Bhubaneswar, Dec 23:
After two full terms and a near full term of singing paeans to industrialisation, the Naveen Patnaik government has suddenly become a champion of agriculture. Beginning last year, it has initiated a series of moves, including the ‘exclusive’ budget for agriculture, that it believes would help refurbish its pro-farmer credentials ahead of the 2014 elections. In tune with this attempted image makeover, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Monday claimed agriculture has been the ‘priority’ for his government, a claim that many, including the target audience, would love to demolish.
“Development of agriculture in Odisha has been our priority. Even though successive natural calamities like floods, droughts and cyclones have been affecting our productivity, sustained efforts through various inputs like expansion of irrigation, farm mechanization, seed replacement, credit support to small and marginal farmers and improved agricultural practices have started yielding results,” Patnaik said at Odisha Environment Congress-2013, which discussed the theme of agriculture and environment in the context of Odisha and the progressive Odisha State Agriculture Policy 2013.
Stating that agriculture policy formulation had been at the centre of government’s developmental agenda, he informed that agriculture and the allied activities contribute 22.46 percent of the Net Domestic Product of the state and provide employment directly and indirectly to around 65 percent of the total workforce.
The chief minister claimed that his government had succeeded in enhancing irrigation potential from 29 percent to almost 50 percent in the cultivable land through a number of initiatives like Mega Lift Irrigation Projects, Check Dams, Deep Borewells, Small and Minor Irrigation Projects, Canal lining, in the last decade. This is another claim that his detractors would be itching to dispute.
Patnaik said the government had been making efforts to increase economic activities for providing basic needs and for better standard of living without causing environmental degradation.
Stating that the world is trying to resolve this dilemma through the concept of Sustainable Development known as “RIO PLUS TWENTY” (RIO +20) reflected in the UN document “The Future We Want”, he said the government of Odisha had taken a pioneering step in formulating a Climate Change Action Plan as it realized that the state is most vulnerable to climate change. Besides, a separate Coastal Zone Management Plan is being implemented by the state government.
“In the changed climatic situation, there may be change inthe frequency and intensity of rainfall and this might impact seed germination, disease and insect infection. It is therefore a challenge for our scientific community to develop drought and pest resistant crop varieties, alternate cropping patterns, improved methods of soil and water conservation and capacity building of our farmers,” said the Chief Minister.