India places focus on ‘mechanization of agriculture’

Nirendra Dev ,The Statesman/Asia News Network

The Indian government’s focus in the 12th Plan will be “mechanization of agriculture” to match the growing need for higher production of food grain and to tackle labor shortages in the farm sector. The government is targeting around 6 percent annual growth in food grain yields. “To keep pace with the present population growth and consumption pattern, an average 6-7 percent annual growth in food grain production can be targeted. But with the labor shortage especially during sowing and harvesting this can be achieved only by farm mechanization,” an official said.

The government has been trying to push for mechanization since 2005, but so far the initiative has been on a small scale. “With a view to enhance the pace of agricultural mechanization, the government has stressed on providing financial assistance to farmers and other target groups for purchase of different kinds of farm equipment, demonstration of new equipment for spread of new technology, human resource development in operation,” the official said. This would get a renewed thrust in the 12th Plan, he said, adding that with successful implementation of MG-NREGA and other anti-poverty programs there is “now pressure on availability of farm labor.” India’s agriculture minister, Sharad Pawar, has made a pitch for innovatively utilizing MG-NREGA to augment activities that add to farm productivity. During the recently held Economic Editors’ conference, Pawar had said that whenever he goes to states and discusses issues with chief ministers, a general complaint is about “non-availability of labor, particularly, at the time of sowing and harvesting.” Agricultural mechanization is being stressed upon to achieve sustainable increase in yields and cropping intensity so that planned growth rates in agricultural production are achieved and maintained. The Farm Machinery Training & Testing Institutes at Budni (MP), Hissar (Haryana), Garladinne (Andhra) and Bishwanath Chariali (Assam) established by the government have been playing an important role so far. India’s food-grain production in the 2011-12 crop year would surpass the previous year’s record of 241.56 million tons and four percent targeted growth in the farm sector is likely to be achieved. “But the challenges remain. Millions of additional jobs need to be created every year in the rural areas. Therefore, in the coming years, agricultural engineering has to play a major role in increasing the production and productivity, minimizing losses at production and post-production levels, creating avenues for value-adding to the agricultural produce at catchment levels,” an official said.

India’s National Crime Records Bureau recently released a report on “Accidental Deaths & Suicides in India” that tabulates the cumulative 16-year total of farmer suicides from 1995 — when the NCRB started recording farm suicide data — to 256,913.