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'Rural India crying for investment'

MS Swaminathan, Rajya Sabha MP and 'Father of the green revolution in India', is all for foreign direct investment (FDI), provided it ensures the farmer's prosperity.

punjab Updated: Nov 06, 2012 23:29 IST
Divya Goyal

MS Swaminathan, Rajya Sabha MP and 'Father of the green revolution in India', is all for foreign direct investment (FDI), provided it ensures the farmer's prosperity.

Swaminathan (87), who was the guest of honour at the 5th National Horticultural Congress on 'Horticulture for food and environment security' at Punjab Agricultural University here on Tuesday, told HT, "Rural India is crying for investment. It hardly matters whether it comes from a foreign or domestic source. The investment has to be pro-farmer."

He said FDI would be no bolt from the blue. "Already, we have so many foreign ventures here. Whosoever makes the investment should do it for the farmer's benefit, not for opening liquor shops. There has to be a code of conduct ensuring no exploitation of farmers."

He said rural India's need for investment was clear from the way paddy was lying exposed to the elements. "There are no storage facilities; it hurts me to see the hard-working farmer's produce in a pathetic condition," he said.

On the major problems of Punjab's farmers, he said the economics of farming and shrinking of farms were the key factors due to which "agriculture is no more an attraction for the Punjab youth as it is failing to let farmers maintain their standard of living."

"The input costs are rising but not the minimum support price. In this situation, how can we expect farmers to continue with agriculture? Farmers should be given the complete cost of production while buying their produce because it is their right. The government needs to realise that we cannot always buy food. The future belongs to the country with grains, not guns," said Swaminathan.

He said the onus of farming in Punjab was now on women and youth, adding that 2014 had been declared the 'Year of Family Farming' by the United Nations.

Expressing concern over satellite images released by NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), showing widespread stubble burning in Punjab, he said, "It is extremely disappointing that after even after so many years, farmers have been given no solid alternative to stubble burning. If given a viable alternative, they will shun this practice. PAU and self-help groups can help in this matter."

"Stubble burning is spoiling the soil health immensely," he added, stressing on agri-business centres for the production of ethanol from paddy straw in Punjab.

Horticulture can play a vital role in terms of overcoming chronic hunger, malnutrition and enhancing farmers' income, he said.

"I came to PAU for the first time in 1963, when the new varieties of wheat seeds were produced. Now, whenever I come here, I feel ecstasy as well as agony. Ecstasy at seeing the farmer's hard work, and agony at seeing how his produce is handled. Punjab's produce management presents a sorry picture. We need a strong post-harvesting processing system," he said.

About the 'second green revolution', Swaminathan said, "I prefer the term 'evergreen revolution', which is possible if Punjab focuses on farm economics and farm ecology. Improving yield per hectare without ecological harm is the challenge, and that is what I call 'evergreen revolution'."