Friday, August 6, 2021

Ailing agri sector

There is no doubt that the mass conversion of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes has potential adverse impact on the very sustainability of our food resources. Nagaland is known over for its immense natural resources that give it a paradise personification. We are known for the cultivation of a rich heritage of culture, cuisines, and crops. Being cultivatively suitable for various types of farming activities, more than 70% of our population is directly dependent on agriculture for their livelihood. However, of late agriculture sector is being gradually neglected by successive governments in the State. The State Budget 2020-21 was also silent on Agri & Allied sector, which was brought to public attention by State Agriculture Minister Kaito Aye while participating in the debate on Budget in the assembly last week. In his concluding remarks on the Budget discussions, Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, who holds the finance portfolio, admitted the lack of adequate fund provision for Agri & Allied sector and non-mention of the sector in his budget speech. He, however, justified the same, saying “because of our tight resource position we are not in a position to give the level of funds that the sector requires.” However, the CM claimed that the Agri & Allied sector receives the maximum funds under Centrally Sponsored Schemes, and is well placed to fully carry out the desired activities. With agriculture dying due to Government’s apathy and with little or no industries in the State, it is no wonder why educated Nagas are hankering after Government jobs. Today our agricultural land is shrinking rapidly with people switching over their means of livelihood to non-agricultural settlements with agricultural land being converted for non-agricultural purposes, making our food deficit. This land conversion will have detrimental effect on the very sustainability of food resources in the State as the population is increasing at a very fast pace and with declining food resources, the State Government will have to face the brunt of damage thereof. It is not only of food that we get from it, but the ecology of the State is directly dependent on the sustainability of these resources, and if these green treasures are cut short, the ecology of State will be effected greatly. Our land was known for its multitude of green resources. People from different parts of world visited the State for these natural resources that give them a soul refreshing experience. Sadly, these treasures are now being converted into concrete jungles with State officials/authorities looking the other way or are, may be, hand in glove with persons involved in agriculture land conversion. The numbers of unplanned constructions like establishment of new colonies, factories, brick kilns, shopping complexes and other commercial establishments have severely affected the agricultural landscape of the State. In the absence of housing policy, the State has witnessed unplanned growth of residential and commercial establishments. Today people are now more related towards modern means of earning their livelihoods and have focused their attention to more technical and extensive readymade methods of earning their living. This is even true in some rural areas. Agriculture is now the practice of the past and obsolete. Various studies, including studies by Government departments, have painted a very grim picture of the State’s dependence on outside supplies to meet its food requirements. The local production of food grains in the State does not keep pace with the requirements, as the agriculture sector faces challenges on various fronts. Moreover, the scope for increasing the net area sown is very limited and the landholding is shrinking due to the continuous breakdown of joint family system, growing urbanization and population explosions. Taking this very grim picture of the State agricultural sector into consideration, it is imperative for the State dispensation as well as common masses to thoroughly have a relook and put a policy in place and implement it so that unabated conversion can be put to restrain. Otherwise, if not stopped early or lately, the eco-fragility and eco-sustainability of the State will be grossly affected and will reflect into depletion of agrarian resources and disturbance of the State’s eco-balance.