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Prez stamp on CM agro map

Patna, Oct. 3: Lauding the state government for preparing the five-year agriculture roadmap (2012-17), President Pranab Mukherjee today suggested other states to follow the suit.

“Bihar remained bereft of the Green Revolution. Now, the state is at the threshold of piloting an integrated holistic development strategy involving crops, livestock, fishery and forestry with end-to-end approach,” Pranab said, launching the roadmap in the presence of Governor Devanand Konwar, chief minister Nitish Kumar, his cabinet colleagues, experts and senior officers of the state government.

“Other states too should formulate the long-term roadmap the way Bihar has made,” he said.

The five-year agriculture roadmap is linked to Pranab’s vision for the second Green Revolution in eastern India. He had spoken about it as the Union finance minister in his 2008 budget speech.

The cardinal features of the roadmap that the President launched include the second phase of Gandak Canal Project involving expenses of Rs 1799.5 crore. It will irrigate vast tracts of farmlands in Samastipur, Muzaffarpur, Sitamarhi, East Champaran and West Champaran districts.

Constituting agriculture co-operatives, opening chains of cold storages and warehouses to ensure long retention of the produce, conducting survey and consolidating lands besides providing market access and credit to the farmers are the other goals of the roadmap.

The President pointed out that in his budget speech (2010-11) as the finance minister, he had delineated a four-pronged strategy covering agriculture production, reduction in wastage of produce, credit support to farmers and thrust on food processing industry. “The first prong of the strategy was to extend the Green Revolution to the eastern region of the country. A total allocation of Rs 800 crore was made to support these initiatives in 2010-11 and 2011-12, which was increased to Rs 1,000 crore in 2012-13,” he said, emphasising that Bihar was the first destination of the second Green Revolution.

Appreciating Nitish’s efforts to restore “social respectability” of farmers through his futuristic roadmap, the President deviated from the book to break into anecdotes. “A doctor’s son wishes to become a doctor and so do the sons of other professionals and even politicians. But a farmer’s son seldom wants to become a farmer,” he said.

“It is so because the farmers — our annadata (food providers) — have ironically lost social respectability. It is heart warming to learn that Nitish’s roadmap has envisioned restoration of social respectability of the farmers’ community,” Pranab said.

The President stressed that the task of reviving Bihar’s economy and ensuring the welfare of its people hinged on the agricultural development. “Agriculture constitutes nearly 33 per cent of the state’s GDP but its share in the workforce is 74 per cent. This asymmetry between the GDP from agriculture and the workforce dependent on it has widened over the years, as employment opportunities in the non-farm sectors in the rural areas have not increased.”

While appreciating that Bihar’s roadmap had taken care of maintaining ecological balance and environment, Pranab said: “The first Green Revolution in mid-1960s that was confined to north-western India witnessed high yields of rice and wheat. But the traditional areas of the first Green revolution are now facing problems — problems of decreasing fertility, ground water level going down because of its excessive exploitation, overuse of chemical fertilisers weakening the productive capacity of top soil… Overall, it is a problem of sustainability.”

The President pointed out that Bihar’s agriculture roadmap had given top priority to the “sustainability factor and ecological balance”. “Moreover, as a result of the government’s visionary efforts, Bihar had surpassed other states to register the highest growth rate of 17.6 per cent growth in agriculture and 19.2 per cent growth in fish production in 2011-12. The overall food production has improved considerably. This spectacular achievement has given hope for agricultural transformation in Bihar.”

Earlier, speaking on the occasion, Nitish enumerated the salient features of the roadmap and expressed his gratitude to “Pranabda” for inaugurating it.

“I am overwhelmed to see you accepting our request to visit Bihar. I request you to keep on visiting the state with the promise that I will keep on updating you on the action we take in response to your guidance,” Nitish said, adding that the people of the state were overwhelmed by his elevation to the President’s post because Bihar and Bengal were once one and are still emotionally attached with each other.

Earlier, at the airport, Pranab was received by the governor, Nitish, most of his cabinet colleagues, Speaker Uday Narayan Chaudhary and chairman of the Legislative Council, Awadhesh Narayan, besides all senior members of the state bureaucracy.