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Doubling food Output- 500 MT by 2025 – not just desirable but feasible

I have been visiting farms and agriculture universities for four decades. My first such visit, to the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) in the 1960s, is still green in my mind. Set up on the pattern of the US land grant universities, then Chief Minister Pratap Kairon liberally endowed PAU with land and funding. Academics were encouraged to interact closely with farmers and work together on continuous improvements in farm techniques and productivity.

There were two vital triggers for the green revolution in the 1960s.

Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, who invited C Subramaniam to handle agriculture, provided the first. The severe drought of successive years 1965 and 1966 resulted in a steep fall in the output of foodgrains from 89.36 million tonnes to 74.23 million tonnes in just two years. CS arranged massive import of wheat, around 10 million tonnes, from the US  each year. Brilliant administrators like B Shivaraman, ICS, then Agriculture Secretary, managed this ship-to-mouth years with great efficiency.

 

Seeds of green revolution sowed

Subramaniam was impressed with the wheat revolution brought about by Dr. Norman Borlaug in Mexico. He arranged to import the wonder hybrid seeds. The dwarf variety helped in preventing stalling of the wheat grains due to heavy winds and saved precious crops raised through hard labour. He brought together scientists, administrators and built an extension network of government departments and universities to help farmers understand, adapt and assimilate the new technology.

Of course, there were doubts on the efficacy of the new technique. CS selected 1000 demonstration farms and supplied these with hybrid seeds. These included the one around his house in Lutyens’ Delhi, spread over an acre!

Unlike industry, agriculture has low gestation.

Remember, in later years, Ford Motors India made large investments. After a  long gestation of over ten years with massive sops from the government in the form of tax concessions, low priced land, etc., it turned profitable. In agriculture, with modest investments, a new idea can be experimented and established in a crop cycle of around four months to a year. Thus, the rabi wheat crop sowed in November in the demonstration plots witnessed a bounteous harvest. Many farmers reaped three tonnes per acre against the average of one tonne earlier!  It was exciting for sure.

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