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    Swaminathan's vision of Revolution Evergreen remains work in progress


    M S Swaminathan, the agriculture scientist credited with delivering food security to India, had a vision for a sustainable and economical farming industry. He believed in increasing crop productivity without degrading agricultural assets like land and water, through public and private investment in agritech and lowering farming risks.

    MS Swaminathan: Architect of the Green Revolution who fueled India's agricultural self-sufficiency
    M S Swaminathan succeeded with the Green Revolution.

    But his vision of an Evergreen Revolution remains work in progress. With much work to do.

    The agriculture scientist credited with delivering food security to India had detailed suggestions for GoI on making farming sustainable and economical.

    Two decades of cherry-picking has yielded neither. His view of agriculture was based on entrepreneurship and technology. GoI's view is shaped predominantly by food prices. To which, Swaminathan would point out, the farmer eats too. Some of his recommendations, such as inflation-indexed farm support prices, could not be ignored. But the further reaches of reform, such as SEZs for agriculture, remain elusive.

    The way Swaminathan saw it, India needs a continuing increase in crop productivity without degrading its agricultural assets like land and water.

    This would involve large public and private investment in agritech, including GM crops, and lowering the risks associated with farming. These were the lessons from the Green Revolution of the 1960s that tripled wheat yields and doubled those for rice, but also led to an explosion of fertiliser use and pushed groundwater levels to unreachable depths.

    India's food security is a fragile one, with the world's biggest grain stockpile coexisting with hunger and episodic farmer suicides. Food remains one of the biggest drivers of inflation.

    The farming economy envisioned by Swaminathan requires a bigger play of market forces and treatment of farmers as entrepreneurs.

    In fact, farmers constitute its biggest chunk of entrepreneurs in need of support with risk mitigation and marketing. Governments have tried to deliver on both by making agriculture less vulnerable to the weather and by attempting to dismantle creaky marketing and storage machinery. More capacity needs to be built pre- and post-harvest for agriculture to emerge from well-meaning but stunting state protection. Swaminathan's life was devoted to making farming a mature industry in a nation with the most mouths to feed.
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