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India needs to think out-of-box to feed its population 10 years later
Having done very well in raising food grain production in the last decade, India will have to stick to 'out-of-box' measures and adopt a fresh strategy to ensure food security for its growing population in the next 10 years, a study has suggested.

THE COUNTRY’S food grain production, comprising mainly rice, wheat, coarse grains and pulses, increased from 197 million tonnes in 2000-01 to 257 million tonnes in 2011-12.

However, to raise the production in the same proportion to something like 320 million tonnes in the next eight to 10 years to feed our growing population will be a big challenge, given the fact that land resource is limited and the country needs to go for urbanization at an increased pace, industry chamber Assocham said in a study report.

It goes to the credit of the ‘Green Revolution’ and efforts of our farmers that the country harvested rich crop of food grains without much increase in the acreage. For instance, the acreage under food grains cultivation in 2000-01 was 122 million hectares while the total production was 197 million tonnes. The area under cultivation went up by four million hectares to 126 million hectares but the production jumped up to 257 million tones.

The study points out that India needs to constantly raise its food grains production and food security, first because our population in 2020 would be about 140-145 crore and secondly, most of our population is young. It goes without saying that youngsters are better eaters. And then, as a country we also need to improve on the nutrition scale as we strive to reduce the ratio of people below the present poverty level of about 30 per cent.

“In fact, finishing the poverty level should be the first priority,” the study emphasized, fully supporting the UPA Government’s flagship programme ‘Food Security Bill’ under which rice and wheat would be sold to BPL families at Rs three and Rs two per kg respectively.

The study pointed out that while the next level of revolution in pushing up food production is a challenging task, it is not impossible. However, it would require huge investment in raising the facilities for irrigation. As per World Bank report, only 35 per cent of India’s agricultural land has irrigation facilities and the rest depends totally on monsoon rains.

As much as 60 per cent of India’s land of 2973190 square kilometer comprises agricultural land (1797090 Sq km) and only 35 per cent of it is under irrigation.

“The productivity of irrigated land is almost double than the dry land. Besides, we can have at least double crop in a year on irrigated land whereas harvesting even a single crop would depend on the Rain God,” reveals the study, titled, “The Next Food Security Challenge”.

Unfortunately, even though thousands of crores of rupees are earmarked for development of irrigation facilities, not much attention is paid and neither the sector receives any media attention. For instance, we should monitor the progress of the Rs 14,000 crore ‘Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme’, Rs 2,500 crore ‘Flood Management programme’ and Rs 550 crore water bodies development programme.

“It is only when some scam takes place, like the one in Maharashtra that the media glare is seen on the sector,” the study observed regretfully.

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