In a country like India where, even today, more than 70 per cent of the population lives on, and of agriculture and agro-industries, the entire concept of planning must aim at increasing economic opportunities to the large population spread out in the rural areas.
Such a planning should also provide for allowing and encouraging the consumer goods industry to grow in the rural areas itself so as to provide large-scale employment to growing population of the rural youth in their own habitat. Indeed, this will be in keeping with the traditional concept of self-reliant rural and village economy.
The overcrowded urban pockets bursting with migrated population not only create economic problems, but also social problems of hygiene, and economic as well as political tensions. The environmental pollution caused in these concentrated urban areas is harmful both to social hygiene as well as to medical health.
The Mera Gaon Mera Gaurav-MGMG (My Village My Pride) scheme was launched by the Prime Minister of India on 25 July, 2015 on the occasion of the 87th Foundation Day of ICAR and 9th National Conference of KVKs at Patna Bihar. MGMG is a path breaking program introduced for upliftment of farmers of the country. The program has been initiated in the year 2015-16. It is the national initiative of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) New Delhi and operational in many villages across the country. It is a farm-centric mission getting knowledge at farmer’s doorstep so as to address his farm oriented problems in a more holistic manner to accomplish livelihood security. An innovative initiative “Mera Gaon Mera Gaurav” has been planned to promote the direct interface of scientists with the farmers to hasten the Lab to Land process. The specific objective of this scheme is to provide farmers with required information, knowledge and advisories on regular basis by adopting villages and transferring new farm technologies. Again, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) can be very effective in this approach. Here, scientists can form WhatsApp and Facebook groups with youth of the villages and interact with them more frequently. The government is working on linking all State Agricultural Universities (SAUs) of India through IT. This way there would be more interaction among the academics so that any good technology developed anywhere would reach other parts and especially rural hinterlands without much delay.
Here, easy access to internet remains a problem in India, especially in rural hinterland. In many villages of the country network coverage is poor. Further, not everybody can afford a laptop or smart phone. The problem of connectivity would be largely solved by connecting all Gram Panchayats through cable broadband under Digital India Initiative. Also Common Service Centres in villages will make sure that even the poorest have access to the affordable internet services. As a matter of fact, Kisan Call Centre is an expert advisory system. The farmers need to call the toll free number 1800-180-1551 to seek expert advice on different matters related to agriculture and allied sectors.
The participation of the small and marginal farmers in Indian agriculture is very important. Small farmers put forth their desire on various forums to have timely information on investment in agriculture, loans, availability of other basic amenities, market rates, extension activities and facilities provided by different agencies, new research findings and technologies. Presently, various agencies are working in agriculture and farmers are keen to know about the services provided by them. The technologies developed and refined by research institutes, agricultural universities, private and other organisations are accepted and adopted to various extents by farming community.
As such, one of the major challenges for farmers in rural India is their lack of access to market information. This creates an imbalance in bargaining power with urban buyers which are big companies that have the resources and information to influence the market. Other than market information, a farmer needs to know about weather on a day to day basis, about new technologies and various government schemes for farmer welfare. With the use of ICT, this information asymmetry can be solved effectively. Up till now in India among various media, radio, television, literature and newspapers are certainly most utilised by the extension workers to transfer agricultural technology to the huge illiterate and literate segments of the rural populace. But this approach has some major drawbacks One, there is limited scope to get required requisite feedback from farmers and Secondly, it is not demand driven. One farmer may require information about new rice variety, but radio and newspaper may be giving information about sugarcane. Therefore, the awareness among farmers about the organisations and their programs need to be created on regular basis and at this juncture “Mera Gaon Mera Gaurav” is showing the way to the scientific teams of SKUAST Kashmir who have organised 13 visits to their respective villages and contacted 174 farmers. The teams also conducted 7 interface meetings in which 99 farmers participated. The scientists also provided mobile based agro advisories to 27 farmers of these villages.
Implementation of MGMG
Under this scheme, Scientists select villages as per their convenience and remain in touch with the selected villages and provide information to the farmers on technical and other related aspects in a time frame through personal visits or on telephone. Being a resource person for the village, the scientists also monitor the process of adoption of agricultural technologies by the farmers. At times, the scientists make use of community radio, local newspapers, mobile messages, video, exhibition and local media and make initiatives to have dialogue with the farmers in their local language. Besides providing information to farmers on market rates, market trends, the information on various agricultural organisations associated with agriculture is also provided for finding solutions to their agriculture related problems. Here, scientists also share and create awareness among farmers about climate change, other customized services, protective measures and other issues of local and national importance. In this process of social transformation, scientists involve local Panchayats, development agencies, NGO’s and private organisations. In addition to this, scientists encourage the ideology of clean and good agricultural techniques for producing good quality agricultural products and link this to Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. In this initiative, 20,000 scientists of National Agricultural Research and Education System (NARES) work by selecting villages. At Institute/Agricultural University Level, many groups of multidisciplinary scientists are constituted. One group consists of four scientists who adopt five villages. As such, scientists are provided with minimum necessary facilities by their organisations for travelling and conduct of the programs.
SHAH Masood is a Senior Scientist of Climate Change, FOA Wadura-Sopore SKUAST Kashmir.
Abdul Hamid Hakeem is a Dean FOA Wadura-Sopore SKUAST Kashmir.
K. Naresh is a PhD Student, FOA Wadura-Sopore SKUAST Kashmir.