The Vice President of India, Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu today called for making agriculture climate-resilient, profitable and sustainable, while ensuring remunerative prices to farmers, food and nutritional security to millions of people.
Delivering the 41st Convocation Address of the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), he stressed the need for developing climate resilient crops/varieties which can withstand a broad-spectrum of stresses such as drought, flood, heat, salinity, insect-pests and diseases. He emphasized that developing stress-resistant varieties along with climate adaptation strategies is the key to increase the resilience of Indian agriculture and make it sustainable.
Cautioning about the negative impact of climate change on agriculture and food systems in coming decades, Shri Naidu called for development of technologies and methods, which can lessen the vulnerability of small and marginal farmers.
Expressing concern over the challenges posed by receding water tables and increasingly polluted irrigation sources, he underlined the importance of developing climate-resilient, drought-tolerant genotypes and water saving technologies.
The Vice President described agriculture as a profession that is not just important but sacrosanct. Referring to agriculture as the backbone of rural economy, Shri Naidu said that agriculture has always been an integral part of our culture and civilization. “More than 50 per cent of our population is still dependent on agriculture for their livelihood”, he added.
The Vice President said “to augment farmers’ income, we must strive to improve productivity, efficiently use resources, increase cropping intensity and diversify to highly value crops”. He emphasized that every effort must be made by all the stakeholders to ensure that the farmers receive remunerative prices. This could be done through better storage and processing, provisioning of farm inputs, financing and efficient marketing mechanisms for sale of output, he suggested.
Praising the farmers for displaying indomitable spirit and dedication during the pandemic, Shri Naidu noted that agriculture is one sector that has performed well despite the challenges posed by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. In fact, the area under kharif cultivation has increased by around 59 lakh hectares as compared to last year, he said and attributed this larger coverage to timely inputs by the government like seeds, fertilizers and credit even during the lockdown.
The Vice President said that the farmers must be allowed to sell their produce anywhere in the country and the principle of common market for the entire country was behind the conception of e-NAM and we must expand it, he added.
Shri. Venkiah Naidu also reiterated the importance of creating adequate infrastructure like cold storages, godowns as well as providing affordable credit to farmers. Observing that the need of the hour is to provide a helping hand to farmers, he appreciated the Central and State governments for taking many initiatives for the welfare of farmers, given the vagaries of the monsoon and uncertainties in agriculture.
Observing that the Government of India has taken a number of steps to revitalize agriculture in the recent years, Shri Naidu remarked that there has been a paradigm shift and the focus has been on doubling the farmers’ income. Citing the implementation of Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN), he said it is a boon and will benefit more than 72 percent of India’s farmers.
Enumerating the benefits of emerging technologies such as CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing tool, the Vice President said they hold immense potential to transform agriculture by making plants tolerant to biotic and abiotic stresses and improving their nutritional value and yield. Appreciating TANU for adopting modern technologies, he wanted it to further intensify the research in various areas.
Observing that agricultural mechanization is crucial for modernization and commercialization of agriculture, the Vice President called for developing need-based machinery. “Use of improved implements has the potential to increase productivity up to 30 per cent and reduce the cost of cultivation up to 20 per cent”, he added.
Shri Naidu lauded the performance of Tamil Nadu in water management, agriculture and allied activities and said that the state has been exemplary in terms of adoption of new high yielding varieties and technologies to increase production.
He appealed to the passing out graduates of TANU to spearhead technology-led sustainable agricultural development, enable farmers to realize better incomes and ensure food and nutritional security to the teeming millions of our country. “Your research must be relevant to society and focus on finding solutions to various problems faced by mankind from climate change to health issues”, he told them.
The event was also attended by the Governor of Tamil Nadu, Shri. Banwari Lal Purohit, Tamil Nadu Minister for Higher Education and Agriculture, Shri K.P. Anbalagan and TNAU Vice-Chancellor, Prof. N. Kumar, among other dignitaries.