India needs low-input, high-output agriculture | IndExp
Current debate on agricultural reforms –
Minimum support price
Reducing farmers’ debt liabilities
Reducing post-harvest losses
Cash transfers for smallholders
Important aspect has been forgotten - role of agricultural R&D
Imagine if farmers in Punjab, Haryana & W. UP had an alternative crop/s that is/are remunerative
Need of the hour: low-input, high-output agriculture
India receives around 4,000 billion cubic meters (bcm) of rainfall
Large part of it falls in the east
Moreover, most of the rain is received within 100 hours of torrential downpour, making water storage and irrigation critical for agriculture.
India has one of the highest water usages for agriculture in the world
Total 761 bcm withdrawals of water
688 bcm (90.5%) goes into agriculture
17 bcm (1.2%) for industry
56 bcm for municipal use
China uses 385.2 bcm (64.4%) out of the total withdrawals of 598.1 bcm for agriculture.
Per-unit land productivity is 2-3 times more
The total estimated groundwater depletion in India is in the range of 122-199 bcm as calculated from the observation wells (1996-2016) and satellite data (2002-2016).
The depletion is highest in Punjab, Haryana, and western UP.
Coarse grain crops — millets, sorghum etc.
These crops have a serious R&D deficit leading to low yield potential as well as losses to pests and pathogens.
This leaves us with pulses and oilseeds.
2017-18: India imported around Rs 76,000 crore worth of edible oils.
Three oilseed crops (mustard, soybean, and groundnut) are already grown very extensively.
Soybean and groundnut are legume crops and fix their nitrogen.
Unfortunately, yields of the three crops are stagnating in India at around 1.1 tons per hectare.
Global level study on crop losses due to pests — on average for
Losses in the low yield areas are more as farmers cannot afford the cost of pesticides.
India is one of the lowest users of pesticides.
All India Coordinated Research Project on Weed Management - soybean and groundnut showing the highest losses — more than 30%
Estimated yield losses due to weeds alone are around Rs 80,000 crore annually.
A more benign method for dealing with pests is through breeding.
Since 2000, genomes of all the major crops have been sequenced.
Paralysis - genetic engineering and gene editing technologies
Over the last 20 years, India has been spending between 0.7 to 0.8% of its GDP on R&D
There are structural issues like lack of competent human resources and lack of policy clarity.
Maybe the present crisis would lead to a greater appreciation of the need for strong public supported R&D in agriculture.
Flu in full flight
Highly pathogenic avian influenza subtypes, H5N1 and H5N8 - Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Kerala.
Thousands of poultry birds died in Gujarat, Kerala & Jharkhand.
As on Wednesday over 69,000 birds, including ducks and chickens, were culled in Alappuzha and Kottayam as per India’s 2015 National Avian Influenza Plan
Migratory birds have been largely responsible for long-distance transmission of the virus into India during winter.
Movement of men and material from poultry farms too has been a cause for further spread.
European Food Safety Authority report says 561 avian influenza detections were made between August-December in 15 European countries and the U.K.
While avian influenza virus crossing the species barrier and directly infecting humans happens occasionally, human-to-human spread has been rare.
But mutations or genetic reassortment of an avian influenza A virus and a human influenza A virus in a person can create a new influenza A virus that could likely result in sustained transmission between humans, thus increasing the risk of a pandemic influenza.
It is also important to undertake genome sequencing of virus samples to track the evolution of the virus.
Getting ready for vaccination
India has approved two COVID-19 vaccines
Are we prepared to dramatically increase the number of doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals who are trained for immunising and treating us?
If the world’s second-most populated nation can vaccinate and treat its people, other countries with far fewer daunting challenges can learn from India and save millions of lives.
Over 4,00,000 frontline workers in India have been trained to respond to COVID-19.
Thousands have learned about contact tracing, quarantine strategies, ventilator management, personal protective equipment, and psychological issues.
India was a beneficiary of a successful global innovation called Project ECHO.
ECHO started as a strategy for treating Hepatitis C, and is now responsible for newly trained experts in HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, addiction, mental health, and many other conditions.
The fact is that India, led by the Serum Institute of India, has the largest vaccine manufacturing capacity in the world.
Who will deliver these vaccines?
How do we store and handle the vaccines?
How do we overcome cultural and religious barriers for those who are reluctant to accept a vaccine?
How do we counsel people about side-effects so that they come to embrace the vaccine even if they start out with reservations?
How will healthcare workers — many new to COVID — keep track of the most important information?
Training more workers to treat more people is the best solution — for our personal and economic health.
The ECHO model is worth ramping up even more to identify new healthcare workers who can be trained to be COVID-19 experts.
American shame | Pioneer
Electoral and political violence before and after elections is not a surprise in India and many other parts of the world.
But the incidents that took place at the US Capitol in Washington DC — where the US Houses of Congress sit and meet, and were sitting to certify the results of the presidential election that took place in the US in November — are shameful since America has for the past two centuries been seen as a promoter and, more recently, a protector of democracy across the world.
Not just Trump, many of those who owe their political careers to him encouraged the supporters and, while they expressed their shock and dismay at the end result, this was nothing short of an attempted coup.
Part of the fault lies in the convoluted American election system where different States are given the Electoral College votes based on the weightages decided decades ago.
The US needs to move to a simpler and easier presidential election system where the person, a man or woman, who wins the plurality of the votes wins.
The US electoral system is broken and it needs to be fixed urgently, particularly as the country faces off against a rival across the Pacific Ocean once again.
If the world is to trust the US to stand up to China, if India is to trust the US to stand up to China, we need the US to fix its electoral flaws.
Fixing the deep divisions in American society, however, is something that might take much longer.
The US is clearly a deeply divided nation, much like many other democracies, including ours.
As Joseph Robinette Biden Junior becomes the 46th President of the US on January 20, he has an incredibly difficult task in the shape of uniting his country, in front of him.
China block WHO experts | FPJ
Chinese defiance of civilised norms of behaviour
It gave flimsy excuses to block the expert from visting Wuhan
Yet, if the WHO, under controversial head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who was accused of being soft on China, cannot arrange to inspect the origins of the pandemic which has tormented the world, it speaks of the arrogance of President Xi Jinping and his constant need to project power to the world.
Power without responsibility poses a threat to world peace.
China needs to follow the canons of civilised behaviour, without which it risks being dubbed a rogue power.
Second nationwide dry run of Covid-19 vaccination drive to be held today
Covid-19 recovery rate in country reaches 96.36 per cent
Govt to hold eighth round of talks with farmers' unions in New Delhi today
JEE advanced test to be held on July 3
Vaccination for COVID-19 is voluntary, says govt
16th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas Convention to be organized on 9th January in virtual format