under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana. Prime Minister Narendra Modi reviewed the progress of agriculture research, extension and education in India through videoconference.
Dr. Trilochan Mohapatra, Director General, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) cum- Secretary, Department of Agricultural Research & Extension presented the priorities, performance and preparedness to face various challenges. Since 2014, based on the research at various centres of ICAR, new varieties of field crops (1434), Horticulture crops (462) and Climate resilient varieties (1121) have been developed. Molecular breeding techniques have been used to develop varieties which are tolerant to multiple stress. HD 3226 of wheat and Tomato are resistant to seven diseases and four diseases respectively.
To meet the requirement for commercial processing verities with processing traits like ArkVises, ArkAlesha and ArkYoji have been developed. Prime Minister appreciated the efforts towards developing varieties focusing on specific requirements of agro-climatic zones and exhorted the need for developing forward and backward linkages to assure better returns to farmers.
Karan-4, a sugarcane variety has enhanced sugar recovery and has replaced traditionally grown varieties in Uttar Pradesh. Mr. Modi highlighted that avenues for enhancing bio-ethanol from sugarcane and other crops needs to be explored.
In an effort to bolster ‘Kuposh Mukt Bharat’ (Malnutrition free India) 70 bio-fortified varieties with enhanced Iron, Zinc and Protein content have been developed. Poshan Thali and Nutria-gardens are being promoted through Krishi Vigyan Kendras. Pilot projects were conducted in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh involving 76 Krishi Vigyan Kendras and 450 model farms. Anganwadi Workers and women from rural areas are being trained in raising nutria-gardens to ensure balanced diet. Poshan Thali comprises of rice, local dal, seasonal fruit, leafy green vegetable, tubers, other vegetables, milk and other components like sugar, jiggery and oils. 100 Nutri Smart villages are to be created by 2022.
Prime Minister highlighted the need to adopt organic and natural farming practices on a cluster based approach. ICAR has developed geo-referenced Organic Carbon Map of India, identified 88 bio control agents and 22 Bio pesticides which can promote organic agriculture.
The Prime Minister directed that start-ups and agri-enterprises need to be promoted to ensure innovation and use of technology in Agriculture and allied sectors. He highlighted the need to leverage information technology to provide information on demand to the farmers.
He directed that ‘Hackathons’ may be organized twice a year to solve identified problems and meet design needs for tools and equipment that can reduce drudgery if farming activity, given that a large number of farm workers are women.
In order to enhance water use efficiency, Mr. Modi desired that awareness and outreach programs be conducted.
Prime Minister exhorted that traditional knowledge of Indian communities should be coupled with technology and skill sets of youth and Agriculture graduates to translate the full potential of Indian Agriculture in transforming rural areas.
The Prime Minister, also launched the ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ Innovation Challenge, to identify the best Indian Apps that are already being used by citizens and have the potential to scale-up and become world class Apps in their respective categories “I urge all my friends in the tech community to participate”, the Prime Minister said.
Prime Minister mentioned about the vibrant tech and start up eco-system in India and how the youngsters have excelled in providing tech solutions across sectors. He said that there is a lot of enthusiasm among the start-up and tech ecosystem to innovate, develop and promote home-grown apps, adding that while the nation is working towards creating an Aatmanirbhar Bharat, it is a good opportunity to give direction and momentum to evolve apps which can satisfy our market as well as compete with the world.
Script: Padam Singh, AIR: News Analyst