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Senior scribe Deulgaonkar bares all in black and white on agriculture, Swaminathan commission

Senior journalist, author of seven books and joint secretary of the Forum of Environmental Journalists in India (FEJI) Atul Deulgaonkar was in Pune for the launch of the third edition of his book ‘Swaminathan- Bhukmukti cha Dhyas’. The book was launched by Dr MS Swaminathan, the pioneer of Green revolution in India. Shrinivas Deshpande discussed with Atul Deulgaonkar, the changing scenario in agriculture in the era of climate change.

pune Updated: Sep 11, 2017 17:02 IST
Shrinivas Deshpande
Shrinivas Deshpande
Hindustan Times, Pune
senior journalist,scribe,agriculture
Atul Deulgaonkar.(HT PHOTO)

What can the reader expect in the third edition of your book ‘Swaminathan- Bhukmukti cha Dhyas’?

The first edition of this book was published in 2000 and the second edition in 2012. While working as a journalist, I attended many seminars on agricultural problems but in 1997 a special issue by ‘Frontline’ and ‘The Hindu’ gave immense coverage to agricultural problems and in this issue, Dr Swaminathan had predicted that the future of agriculture is very difficult. I accelerated my study in this field. Kumar Ketkar suggested me the idea of writing a book. He asked me to write in detail about agriculture. With help of Sadhana publication, this dream has come true.

Is this somewhat a biography of Dr MS Swaminathan?

No, it is not a biography. In this book, the history of Indian agriculture has been elaborated upon. Before the Green revolution, during the Green revolution and after it, the entire scenario of agriculture has been written about in detail. I have mentioned many things in the book about which people generally do not know.

What is new in the third edition?

I have added three new topics, which are very interesting. First is ‘farmer’s commission report’ and the second is ‘farmer’s situation in India’ while the third is ‘contribution of Dr MS Swaminathan’. In this book, I have elaborated step by step what are the reasons behind the farmer’s situation in India. Maharashtra has the highest number of farmer suicides in the last 10 months among 12 states. But there is no debate in the Assembly, hence I decided to publish a new edition of the book with an extensive discussion on Dr MS Swaminathan commission report.

What do you think is the reason behind the poor situation of farmers in India?

Firstly, the farmers are committing suicide because they are not getting enough value for their farm produce. Secondly, farmers are struggling to increase their farm produce and third is the adverse climate for which the government does not have any plan.

Why do you think that the government is not ready to implement the suggestions by the Swaminathan commission?

According me, there are three major suggestions given by the commission which will never be accepted by the government because of their interest. First, the commission recommended that the secretary of the agriculture minister should be replaced by an agricultural scientist instead of an IAS officer. Second, there should be appointment of experienced farmers on the committee taking decisions for farmers. Experienced farmers always know better than policy makers. Third, strengthen the public agricultural research station. Government will not consider these three recommendations as they want to privatise the agricultural industry.

Do you think the farm loan waiver is beneficial for farmers?

This will only give temporary relief to farmers but what about long term planning? The government is silent on this front. Our food import bill has increased from ₹56,000 crore to ₹1,40,000 crore. All western countries will become self sufficient soon but when will India do the same.

What do you suggest to improve the farmer’s situation?

Firstly, we have to minimise production cost and we can do by using ‘group farming’ which has become popular in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. To increase production, farmers have to use their local varieties. Government has to give inflation allowance to farmers because increasing fuel cost cannot compare with market price of farm produce.

Do you think the farmers are ready for the changing climatic conditions?

A few days ago, I visited foreign countries for a seminar on changing climatic condition. All the western countries are ready for it with a climate action plan with proper design but unfortunately our government does not have any such plan. Climate adaptation is a trending subject in the western world but we hardly know about it. For climate adaptation, these countries are using their local knowledge. Bangladesh is using ‘Scuba rice’ which is a flood-tolerating rice species, then, why we are not developing jowar (Sorghum) species which can tolerate drought? In this changing climate scenario only those can survive who value local species.

First Published: Sep 11, 2017 17:00 IST