The report on the ‘State of Indian Agriculture’ presented to Parliament on Tuesday is significant in more than one ways. First, this is for the first time that the report has been presented to the Parliament, implying that it is for the first time that such a report has been brought out. Second, and more importantly, the report has laid emphasis on enhancing public sector investment in research and effective transfer of technology along with institutional reforms in research set up to make it more accountable and geared towards delivery, conservation of land, water and biological resources, development of rainfed agriculture, development of minor irrigation, timely and adequate availability of inputs, support for marketing infrastructure, and, increasing flow of credit particularly to the small and marginal farmers.
This agenda immediately brings to the mind the relevance and utility of Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) especially in the context of Uttarakhand. However, in the hill state, these KVKs are known to comprise a great variety of superfluous infrastructure and facilities that exist on the alleged premise of providing growth and uplift to agriculture and the farming community. It is common knowledge that programmes that have been undertaken by these Kendras, especially the ones that are strategically located in the hill regions, have failed to produce concrete results. The average farmer too is now highly disillusioned by the state of affairs surrounding these KVKs and sees them as ‘white elephants’. On the productivity and utility of these Kendras, it is often said that these are not being used for farmers’ welfare, but for the ‘rehabilitation’ of agriculture scientists.
Originally, these KVKs were established in all the districts with the aim and objective of setting right the deteriorating health of farming in rain–fed mountainous regions. Initially, there were just two KVKs in the Terai region. After the formation of Uttarakhand, these were constituted in all the districts. This was done to ameliorate the condition of farmers by pulling them out of the deteriorating farming conditions in mountainous regions and curb out–migration. In fact, KVKs were to assist the farmers in the mountainous regions to resolve issues such as their dependency on rainfall and the damage caused to their crops by wildlife. Therefore, scientists associated with horticulture, livestock farming, fisheries and engineering, etc., were posted to the KVKs. Looking at the vast array of infrastructure, facilities and skilled scientific workforce, the farmers too harboured notions of their own welfare and prosperity.
However, it can only be stated with an element of regret that even after a passage of ten years since the creation of the state, none of the KVKs have proved successful in operationalising these programmes. It is as a result of this lackadaisical attitude that the farmers are now abandoning farming activities and are resorting to out–migration, consequently resulting in increase in the area of barren farmlands in the State.
Among other things, the above report has also laid emphasis on ‘effective transfer of technology along with institutional reforms in research set up to make it more accountable and geared towards delivery’. In the light of this, the State Government should initiate measures to activate the KVKs and entrust them with implementation of the various agricultural reforms.