Prime Minister's Office16-July, 2011 12:16 IST
PM’s Address at 83rd Foundation Day of ICAR

The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, addressed the 83rd Foundation Day of ICAR in New Delhi today. Following is the text of the Prime Minister’s address on the occasion.

My greetings to the Indian Council of Agricultural Research family on the occasion of the Council's 83rd Foundation Day. It is indeed a pride and a great sense of joy for me to be with you here today.

The ICAR has served our country with great distinction for over eight decades now. It has done pioneering work in many areas of agricultural research, leading to very significant breakthroughs in several areas. The contribution of ICAR scientists in the achievement of national self-sufficiency in foodgrains and diversity in food production is truly enormous.

As you all know, the production of major crops has been at record levels in the year that has just been over. An estimated production of 236 million tonnes, or 241 million tonnes, which was given out by the honourable agricultural ministers, was achieved because of record production of wheat, maize and pulses. Oilseeds production also set a new record. I salute all our farmers and our agricultural scientists for these sterling achievements. I also compliment the State governments, particularly the Chief Ministers and State Agricultural Ministers, for their valiant efforts in increasing agricultural productivity and production.

Nevertheless, the challenges that India's agriculture faces in the coming years remain enormous. Though we have achieved self sufficiency in cereal production, we continue to depend on imports for pulses and edible oils. We continue to face the problem of under-nutrition, particularly among our children and women. Ensuring food and nutritional security and eliminating hunger, including hidden hunger, remain a high national priority.

The inclusive strategies of development that we are pursuing should further increase the incomes of the poorer sections of our society. This will further increase demand for not only foodgrains but also fruits, vegetables and animal products. The total demand for foodgrains is projected to touch 280 million tonnes by the year 2020-21. Meeting this demand will necessitate a growth rate of nearly 2 per cent per annum in food production. The enormity of the task ahead is indicated by the fact that during the 10 year period 1997-98 to 2006-07, our foodgrain production grew at an average annual rate of only 1.00 per cent. Although foodgrain production has since regained the requisite momentum and the agriculture sector as a whole is set to grow at 3% per annum during the Eleventh Plan, we cannot be complacent. We must note that this is less than the targeted 4% and a consequence in recent years has been unacceptable levels of food price inflation. I expect the Twelfth Plan to contain all measures that are required to accelerate our agricultural growth rate.

We all look back proudly to our green revolution, which helped us overcome food shortages and banish the specter of starvation, or living from ship to mouth. But, today we find that the regions of the country which witnessed the green revolution are suffering from problems of environmental degradation. In many other regions of the country, particularly in eastern India, yields continue to be much lower than what is attainable. More generally, it should concern us that productivity in Indian agriculture has plateaued over the years.

We clearly need a second green revolution that is more broad-based, more inclusive and more sustainable; we need to produce more without depleting our natural resources any further, and we look towards our agricultural scientists for ushering this green revolution. India currently spends about 0.6 per cent of its agricultural GDP on agricultural Research and Development. This needs to be enhanced at least 2 to 3 times by 2020, since a substantial portion of our agricultural growth would come through the application of new technologies and new knowledge to production processes. But spending more on research is not enough unless this improves the quality of human resources in all areas of agriculture.

Today there are more than 50 State Agriculture Universities and institutions and one Central Agricultural University imparting higher agricultural education. All these institutions need to provide the best of academic inputs along with hands-on training to the students. I am very happy that the ICAR has been alive to these evolving needs and has recently revised syllabi to improve the quality of agricultural education. But much more has to be done. I urge the ICAR and our State governments to ensure that our Agricultural Universities produce enough new scientists with the requisite skills. I also suggest that we re-examine the architecture of agricultural extension services so that our scientists, our administrators and the private entrepreneurs can together better help farmers to bridge the gap between yields that are possible and those which are actually achieved. I continue to hear that our agricultural services are not upto the mark in many of our states. I suggest further that the Krishi Vigyan Kendras which cover all the districts of our country, have a very important role to play a very important role in encouraging, what Jawaharlal Nehru used to call the growth of scientific temper for the management of India’s agricultural economy. I urge you all to pay particular attention to this aspect of managing India’s agricultural economy.

Rainfed agriculture continues to play a very important role in our economy, contributing about 60 per cent of the cropped area and 45 per cent of the total agricultural produce. Rainfed areas contribute more than 80% of the pulses and oilseeds grown as well as a substantial part of horticulture and animal husbandry produce. The second Green Revolution, that I have been talking about must therefore explicitly embrace dryland farming. Though many new technologies have been developed for our rainfed regions, yield gaps continue to be very large and not enough is being done to identify the most suitable farming systems and to ensure that they are effectively integrated with our watershed development projects. Our scientists must therefore work intensively to accurately assess the felt needs of our country, and develop new methods, new technologies and new knowledge for better soil and water management practices, improved cropping systems and better crop management.

The area that needs most attention is the management of water, which is going to be probably the most scarce factor in the twenty-first century. Our irrigation efficiency is estimated to be around 30% which needs to be raised to at least 50%. This could contribute considerably to increase in agricultural production. Resource conservation technologies that improve input use efficiency, and conserve and protect our natural resources need to be aggressively promoted. We must also recognize the risks of an excessive reliance on hydrocarbon inputs in increasing agricultural production and we should explore more systematically, organic alternatives like algae, for example.

Climate change has emerged as a major challenge to our agriculture, indeed to the management of our economy as a whole. The immediate problems that our farmers face relate to intra-seasonal variability of rainfall, extreme events and unseasonal rains. These aberrations cause heavy losses to our crops every year. There is therefore an urgent necessity for us to speed up our efforts to evolve climate-resilient crop varieties, cropping patterns and management practices. I am very happy that the ICAR is implementing a major scheme, the National Initiative on Climate Resilient Agriculture and has set up the state-of-the-art National Institute on Abiotic Stress Management. The National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture, which is one of the eight Missions under our National Action Plan on Climate Change also seeks to devise appropriate adaptation and mitigation strategies for ensuring food security, enhancing livelihood opportunities and contributing to economic stability at the national level.

I would like to touch upon two other areas that we need to focus on for accelerating our agricultural performance. The first is the protection of crops, animals and farm produce against new and emerging diseases and pathogens. The second is careful application of biotechnology to improve productivity, enable better resilience to stress and also enhance the incomes of our farmers. I hope our agricultural Research and Development institutions will pay the required attention to these areas in the coming years.

Our government, in the last seven years has taken several new initiatives in the agricultural sector. I congratulate my friend and colleague Shri Sharad Pawar for many of these initiatives. Many of these initiatives have shown encouraging results. But we need to build upon this achievement in the Twelfth Five-Year Plan. The Twelfth Plan must ensure further progress in areas of achievement and also remove the deficiencies in areas where our achievements have fallen short of expectations or objective potential of our economy. I urge all our scientists, and technologists, and extension experts to share their experiences and personal assessments of these new initiatives with the Planning Commission and the Ministry of Agriculture so that the Twelfth Five-Year Plan can tackle the many new challenges that have emerged in the last few years. I urge you to introspect on how your own research can contribute to the achievement of higher goals for these initiatives.

As the country's apex organization for coordinating, guiding and managing research and education in agriculture including horticulture, fisheries and animal sciences, the ICAR carries an enormous responsibility on its shoulders. Unfortunately there is an impression among many that the National Agricultural Research System has become somewhat insular over time and responds less well to specific demands from those in the field. You must never lose sight of the fact that your main client is the Indian farmer. Unless you engage with farmers and their problems, you will not succeed in transforming new knowledge into higher productivity and better incomes for our farmers. You must get your research questions primarily from the farmers. This is perhaps the most difficult of the challenges that you must overcome in the years ahead and which can test your commitment and ability.

I am sure the ICAR is already putting in place robust mechanisms to strengthen interaction between agricultural scientists and our farmers and also to ensure better convergence between research and development needs. I hope that you will use this occasion of the foundation day to reflect on your work and on your achievements. Such reflection, I am sure would spur you to look far and wide, look at the best research organizations in the country and abroad and adopt new, and more democratic systems and processes for organizing research free from the usual bureaucratic hierarchies and excessive rigidities.

You have a record to be proud of and although the future challenges are truly enormous, I am sure our agricultural research system will succeed in delivering the national good, whatever be the odds. With these words, I wish the ICAR family, all success in its efforts. May God bless your path.”


(Release ID :73296)