By Dilip Ray*
Lack of diversification of agricultural activities and an irregular cropping pattern has acted to the detriment of the interests of the farmers in the state. Over-reliance on crops like paddy has exposed farmers to undue risks such as droughts. Livestock development should assume importance in this context as it provides a backup support system to the farmers when crops fail.
There is a State Livestock Mission which was mandated with the responsibility to ensure sustainable growth and development of livestock and poultry in the state, but it has not effectively rolled out its programs due to crunch in funds and lack of will power of the concerned department. The Mission should inform the farmers about the benefits of livestock rearing and its usefulness in enhancing their economic condition. The government must also equip the farmers with the necessary resources and provide incentives which could trigger their interest in it.
Modernization and development of breeding infrastructure and insurance coverage of domestic animals will prod farmers to go for livestock rearing as a secondary option. There has to be a systematic plan for fodder development, seed multiplication and capacity building of farmers. Integration of livestock development with other agricultural activities should be carried out and it can also be facilitated through convergence of various government programs like MGNREGS, Odisha Community Tank Management Program, Odisha Tribal Empowerment & Livelihood Programme, etc. Once the farmers understand the benefits of this new sustainable approach to agriculture, they will adopt it enthusiastically which will not only improve their economic condition but also prevent emergence of situations where they may have to resort to extreme steps like suicide.
The spate of farmer suicides in Odisha is a grim indication of the problems the farming sector of the state is beset with now. Never before, has the state witnessed such a huge number of suicides within such a short span of time. Although the government ascribes the situation to scanty rainfall, yet it can’t unburden itself of its responsibility.
The weather department had issued warnings of insufficient rainfall, but the government failed to take cognizance of the matter and take adequate steps. Crop failure, which has emerged as the primary cause for farmer suicides could have been dealt with pre-emptive measures. The farmers should have been made aware of the government’s counter strategy for cases of a crop failure which could have prevented them from falling in despair and taking their own lives.
Crop insurance could have been extended to cover a larger number of farmers which would have served as a bulwark against crop failure. There seems to be a communication gap between the farmers and the government for which only the government is to be blamed. Had the farmers been assured of loan waivers and measures to rescue them out of their indebtedness, the incidence of suicides would have diminished.
The slow-paced completion of irrigation projects is another reason for crop failure as the farmers don’t have any alternative in the event of monsoon failure and the government can’t escape from its culpability here. Of late, a compensation package of Rs 1,000 crores has been declared which is welcome, but the government should ensure the proper use of this fund and plug the channels of corruption so that it benefits the victims.
The author is the incumbent MLA from Rourkela. He represents the BJP. The article has been compiled from his facebook page status updates. The views expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of www.odishasuntimes.com