As his watchful eyes scanned the ripening green-to-golden crop before him, a gentle smile passed his lips as he wondered why the farmers, many of whom had even fallen into the debt trap, could not get assured prices for other crops in the same manner as they get for "this beautiful crop".
Stepping on to a stage, he said, "I enjoy coming to Punjab in April as it gives me the chance to see this beautiful crop in full bloom. It also gives me an opportunity to see the happy-looking farmers who know they will get the price fixed by the government for this crop."
He then turned to the peasantry seated before him. showered praises on them and reminded them that 2013 was the golden jubilee year of the green revolution. The "beautiful crop" that he referred to was wheat, which is all set to be harvested.
This was Dr MS Swaminathan, one of the architects of the green revolution, which turned India into a foodgrain-surplus nation. The occasion was a kisan mela organised on Wednesday by the state agriculture department at Firvaria village in Ajnala sub-division in the memory of Dr MS Randhawa who, along with Swaminathan and Prof Norman Borlaug, had brought about this revolution.
The reminder of the golden jubilee year took everyone by surprise, including Dr GS Kalkat, chairman of the Punjab Farmers Commission, who himself had been associated with the green revolution. Neither state agriculture director Dr MS Sandhu and his officers nor the three top scientists of the Indian Agriculture Research Institute (IARI) present seemed to be aware of it.
Going down memory lane to the year 1963 when the seeds of the green revolution were sown, Swaminathan said, "We no longer have to go around with a begging bowl or wait for a ship filled with foodgrains to dock at our ports. I often refer to the green revolution as the yield revolution as the production of wheat and paddy increased manifold."
Problems afflicting agriculture
Swaminathan however cautioned the farmers that this was not the time to celebrate as with the increase in yields, the problems too had multiplied. He cited the storage problem in Punjab, falling groundwater table, blatant use of chemicals and burning of paddy or wheat stubble.
"Agriculture is facing demographic, ecological and economic problems and the government must pay attention to all these problem areas which are interlinked. A system for marketing farm produce must be set in place," he said.
Swaminathan said that to check the falling groundwater table and prevent overdose of chemicals, the Punjab and Haryana governments would have to reduce the area under paddy. A viable alternative in the two states is basmati as it consumes less water, he said.
Swaminathan said that to encourage diversification, the government would have to ensure assured prices to farmers for crops like oilseeds, sugarcane, maize, bajra, soyabean and pulses. "Farmers stick to the wheat-paddy cycle due to the minimum support price in place for these crops," he pointed out.
"We in the National Farmers Commission have identified 25 crops for the government, for which assured prices should be announced ahead of the sowing season. While the government has agreed with us to continue with the MSP for wheat and paddy, it must give a thought to the other crops to improve the economic condition of farmers and check environmental degradation," he added.
Swaminathan said agriculture could only be made economically viable if more crops were brought under the assured price regime. He also elaborated on his suggestion of linking MSP with the prevailing price index for wheat and paddy.
'Organic farming will usher in evergreen revolution'
Laying stress on educating farmers in the right use of fertilisers and chemicals, Swaminathan said the wave of organic farming would usher in the "evergreen revolution" in the country. He said environment issues confronting agriculture were serious but adopting organic farming and controlling the use of fertilisers was the answer to it.
Speaking at Khalsa College, Amritsar (KCA), he said the focus should not merely be on agricultural growth, but the economic well-being of farmers should also be kept in mind. He appealed to the younger generation to adopt agriculture as a vocation. "The country needs young farmers, both men and women. They are more open to adopting modern methods of farming," he added.