Any attempt to do away with MPS (Minimum Support Price) formula for agricultural crops like wheat and rice would ruin agriculture in Punjab, warns Dr. Gurdev Singh Khush (Dr. G S Khush) renowned agricultural scientist who is also known as paddy daddy for his contribution to the rice revolution in the world. He also rules out the possibility of repetition of Green Revolution in Punjab as with the rice revolution in Punjab, the natural resources have deteriorated to a greater extent.
Dr. Khush was in Ludhiana in connection with the annual function of Dr. Gurdev Singh Khush Foundation for the Advancement of Agricultural Sciences. Dr. Khush who is an alumnus of Punjab Agricultural University has donated the entire prize money which he received through various awards to the PAU and setup Dr. Gurdev Singh Khush Foundation. The money is estimated at Rs. 3.5 crore.
Dr. Khush who served as rice breeder and retired as head of the rice research division has bagged about more than dozen awards in recognition of his contribution in ushering in rice revolution. The International Rice Research Institute, Manila (Phillipines) has developed more than 300 rice varieties under the stewardship of Dr. Khush which cover 60 per cent area of the world under rice cultivation. This writer had a one to one interaction on agricultural crisis in Punjab and the overall world food situation with Dr. Khush.
Question : Punjab is in the grip of severe crisis after the green revolution and all the benefits of the green revolution have been eliminated. The rural indebtedness has increased manifold and the farmers are committing suicides.
Dr. Khush : We never heard about the farmers suicides and this is a new phenomenon. We have also grown under difficult circumstances but such things never happened during out times.
The major reason for the agriculture crisis and rural indebtedness is the overspending by the farmers. The farmers are buying costly tractors and other farm equipments which are not required for the small holdings. Tractor companies should not sell the tractors to the farmers who cannot afford the same and do not have collateral. The farmers should not buy the costly equipments which are not required.
There are social reasons also for the rural indebtedness and suicides by the farmers. The farmers follow others examples like overspending on the marriages of their wards. If one family makes heavy spending on the marriage, others also follow them and go beyond their capacity. Marriages in the marriage palaces have also become a status symbol. There used to be Janjghars in the rural and urban areas and people used to have simple marriages. Now the richmen have raised the marriage palaces as a business venture and they take heavy charges for solemnizing the marriages. This practice should be checked.
Question : There is deep crisis in the agriculture in Punjab. What is the solution.
Dr. Khush : With the wheat-rice revolution, natural resources have deteriorated. The organic matters in the soil have also decreased to 0.4 per cent whereas the same should be minimum 2 per cent. Efficiency of nitrogen becomes very poor when the organic matters fall. Our productivity has also become stagnant whereas it used to be 6 to 7 percent during the green revolution days. The average yields are also stagnant now. The farmers should go in for laternative crops with value addition. Crops like hybrid maize, soyabean and mustard should be grown which have greater scope. The milk industry needs maize.
Question : The Prime Minister Narendra Modi has declared that he will double the income of the farmers by 2022. Do you think it is possible?
Dr. Khush : I think that problem is too big. A very large number of people depend on agriculture and they live in rural areas. The land holdings are also very small. If we can move people to other areas and provide more avenues for employment, this will help in increasing the income of the farmers. Contract farming can also help in increasing the income of the farmers. The farmers should be encouraged to grow alternative crops with value added.
Question : Do you think we can witness another green revolution.
Dr. Khush : I do not think there will be repeat of the green revolution. However, there is a possibility of a milk revolution. We will not have productivity of 6 to 7 percent in the crops. We can continue to have incremental increase in productivity but not the jump of green revolution. To enhance the milk production, we can have milch cattle like buffaloes and cows to enhance the milk production. We can also export buffaloe meat alongwith the milk export.
Question : There are reports that the Centre wants to do away with the MSP (Minimum Support Price) policy. Neeti Ayog of the Government of India has also not treated the Punjab Chief Minister and Finance Minister well on the issue of granting financial assistance for the development of agriculture and to meet the food security. The Neeti Ayog told them ‘Forget the food security’ of India.
Dr. Khush : This is very unfortunate. The Punjab has suffered and exploited natural resources to raise food production to feed the people of India. The Central Government must extend financial assistance to Punjab and should not maltreat it. The abolition of MSP will ruin the agriculture in Punjab. The Centre should encourage the growing of alternative crops like pulses, oilseeds. Mustard can be grown in a large area to have oil. We are importing and make huge payment for import of oil. We can cut down the import bill.
Question : There is climate change in the world which is affecting the environment.
Dr. Khush : The climate change is a big threat. World food situation is quite reasonable sofar. We did not have any famine since the green revolution. But the climate change can cause problems. This might reduce the production and it would have serious consequences. The temperature is affecting the himalayas. Himalayas are heating at double the rate of normal rate. It will give water for irrigation but in the final run, this will reduce the supply of water and rivers will go dry.
Question : What role PAU should adopt now in the changing circumstances.
Dr. Khush : The PAU continue to look at the health of the soil. They have to incorporate the rice and wheat straw in the soil instead of burning it. Equipment is available which can help in incorporating the straw in the soils and this will add to the productivity. They should emphasis on the research of value added crops and the state government should grant financial help to the PAU.
California University of the USA where Dr. Khush is working as adjunct professor, has conferred the highest medal on him only recently in recognition of his contribution to the world food production.
Dr. Gurdev Singh Foundation organized its annual function at the PAU on March 9 where the scholarships were awarded to the students and the scientists. Dr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia former Vice-Chairman of the Planning Commission of India was the Chief Guest.
This writer has known Dr. Khush since 1969 when he visited PAU alongwith Dr. Chandler then Director General of IRRI. Dr. Chandler was also conferred honorary degree of DSC (Honoris Causa) by the Vice-Chancellor Dr. M. S. Randhawa.
K S Chawla is a senior journalist based at Ludhiana.
Can be reached at :[email protected]
Mobile : 99886-44244