HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY
As India enters into 76th year of its independence today; it has many firsts to its credit to celebrate and cherish. From once being a colony of the British Empire to the world’s largest democracy, the journey of its development and rise is unconventional and unparallel. Ending an almost 200 years old long British rule, the country got independence on this day. The independence did not come easily and quietly. It came after a long and hard struggle and tens of thousands of sacrifices. At last, the Britishers were forced to introduce the India’s Independence Bill in the British House of Commons on July 04, 1947 and the Bill was passed within a fortnight ultimately paving the way for India to be an independent country.
Last year when the country had entered 75th year of its independence, the Government of India under the dynamic leadership of its Primeminister Sh. Narendra Damodardass Modi decided to celebrate that year as ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’. The ‘Amrit Mahatsov’ was an initiative of the Government of India to celebrate and commemorate 75 years of progressive India and the glorious history of its people, their diverse culture and the achievements it made in diverse fields. It is dedicated to the people of India who have not only been instrumental in bringing India thus far in its evolutionary journey, but also hold within them the power and potential to enable Prime Minister Modi’s vision of activating India 2.0, fuelled by the spirit of Atmanirbhar Bharat. Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav is an embodiment of all that is progressive about India’s socio-cultural, political and economic identity. The official journey of ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahatsov’ commenced on 12th March, 2021 which started a 75 week countdown to our 75th anniversary of Independence and will end on 15th August, 2023.
Starting the Amrit Mahatsov, the Prime Minister of the country Sh. Narendra Modi flagged off the ‘Padyatra’ (Freedom March) from Sabarmati Ashram, Ahmadabad and inaugurated the curtain raiser activities of the ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ (India@75). Addressing the gathering at Sabarmati Ashram, the Prime Minister noted the launch of the ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ 75 weeks before 15 August 2020 which will continue till 15 August, 2023. The Prime Minister reiterated five pillars i.e. Freedom Struggle, Ideas at 75, Achievements at 75, Actions at 75 and Resolves at 75 as guiding force for moving forward keeping dreams and duties as inspiration. Hon’ble Prime Minister asserted that Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav means elixir of energy of independence. It means elixir of inspirations of the warriors of freedom struggle; elixir of new ideas and pledges and nectar of Atmanirbharta i. e self reliance.
Today in every sector; be it the health, be it the defence, be it the service, be it the manufacturing, be it education or any other; there is no sector where the country has not proved its metal. We have a robust health and education infrastructure penetrating deep down to the village level and in the defence sector we have conquered air, water and land. Similarly, the service and the manufacturing sector have today become one of the largest contributors to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) besides being a source of employment generation. Today the whole world looks at us whenever some natural calamity or human crisis occurs or when the survival of humanity is at stake. The latest example is the Corona Pandemic. As the entire humanity was devastated by the deadly virus, the country took this challenge as an opportunity and came out with COVID vaccine. India not only was successful in controlling the spread of virus in the country, but millions of doses were sent to foreign countries as a result of which the COVID was brought under control ultimately saving billions of precious human lives.
Agriculture in the country is a core sector, a primary sector which has made a remarkable progress in the post independence era. The country which once was dubbed as a ‘begging bowl’ is now the ‘bread basket’; not only feeding its own population but also exporting many food commodities for the global populace. Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) as an apex body coordinating, guiding and managing research, extension and education in agriculture including horticulture, fisheries and animal sciences in the entire country with more than hundred ICAR institutes, more than 70 agricultural universities and more than 730 Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) spread across the length and breadth of the country is one of the largest national agricultural systems in the world. The ICAR has played a pioneering role in ushering green revolution and subsequent developments in agriculture in India through its research and technology development. This has enabled the country to increase the production of food grains by 5.6 times, horticultural crops by 10.5 times, fish by 16.8 times, milk by 10.4 times and eggs by 52.9 times since 1950-51 to 2017-18, thus making a visible impact on the national food and nutritional security.
As a result of the technological interventions of ICAR and its institutes the food grains production in the country has increased by more than six times from 50 MT in 1950s to more than 300MT at present. The horticulture production in the country has exceeded food grains production in the country. The country has the largest area under cultivation. It is the largest producer of pulses, spices, milk, tea, cashew, jute, banana, jackfruit and many other commodities (FAO). It stands second in production of fruits and vegetables, wheat, rice, cotton and oilseeds. As per official figures for the year 2021-22, total food grain production in the country has crossed the 300 million tonnes mark. India is the second largest grower of rice over the world. India has the largest cotton cultivation area all over the world after China and the USA and it is the prime agriculture commodity or fiber crop worldwide. India is the third highest potato producing country. India is also the second largest producer of Pulses in the world. In 2013, India contributed 25 per cent of the total pulses production of the world, the highest for any country. The country also has the largest livestock population. The 535.8 million livestock in the country constitute 31 per cent of the world’s livestock population and the milk production in the country accounts for 22 per cent of the global produce. With 520-million-workers, the Indian labour force is the world's second-largest as of 2019. As the ICAR institutes are also celebrating ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ through various events and campaign in thematic areas of Indian agriculture, it is high time we focus on our way forward.
Unfortunately, despite remarkable achievements in the agriculture sector, the agriculture sector in the country is confronted with many challenges like climate change, hidden hunger, nutritional security and a chemical intensive agriculture. The negative impact and threat posed to our environment by large scale indiscriminate use of synthetic fertilizers and plant protection chemicals to increase the yields are now clearly visible. The ground water has been rendered poisonous and contaminated with harmful chemicals. Such is the infestation that vast stretches of land extending up to kilometers is now not fit for any drinking water. Soils have been degraded, turned barren and a large number of biodiversity has been lost. The biodiversity loss, toxicity of air, degradation of soil, desertification, climate change and many other challenges that today the agriculture sector today is confronted with can be attributed to the indiscriminate use of chemicals and our unsustainable practices used in agriculture. We have now to move towards an evergreen revolution based on the principles of sustainability, local resource use efficiency, economic viability, social compatibility and profitability.
Hon’ble Prime Minister of the country in 2016 also gave a clarion call of ‘Doubling the Farmers Income’ by 2022. For this the Government of India also started many pro-farmers programmes and farming techniques. These include Primeminister Kisan Samman Nidhi (PMKISAN), Primeminister Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY), Soil Health Card (SHC), Primeminister Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) and Prime Minister Kisan Mandhan Yojana. To attract and retain Youth in agriculture, Entrepreneurship development schemes like Agri-Startups are being promoted with handholding and financial support to the youth who are interested in setting up agriculture or allied ventures. Government is now promoting organic and Natural Farming techniques. The all around efforts of the government started paying dividends. This was evident from the figures presented recently by Hon’ble Union Minister for Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, Government of India Sh. Narendra Singh Tomar recently on the occasion of 94th ICAR day. While addressing the audience, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar told that incomes of lakhs of farmers have been doubled in the last eight years. Hon’ble minister also released an e-book prepared by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), documenting the success stories of 75,000 such farmers whose incomes have doubled or more than doubled in the last eight years.
Even in the COVID pandemic when everything had to be put on halt and every sector showed a negative growth rate; it was only agriculture sector which maintained a positive growth rate. Considering the achievements of the country in agriculture sector; it would be amply justified to say that it is also a ‘Krishi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ which celebrates the role played by the farming community and the agriculture sector in our GDP, in ensuring food and nutritional security, in employment generation and in secondary and tertiary sectors. This ‘Mahotsav’ recognizes the need to do agriculture in a sustained manner, in a way that maintains harmonious relationship with nature, that do not harms its rich biodiversity, that do not degrades its natural resources, that is based on the spirit of ‘Antyodaya’ and that makes the planet a much better place to flourish and prosper.
(Dr. Parveen Kumar is a faculty at SKUAST-K; can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Box: Agriculture in the country is a core sector, a primary sector which has made a remarkable progress in the post independence era. The country which once was dubbed as a ‘begging bowl’ is now the ‘bread basket’; not only feeding its own population but also exporting many food commodities for the global populace