Ranchi, July 10: Indicating Jharkhand may become a driver of India’s agricultural sector, Union finance minister Arun Jaitley in his maiden budget presentation today sanctioned the tribal heartland a centre of excellence on the lines of Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) in Pusa, New Delhi.
Jaitley announced institutions similar to IARI in Jharkhand as well as Assam, initially allocating a total sum of Rs 100 crore for both in the current financial year.
He reasoned that the move was to make India self-sufficient in food for its growing population and farming competitive and profitable by stepping up investment in agro-technology development.
“IARI, Pusa, has been at the forefront of (agriculture) research. However, since the country’s Independence, only one such centre has been established. So the government will set up two more in Assam and Jharkhand,” Jaitley said, adding that Rs 100 crore more would be put aside for an agri-tech infrastructure fund.
An agro centre comes as some consolation for the state that neither got an AIIMS nor IIT status for ISM-Dhanbad.
Director of ICAR, Plandu in Ranchi A.K. Singh welcomed the move. “It’s encouraging. We need hi-tech agriculture research in eastern India and it’s good to know Jharkhand will be at the forefront.”
“It’s good that Jharkhand’s agriculture potential in eastern India is being recognised centrally,” agreed J. P. Sharma, former principal scientist, ICAR, Plandu.
But he also wondered what would happen to the proposed infrastructure outlined in last year’s budget. “Last year, an Indian Institute of Agricultural Bio-Technology or IIABT was allotted to Ranchi. This year, it is an Indian Agricultural Research Institute or IARI. We’ve been demanding an upgrade of Indian Council of Agricultural Research for long. I don’t know how the government intends setting up the new one,” Sharma added.
Proposed on 120 acres near Ranchi Ring Road, Garkhatanga, last year’s IIABT gift for Jharkhand is coming up at a very slow pace.
R. Ramani, director of Indian Institute for Natural Resin and Gum, who is looking after the project, said construction work was expected in a couple of months.
“Site acquisition, boundary wall construction and other allied work have been done so far. Funds are not an issue,” Ramani said. On why the pace was slow, he said: “It’s a steady pace. These things need quality and scientific planning.”
Ramani also said the proposed IARI would benefit the state that is broadening its agri infrastructure base. “Our state has Birsa Agricultural University with academics as main thrust. ICAR, which has a regional impact, is solely research oriented. IIABT is again targeted at a specific field of biotechnology intervention in agriculture. IARI will broaden this umbrella and give Jharkhand a national outlook,” Ramani said.
He added traditional agriculture hubs such as Punjab were saturated. “That is why there is a look-east policy for the second green revolution.”
State agriculture secretary Nitin Madan Kulkarni said the requirements of the newly proposed institute would be clear after Centre provided details. “Local farmers and the state as a whole will gain. We can hope for path-breaking research now,” he said.
But another senior bureaucrat, not wishing to be named, outlined grey areas. “Cream projects can work in Jharkhand if they are allowed to function free from bureaucratic and political interference. Before anything took shape on AIIMS, our netas began fighting about location. Land acquisition takes on the scale of warfare,” he said.