Can a Second Green Revolution turn the fortunes around for India?

‘Climate-smart agriculture’, ‘genetically modified crops’, ‘food security’ and ‘nutritional security’ have become buzzwords thanks to the ever-growing fears about the adverse impacts of climate change. India is likely to be staring at food deficit in the coming years as the country’s population is likely to swell to 130 crore by 2030. On its way to become the world’s most populous country, India’s increased population and rapid urbanisation will only further strain the already scarce land and water resources.

While India is considered self-sufficient when it comes to food production, it continues to rely heavily on imports for crops like pulses and oilseeds. Especially when production has not been able to match demand. Also, regional disparity is apparent with agricultural productivity and growth varying from state to state. Then there is the growing income gap between farmers and non-farmers that has to be addressed. Also, the need of the hour is not only to ensure that India has enough to feed its population but also produce surplus food which can be exported. So it is time for the country to ignite the second green revolution? A resounding yes is what the idea has received from agricultural experts across India.

The Green Revolution which occurred in the 1960s is still remembered across the world for its tremendous impact on food production in India. A record grain output of 131 mnt in 1978-79 as a result of this revolution made India a part of the world’s leading grain producers. Double cropping and seeds with superior genetics were the highlights of Green Revolution. On the other hand, investment in key areas including machinery and irrigation systems to ensure the cultivation of high yielding crop types fell short during this game changing phase. Thus, the rise of regional disparity which is apparent even today.

The second revolution should hence be built on the successful foundations of its predecessor while making up for its downfalls. Achieving this necessitates the government to refocus on agriculture. Optimisation of water utilisation through improved irrigation methods, enhanced watershed management, and upkeep of vegetation cover in catchment areas are vital to ensure water availability through the year. Infrastructure is another important aspect for agricultural development. This calls for public investment in irrigation, power, roads, food storage, watersheds, dams and agricultural research.

The government should also invest more in research technology to enhance farm productivity. Biotech crops could well be the future of agriculture despite doubts regarding their safety has made both the farmers and the public wary. The 2013 report of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications revealed that a record 18 million farmers grew biotech crops worldwide and that biotech crop hectares have gone to over 175 million hectares in 2014 from 1.7 hectares in 2013. National and regional food security clearly lies in science and technology.

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