India has always been a knowledge based economy from ancient times. It was only after the disintegration of the Mughal Empire, and the subsequent pillaging of its resources by Western Powers, that the surpluses and innovation died. No civilization has been able to sustain itself without the ability to attain a growing wealth and prosperity, through indigenous growth, or through conquest and subjugation. America rose to prominence due to the high productivity of its lands and people. Similarly ancient Egypt, Babylon, China all grew their ancient civilizations on the backs of the people, who slaved in the fields, and produced a surplus of food. The ability to grow more from nature to meet human needs, is the essence of a great civilization.
Just recently India has achieved a milestone of producing the highest number of winners in the Monsanto Beachell-Borlaug International Scholarship Program (MBBISP). The MBBISP program is the premier scholarship program that encourages research in rice and wheat breeding. The latest three students to receive the scholarship are Gurcharn Singh Brar working in the area of improving genetic resistance to Fusarium Head Blight in durum & brea wheat; Sreya Ghosh, whose Ph.D. project focuses on developing and fine tuning methods for unbiased gene cloning in wheat; and Karminderbir Kaur, who is working in the area of development of an in vivo haploid induction system in rice through distant hybridization & manipulation of CenH3 gene. Congratulations are in order for their efforts to improve the grains that feed and sustain human life on earth.
This should come as no surprise to the students of history as the Indus Valley civilization, pioneered the multi crop cultivation, of summer and winter crops in our world. India led all the other river civilizations in Egypt, Iraq, and China which were predominantly single season cultivators, by 2,500 BC. It was the innovation of the Indus valley people, which allowed them to grow surplus crops, during the summer and winter seasons. It was uniquely positioned to get both winter and summer rains. Its industrious people, went on to cultivate various crops and develop an urban civilization, based on the increased diversity of crops, and the increased wealth they brought. India has the greatest opportunity with its arable land and young population, to once again become the world agrarian leader for the twenty first century.
India is on the rise and its productivity can continue to grow for many decades, as it utilizes the latest technologies to grow agricultural produce. The Rabi or winter crop is being planted now and the trend is to move away from base cereals like rice and maize to higher value crops. The area under pulses, oilseeds and wheat increased from a year earlier, while planting of coarse cereals and rice fell. The government has set a Rabi season crop planting target of 638.09 lack (hundred thousand) hectares and with a normal monsoon, there is hope for a jump in production. India’s 91 major reservoirs hold 105.2 billion cubic meters of water, or 25% more than at the same time last year, suggesting better availability for winter crops. The government has to focus major resources on increasing the income of farmers, and helping them to produce better quality food, and a greater variety from its rich land. Careful water management, aided by the latest scientific agricultural methodology, can well unleash a new green revolution.
There is no harder job than trying to grow a plant, out of a clod of earth and water. Yet given the advances in our knowledge, we can bring new seeds, fertilizers, irrigation and mechanical equipment to boost productivity, of the land and people. For decades the farmers have been ignored and exploited since the nineteenth century, and now we must turn that tide. They should all benefit equally from the new knowledge, as truly India lives in its villages. We have to take the new technology, to the people to avoid a mass migration, to our urban centers which are already overflowing and unmanageable. There is a bright light of hope that things can be improved at the grassroots, using the new schemes for open trade and direct payments to farmers, using digital identities and methodology. The new generations of Independent India is more than willing to grab the opportunity of greater education, knowledge and scholarship to make a new nation.
India’s agrarian society flourished when the record keeping and identity of the farmers and landowners, were well documented and secure. Up to the eighteenth century we had progressive taxation systems, which did not leave the farmers destitute, or in despair. Today’s sad condition of rural families living on less than a dollar a day, has to be overcome. A more equitable society can only develop, when we have a sustained effort towards raising the lot, of the poorest of the poor. India has the brains and the work ethics, to be able to achieve greatness. Government has to become an enabler and then move out of the way, and the people will flourish. The Indus valley civilization is largely forgotten, but the hard lessons learned by our ancestors, are still here for us to gain from. Instead of dividing people on religion or caste lines, we need to bring all of them together. Only a joint effort of all the people working together shoulder to shoulder, can take us to the next level. Divide and Rule is only good for the ruler, and not the people. The diversity of crops and our people, is our greatest asset. It is nature’s and our ancestor’s great gift to us to use, for the evolution of our species.