After laying the foundation for the country’s third Agriculture Research Institute at Gogamukh in Dhemaji district on Friday, Prime Minister rendra Modi said it is time to think beyond a Second Green Revolution to an ‘Evergreen Revolution’. In this context, he reiterated his government’s goal of strengthening the farmer community by doubling their incomes by 2022. The Prime Minister also made several key observations in his address, like adding value to agri-products which will make the food processing industry grow faster, and a soon-to-be-launched scheme ‘Sampada’. An acronym for ‘Scheme for Agro-Marine Processing and Development of Agro-processing Clusters’, this scheme is being designed to eble proper valuation of the tion’s agricultural produce and capitalise better on this produce through agro-processing. The Prime Minister pointed out that it gives a farmer much better returns in selling fruit juice rather than fruit, mango pickle than mango, or tomato ketchup than tomato in raw form. In similar vein, he again expounded on how the Northeast can become a hub of organic farming and capitalise on the global market where organically grown farm produce command premium prices in dollars. Earlier, after opening the Dhola-Sadiya Bridge, Prime Minister Modi had pointed out that ginger grown in North Bank areas is of intertiol quality and can do very well if marketed properly in the country and abroad. He also said that ‘if given water, our farmers can grow gold’, while touching upon the benefit of crop insurance schemes and fostering start-ups in the farm sector. While speaking about three years of NDA government at the Centre, PM Modi mentioned the launching of soil health card initiative; taking a swipe at the previous government, he pointed out that while there were only 15 soil health card labs in the entire country earlier, there are now 9,000 such labs. This may seem a mere technicality, but agriculture experts have long pointed out that testing soil samples from crop-fields is a vital component of ‘precision agriculture’. Since the country’s soil profile is highly diverse, farmers can make efficient use of water and fertiliser only if they have precise data about what specific nutrients their soils need. And not just laboratories, farmers also need various soil testing gadgets as well as mobile apps and online facilities to access soil reports and other farming advisories.
On earlier occasions, the Prime Minister had spoken about the potential of Assam and other states in Eastern India in setting off a Second Green Revolution, considering the abundance of water, fertile lands and favorable agricultural conditions in this belt. Helping put more money in the farmer’s pocket makes not just good economic sense, but can yield political dividends in primarily agrarian states. But in Assam, decades of non-performance and endemic corruption by the big three departments — Agriculture, Irrigation and Rural Development — have left our farmers completely margilised. When other states are thinking about using geo-mapping and GPS systems, growing genetically modified (GM) crops and supplementing farm income with higher milk and fish outputs, farmers in Assam still have little hope of getting genuine agri-inputs and their fields irrigated in near future, of elimiting crop wastage due to lack of cold storage, of getting good support prices for their crops, or even of getting their produce to the markets quickly given the woeful road conditions. Many officials of State Agriculture department are under the scanner and quite a few of them have been arrested this year on charges of skimming off scheme funds, the most recent scams being in Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yoja (RKVY) and Bringing Green Revolution to Eastern India (BGREI). But questions are being asked whether the investigations are stopping just when the trail is getting warm enough to net the really big babus and politicians who oversaw the loot. As for implementing schemes, it is sad that Agriculture Minister Atul Bora has to vent his ire at district administrations for not cooperating with his department. Why? Chief Minister Sarbanda Sonowal and his team should take laggard district administrations by the scruff of their necks to ensure that farmers in this State get a square deal, as promised by this government. Let us not forget that along with several other parts of the country, farm distress has been on the rise in this State as well. As per the latest report by tiol Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), farmer suicide cases in Assam rose from 21 in 2014 to 84 in 2016, a 4-fold increase in just two years. This is not something the present dispensation in Dispur can afford to ignore, else visions of green and evergreen revolutions will be just pipe dreams for our farmers.