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Should All Farm Universities be Closed?

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Though politically motivated, it was a nice gesture on the part of the Chief Minister of A.P, Chandrababu Naidu, to sanction the renovation and inaugurate the reconstructed Siddapuram irrigation tank near Atmakur in Kurnool Dist., on 7th January, 2018. Old timers recall with nostalgic memories the ‘Dilli Bhogalu’ paddy crop grown under the Nandyal and Atmakur Tanks in Kurnool Dist, constructed during the Vijayanagara Rule. Now extinct, Dilli Bhogalu variety was one of the best in India. That was a ten months’ crop and yielding only about 15 bags per acre.

With the revolutionary evolution of the Sona Masuri (also known as, Sona Masoori, Samba Masuri, BPT 5204, HMT, or Jeela karra masuri) a medium-grain rice grown largely in the Indian states of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, the five months’ crop, paddy yield has increased to 35 to 40 bags per acre. It is lightweight and aromatic. Farmers of the country are grateful to Late Prof.M.Venkateswara Reddy of the A.P., N.G. Ranga Agricultural University. (APNGRAU), Rajendranagar. His experiment in 1983-84 failed at Bapatla. Operating from Hyderabad, he succeeded in his attempt in 1985 at the Century Old Regional Agricultural Research Station, (RARS) Nandyal, (A unit of the APNGRAU). Another notable contribution of the RARS is the evolution of NARASIMHA COTTON SEED by Dr.Kadarabad Ravindranath in 1994. Both the researches owe their results to the Tungabhadra waters through Nandyal Tank and the APNGRAU. Cotton yield increased by five fold and rice and cotton earn huge foreign exchange.

Thousands of such experiments are carried out in almost every agricultural, horticultural, flowericultural and vegetable productions by 67 Universities of respective disciplines in post Independent India. e.g. APNGRAU , Guntur; Dr.Y.S.R. Horticultural University, Tadepalligudem and Sri Venkateswara Veterinary University, Tiruapti. The role of these universities in Green Revolution in India and attaining self sufficiency in food productions is widely acknowledged. They work in tandem with the Govts. Their opinions are sought on the methods of cultivation, usage of fertilizers, consumption of water, etc. Water utility is reduced, expenses minimised and the yields increased, Three personalities who played a prominent role in this dramatic achievement are Acharya N.G.Ranga, nicknamed, Rythu Bhandhavudu, by the Mahatma, Union Agricultural Minister, C.Subrahmanyam and Father of Green Revolution and Prof.M.S.Swaminathan. Dr.Norman E. Borlaug, writes: The vision and influence of Mr. Subramaniam in bringing about agricultural change and in the very necessary political decisions needed to make the new approach effective, should never be under-emphasized. The groundwork for this advance (in the production of wheat) was solidly laid during that period (1964–67) when Mr. Subramaniam was the guiding political force instituting change. Farmers of Coastal Andhra migrated to the God forsaken areas, throughout the country, from Bakra Nngal in Punjab to Mazampuza in Kerala, for cultivation and converted lakhs of hectares of fallow lands into fertile soils. ‘The products of organic manures are better for health’, may be partially true. When the production increases, quality is bound to suffer. Telugu proverb, when the number of consumers increases, the butter milk becomes watery. (మంది ఎక్కువ అయినప్పుడు మజ్జిగ పలచన అవుతుంది). Very important to be noted here is in the days of yore, only the elite and the wealthy consumed the nutritious food. Even the producers of the middle class and the farm labourers, were denied the luxury. Now the fine rice, through whichever means it may be is the staple food of even the BPL.

There may be some faults and shortcomings in the functioning of the Agricultural Universities and Departments of Agriculture in various Governments. But the sweeping remark by Palekar, a votary of Natural farming that all the Agricultural Universities and the Departments in the Governments in the country should be closed is detestable. Reputed former Agricultural Scientists of APNGRAU Dr.K.Ravindranath and Dr.Pocha Brahmananada Reddy and Bojja Dasaratharami Reddy, Secretary General, Indian Farmers Consortium and President of the Rayalaseema Jala Sadhana Samithi revolt against the ‘Foolish and Ridiculous thought’. After independence India, we had to fight two key economic challenges: achieving food security and alleviating poverty. They were possible only by promoting growth in the agricultural sector.

Population of India according the 1951 Census was about 35 crores. Food production was around 50 Million Metric tons. By and large agricultural operations were traditional, using natural manures. It was License, Permit, Ration and Control Raj. Restrictions were imposed on the number of guests during auspicious and inauspicious occasions. It was to be printed on the Invitation Cards: “Please bring your ration.” Rationing Officers were stealthily inspecting the feasts served. (Personal experience) Population control measures were yet to begin. India resorted to import, primarily from the USA; under the notorious Public Law (PL) 480. In spite of the ignominy, about half of India’s population did not have two square meals a day.

From a mere 50 million tons of annual food grain production in 1950s, India in 2011-12 has produced a record 252 mt of food grains, mainly attributed to the significant jump in rice and wheat output. The average growth rate of food grains production from 1950 to 2011 was 3.2% per annum. By going back, situation will be worse; at any rate will not be better.

Over a period of time, some thousands of crores and other resources are invested in each of the Universities. Mechanisation process is midway through. They are all precious National Assets. None denies the values of organic manures. The available farm hands are being decreased. There is none to feed the cattle and lift the cow dung. A farmer, however economically sound he may be, is a discarded commodity in the matrimonial market. A farmer is almost a social outcast. Hence the agriculturists want their children to take up other professions. Palekar, a respectable Social Worker is being made a scapegoat by the Governments to escape from their responsibilities; paying the required grants and filling up the vacancies in the Universities. He may do well to uplift the social status of the farming community of India. Vidrabha, the region from which Palekar hails, records the highest number of suicides by the farmers; at the same time, nil suicides in Vizianagaram and Srikakulam Districts in A.P.; the reason, Pondur Khadi. Appreciated, admired and patronised by Gandhji, Pondur Khadi was the favoured one by the leaders of the Freedom Movement, including the Presidents adn Prime Ministers of the Country. Now even that is in troubles. Let me chat on the subject, separately sometime later. Palekar, a Gandhian, at the threshold of the Mahatma’s 150th Jayanthi is the right person to popularise Khadi and Hand-loom.

*Author KC Kalkura is Chairman of Gadicharla Foundation, Kurnool.