By: Vanam Jwala Narasimha Rao
[The writer is CPRO to Telangana CM]
The history of agriculture in India dates back thousands of years. Agriculture has undergone significant developments and shifts over the past century in response to new technologies and due to development of world markets. Human labor is replaced by synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Technological improvements also caused ecological damage and negative human health effects to some extent.
Telangana is situated on the Deccan Plateau and two important rivers of India, the Godavari, and Krishna flow through the state for providing irrigation. Apart from major rivers, there are small rivers such as Tunga Bhadra, Bhima, Dindi, Kinnerasani, Manjira, Manair, Penganga, Pranahita, peddavagu and Taliperu. Telangana has a predominantly hot and dry climate. Summers start in March and peak in May. The monsoon arrives in June and lasts until September. The normal rainfall is from the southwest monsoons but also gets considerable rains from cyclones. Various soil types abound, including chalkas, red sandy soils, dubbas, deep red loamy soils, and very deep soils. Rice is the major food crop and staple food of the state. Other important crops are Maize, Tobacco, Mango, Cotton and Sugar cane as well as mangoes, oranges and flowers.
With interest in cultivation decreasing day by day, agriculture is facing crisis. There is scarcity of persons in farming and related activities. Farm labour migration and diversion to other trades also posed a threat to agriculture. In the technology based world, the younger generation is looking at public and private sectors as they are offering reliable sources of income whereas agriculture is seen as a non-profitable one. In districts like Mahaboobnagar, Karimnagar and Nalgonda large number of people migrated to the Middle East and other parts of the world in search of employment. Only a minor section of people are getting into farming. People should be taught that agriculture always stands first ahead of all fields. After the present day generation who are experts in certain farming activities like paddy transplantation retire, probably in the days to come it would be impossible to find replacement to them. Mechanization and micro irrigation to some extent could be an answer to sustain agriculture and hence a strategy has to be drawn for that.
With the state being newly carved out, says the Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao, that farmers will have a good benefit of the irrigation projects. He desires that a functional change should be seen. He wants that Agricultural university and department of Agriculture should work in hand-in-hand to make farming a profitable venture in the state. Strategies should also be drawn to make surplus production, so that they could be marketed properly which eventually makes farmers having an advantage.
The City of Hyderabad is one of the fastest growing cities in the country. Today the population in the HMDA area is about 1.42 Crores and it is inching every year with a million people shifting their base. It is a growing city on all the four sides and is one of the five major metro cities in the country. It is barely 10% of city’s requirement of vegetables is met now. Despite having Mahaboobnagar, Medak, Nalgonda, Rangareddy and Karimnagar districts surrounding Hyderabad only 10 percent of city’s requirement of vegetables are met. From many places of those districts to the city there is quick transportation system. Lands and climatic conditions there suit for vegetable production.
The Chief Minister is of the opinion that, Professor Jayashankar Telangana Agricultural University should play a vital role in evolving a strategy for encouraging vegetable production and should step in to take measures to bring back the past glory of agriculture in the new state of Telangana. Research activity in the university needs to be strengthened. Every bit of land in the state has to be subjected to soil testing and the details are to be computerised. Vegetable hubs are to be developed around Hyderabad. University may also study the aspects of producing exotic vegetables and ways and means to export them. Different places in Telangana have to be divided in to particular crop colonies. The University needs to pay attention on the cropping pattern and types of crops that should be produced in different lands.
Apart from this, the agricultural university should also undertake extensive research on mechanization aspects. Students of the university should be given free hand in doing research. They should be on the move to interact with farmer on go forward basis. The university should have a clear idea of soil, technique, crops and others available in each and every mandal of the state. Probably a control room kind of campaign centre should be set up in each mandal that addresses the problems of the farmers and giving quick solution will make things quite easy.
In fact there was a time when the university played a crucial role in farming. The kind of researches, training camps and many were widely done in the university. Farmers and officers were given special training to know about the latest methods in agriculture. Farmers in batches used to go to Agricultural University to learn about the advanced methods of farming. But over the period of time, this practice has been ignored and now barely any farmer reaches the University to learn the new techniques in agriculture.
It is also the responsibility of Agriculture University to restore the faith in farmers and bring back the past glory. Keeping the weather conditions and kind of soil available in every corner of the state, university should draw strategies in developing crops as per conditions demand. For instance, “Imam Pasand” mangoes which are produced only in Telangana State could be made a monopoly crop and the university should take steps to encourage the farmer to reach a stage where exports gain demand. Similarly research could be done on the type of mangoes that can be produced in Telangana soil. MARKFED has to step in and rectify why the agriculture lost its way in the state of Telangana.
So is the case with the Department of Agriculture. There were days when agricultural university used to train officers of the department and these officers used to interact with farmers and sketch out strategies. It is almost given-up now. The Chief Minister says that the department should have suitable extension officers and if need be through recruitment. It is also time to ensure adequate numbers of AD, DD, JD etc. and also to see that they perform the job related work efficiently. They should be properly and systematically trained in the University. Only after completion of adequate training they must be assigned job work. They are to be in a position to suggest to the farmer about the usage of fertilizer and the type of fertilizer for a particular land. Some of the Agricultural Officers on obtaining training in University may have to become Agronomists and to become experts in science of soil management, land cultivation and crop production. Department has to asses as to what should be their number.
They should be in constant touch with farmer and mingle with them always. Collectively they should draw a comprehensive strategy for the entire state of Telangana for the betterment of agriculture. For instance, they should think about a strategy on the rice or pulses production. What sort of soil suits most and where are the lands available for either rice or pulses or any other crop and what category it should be so that it is advantageous to the farmer has to be thought of. Similarly in the case of oil seeds production a strategy has to be drawn.
Ultimately the department has to come up with a plan to decide as to what should be the agriculture face of Telangana. Similarly the University should give a serious thought as to what should be its role towards that direction. Both department of Agriculture and University are expected to play a greater role than now. Both University and Department should work hand in hand and establish a live contact with farmer.