Four decades ago, Indira Gandhi had set up the country's first Agricultural University at Pantnagar - now in Uttaranchal - that paved the way for a green revolution and made the country self-sufficient in foodgrains.
With that advantage now lost, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Saturday urged the seventh conclave of 14 Congress chief ministers here at Uttaranchal's Lake District of Nainital, to replicate Indira's experiment by unleashing a second agricultural revolution.
There were also enough indications about a new agricultural policy for the country based on the four reports submitted by Dr MS Swaminathan who heads the National Commission on Farmers.
Faced with the twin challenges of agrarian distress and the threat to internal security from terrorism, Naxal violence and communal disturbance, the two leaders set the tone for the discussion, which is expected to give inputs for creating a safer environment and helping agriculture "scale new frontiers," in Sonia's words. She also underlined that agriculture must be the focus of the Eleventh Five Year Plan.
Both Singh and Sonia underlined the gravity of the situation marked by farmers' suicides, shrinkage of agricultural land, decline in productivity and low agricultural growth, which have hurt the common man, the centrepiece of the United Progressive Alliance's Common Minimum Programme. There was no direct mention of the Aam Aadmi in Sonia's 30-minute speech.
But she showed her concern for them by emphasising the need to strengthen the public distribution system and ensure supply of coarse grains. In her opening remarks, the Congress chief also raised the controversial issue of setting up special economic zones, without using the term.
"Prime agricultural land should not normally be diverted to non-agricultural uses. Industry requires land. But this must be done without jeopardizing our agricultural prospects," she said, setting the parameters for any future projects of this kind.