Food inflation, increasing food production with existing and new technologies and ensuring equitable economic growth are the big challenges facing India, noted farm scientist MS Swaminathan said on Saturday.
"The food inflation is going up. Agricultural production can be increased even with the existing technologies. The government is planning to bring a Food Security Act but where is the food to meet the increased demand?" Swaminathan wondered while speaking to reporters after inaugurating the second Indian Youth Science Congress (IYSC).
The three-day event is being jointly organised by MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) and SRM University in Chennai.
"Agricultural production is expected to increase this year. Last year it went down due to the drought in several places in the country," he said.
Willam Dar, director general of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, said that crop yield can be increased by five tonne per hectare even in rain fed regions with proper farm education and farmer delivery mechanisms.
In his inaugural speech, Swaminathan called for the conduct of an employment impact analysis of all development programmes since jobless growth will turn out to be joyless growth, leading to frustration and violence.
"Economic growth which is not based on equity will lead only to short term gains," he said.
According to him, equity has three dimensions - inequity at birth (foetal undernutrition that would retard the brain later), intra-generatinal inequity (poverty, hunger, illiteracy) and inter-generational (affecting the babies yet to be born from climate change, environmental changes and others).
Environmental sustainability is fundamental to lasting progress in every field of human endeavour, he stressed.
"2010 is also the International Year of Biodiversity and every species on our planet has become important since novel genetic combinations can be produced through recombinant DNA technology. We must build gene banks," he said.
In his speech, T.R.Pachamuthu, chancellor of SRM University said children should be encouraged to ask questions, which in turn, would enable them to come out with cutting edge research during their university days.
"In India, scientific research activity is reserved only for graduates and above. Overseas universities come out with innovations for various activities and we continue to copy them without coming out with our own inventions or innovations," he said.
Meanwhile, IYSC 2010 vice president Ajay Parida said the annual event will be held in other centres from next year onwards with the experience gained by holding the first two IYSCs in Chennai.