Saturday, June 22, 2024

Neglected sector

According to the Government of Nagaland official state portal, over 80% of the state’s population depends on agriculture. Surprisingly there appears to be no viable agricultural policy in place here. The concept of agricultural policy for the last many successive governments have been to either distribute seeds (to farmers) or machineries (to public leaders claiming to be farmers) and hold distribution programmes where a minister gives a speech, hears his own speech and goes home in delusion that he has given an impetus to the agriculture sector. The state’s responsibility when it comes to agriculture is multifold. But the agriculture department has completely failed to scientifically put our state at par with other states in the context of yield-per-hectare and more importantly economic-return-per-hectare. Concepts of soil-testing to establish the most economically beneficial and comparatively advantageous crops to be cultivated are sci-fi, theoretical dreams here in our state. Given that most of the agricultural land in the state falls in a climate that makes successive double cultivation hard, it is important that the economic yield for an average farmer is maximized by providing scientific consultations, monitoring and evaluation of trends. Most of the cultivable land in Nagaland, for instance, is used for rice cultivation. The logic that is provided by traditional inheritance and tragically government wisdom too is that rice consumption in our state is relatively high. This logic bulldozes the economic concept of comparative advantage when it comes to possible agricultural export and imports dynamics for our state. But then when was economics, the per capita GDP a priority for any of our governments till date! One wonders what the government has envisaged the role and profile of agriculture department to be. On-field analytical training, skills and implementation is virtually missing. Due to the absence of modern agricultural tilling, fertilizing and harvesting technology and machinery, an average farmer of the state is categorically paralyzed to improve his own economic standing. It is important to create an efficient marketing policy, infrastructure and machinery by organizing interactive trade festivals that could showcase the agricultural produce of the state – not for photo-ops and ministerial speeches – but for buyers and sellers from across the country. This is the primary responsibility and role of the state agricultural marketing board, which unfortunately remains to be non-existent for farmers here. There is a criminal failure of our agricultural policy vis-à-vis its expenditure and the benefits that it has given to the state’s economy. We need to set up new, well-equipped, well-connected and staffed agricultural marketing committees in all villages, sub-divisions and districts. It should also be the government’s role to improve the facilitator regulation of the cultivation, selling and purchasing of agricultural produce and products. To go towards a state of holistic agricultural development, our goal should be to empower the farmer with knowledge – both of the market trends in other states where his produce could be sold and also an overall scientific knowledge of latest concepts and facilities that his counterparts are benefiting from in states like Assam, Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab, etc. A policy that will aim at crop diversification, not just on paper or in the constitution of a non-existent board is indispensable for economic prosperity in the agriculture sector. Also, to put our state on the map when it comes to an agricultural market, it is important to devise and enforce a well-integrated quality-control mechanism. The need is for us to work towards making our agriculture department one of the strongest, thrust areas of the state government. A government that doesn’t work towards aiding and improving the lives of 80% of its citizens should be held guilty and tried for criminal negligence. Let’s hope that we – both as a society and as a potential hub for cash crops realize how we have chosen to economically persecute our farmer either due to bad policies or due to a common indifference of the ruling elite. If 80% of our citizens depend on agriculture – our government should invest more time, money and efforts for their betterment than choosing to work for the non-voting and pontificating 5% of the population.