Feb 16, 2004
The M S Swaminathan Plan
Though India is steadily --if not, rapidly-- urbanising, 70% of Indians are still ‘rural’. Compared with China, India’s record of enfolding the rural sector in the growth wave is better, but that isn’t saying much. Certainly, there are proven increases in the purchasing power of village India. Considerable improvements in rural infrastructure are also visible. But these seem to relate mostly, to well-off, landed farmers, rather than the land-less or marginal farmers, who are a majority in that 70%.
The key to friction-less growth, is to make the labours of small --one to two acre sized-- farm owners result in growing, sustainable incomes. Alongside, we need to create rural jobs everywhere. Water wars and resentment against migratory labour are beginning to rear their heads.
A recent article by Dr. M S Swaminathan in the Hindu [ “Feel-good factor and rural areas”, Jan 30, 2004 ], addresses these issues and lists a number of ideas that would lead to increases in rural yields and jobs. Renowned for his leadership of the Green Revolution, Swaminathan is now an advocate of ‘Ever-Green Revolution’. The M S Swaminathan Research Foundation [MSSRF] in Chennai, has been studying many strategies. His article lists some of those.
His first idea, is an extensive Rural Godowns Scheme, to facilitate perishable produce storage. Combined with crop-diversification and post-harvest technology, an ability to store and wait, will yield better returns for the producer. There are already efforts afoot in India on this front. Swaminathan is probably underlining the need to increase the godowns’ density.
Incomes from livestock often sustain entire families. Swaminathan’s second idea, is the formation of a Livestock Warehousing Corporation that will cater to both small-scale suppliers and consumers. As “ownership of livestock is more egalitarian,” ready availability of feed will benefit the poorest sections.