Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh releases From Green to Evergreen Revolution by Dr. M. S. Swaminathan

CALCUTTA, India (Washington Bangla Radio / PIB) The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh released Dr. M. S. Swaminathan’s book “From Green to Evergreen Revolution – Indian Agriculture : Performance and Challenges” in New Delhi today. Following is the text of the Prime Minister’s address on the occasion:

“It gives me great pleasure to be present in this function to release Dr. M.S. Swaminathan’s book “From Green to Evergreen Revolution – Indian Agriculture: Performance and Challenges”.

Our agriculture owes a deep debt of gratitude to Dr. Swaminathan. We all know about the immense value of his extraordinary contribution to our country’s agricultural development the ushering in of the green revolution and his overall contribution to the process of nation building. I would therefore not venture to say much about the legend that Dr. Swaminathan is. His wisdom, knowledge and experience are a great national asset indeed and a great global asset to the community of human beings at large. But I would certainly point out is that when this great scientist says something on agriculture, especially Indian agriculture, we need to listen carefully. This book by Dr. Swaminathan provides a comprehensive roadmap for an ecologically well-founded sustainable revolution in agriculture, in other words – moving from the green revolution to an evergreen revolution. I am sure that this book will help all of us in understanding the complexities of the subject much better than ever before.

Agriculture and food production are much too important to be confined to narrow silos like agriculture, horticulture, fishery and animal husbandry. It needs to be looked at in an overall, integrated manner with particular attention to sustainable use of scarce land and water resources. We should not only worry about ‘per hectare output’ but also about livelihoods, particularly of the poor. We also need to keep the concerns of ecology and environment in focus. Special attention has to be paid to improving the productivity of small and marginal farmers and of dry land agriculture. The role of science and technology in the transformation of our agriculture needs no emphasis. Each one of our villages has to become as Dr. Swaminathan pointed out a knowledge centre as a new pathway to rural prosperity. Then there are issues of culture and tradition – note the innumerable local cultivars of rice and millets. These are the kinds of subjects that Dr. Swaminathan’s book addresses, and provides practical, pragmatic solutions and policy prescriptions that we all need to take note of.

When our government came to power in 2004, we started work to reverse the trend of low public investment in our agriculture. The access of farmers to farm credit was greatly enhanced substantially. We increased the support prices much more than ever in the past. We tried to give a new focus to agricultural policy following the recommendations of the National Commission on Farmers, which was headed by Dr. M. S. Swaminathan. Special programmes for agriculture, irrigation and rural infrastructure were started. The Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana a unique programme based on decentralized planning was launched. This programme has shown good initial results. The National Food Security Mission, a Rs. 5,000 crore initiative, has also shown success in increasing the production and productivity of rice, wheat and pulses in selected areas. These and other efforts contributed to an increase in our agricultural growth. The long term average of last 15 years of Indian agricultural growth is no more than two per cent . In current five year – I am happy to note that we will register a growth rate of close to 3.5 per cent per annum. We could do more and we should do more and Dr. Swaminathan’s book has important recommendations to make that future happen. The drought of 2009 was a setback which we are now recovering from. In recent months, the challenges posed by food price inflation have again brought into sharp focus the issues of production and productivity of food crops. We have set up a Core Group of Central Ministers and State Chief Ministers with regard to dealing with the prices of essential commodities. I do hope that, the recommendations of the Group will help us in addressing this issue of food inflation without hurting the impulses of sustained agricultural growth.

Our policy of providing the remunerative prices for agricultural products, through increases in MSP, has resulted in increased public procurement. This has posed a serious challenge to the food grain storage infrastructure. We need to move towards an agile food procurement and distribution policy that can respond to the market quickly so that prices do not fall to the extent of hurting the farmer or his incentive to produce more or rise to the extent of hurting the poor consumer. We need to adopt a holistic approach in discussing issues relating to national food security.

The quality of inputs is a major factor that constrains growth in the productivity of agriculture. Our Govt. has introduced bills to amend the Seeds Act and the Pesticides Act to contribute in addressing this issue. Climate change has also created new challenges for our agriculture. Dr. Swaminathan dwells on this issue in his book. In fact, over 20 years ago he and his colleague scientists had demonstrated that an increase of 1% in the night temperature reduced the yield of wheat by 4 to 5 quintals per hectare. I do hope that the National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture which we are now working on, will help us to tackle and deal with this challenge.

Dr. Swaminathan’s book is very timely and it will undoubtedly help policy makers, planners and farmers focus on increasing the sustainability of farm livelihoods, particularly in the background of the challenges posed by climate change, rising food and commodity prices globally, demand for bio-fuels and the growing threat of environmental degradation. I congratulate Dr. Swaminathan for his brilliant effort and marvel at his genius and commitment to causes that are of critical importance to our country and indeed to the world at large. On a personal note, I have benefitted immensely from Dr. Swaminathan’s wisdom, knowledge and experience and his advice and guidance on many occasions. I hope to do so in the future as well. I also hope that Indian agriculture will continue to have his guidance and wise counsel. We are all so very fortunate to have a person of his ability and stature to help us. Let me end by once again applauding Dr. Swaminathan’s many achievements, including this book of great value to everyone who has a stake or interest in Indian agriculture.”