What normally would have been a time for celebration for the Indian farmers has now posed an uncertainty in their survival itself. But, despite everything, the Indian Farmer toils away.

Baisakhi has traditionally been a time of celebration for Indian farmers- it marks the end of the Rabi Season and the day when their crops are ready for harvest. It is also the Sikh New Year and the Hindu Solar New Year, and thus has great religious significance to it as well.

However, this year, the Indian agricultural industry faces an unprecedented challenge. The Coronavirus pandemic has brought the country to a standstill and is possibly our worst economic emergency, ever. The lockdown imposed to curb the spread of the virus has caused a huge disruption in the agricultural supply chains, leading to problems for tge producers, transporters and consumers.

Firstly, to harvest a crop, the sector needs labour, who mostly hail from states like Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Bihar. Due to the lockdown, most of them have resorted back to their villages, where a necessary sense of comfort and belongingness will be duly provided. Due to this, farmers are unable to harvest the crop mechanically or even hand pluck it, something that will lead to late harvests, which coupled with a lower yield and a shorter window to plant the next season’s crop aggravates the problems. Even in a situation where the harvesting is done, things like packaging the produce, transporting it the mandis and then to storage facilities will remain a challenge without the required labour.

The second major issue currently is the problem with distribution. Even after the Government of India has declared agriculture as an essential (which was done on 27th March, the country went into lockdown on the 24th of March) and allowed repair and supply shops toremain functional, distribution remains a major challenge. This too is heavily linked to the lack of availability of labour and the medium that can make the produce reach from the farms to the markets. Fears about a rush to the mandis the moment the harvest takes place cannot be ignored either, leading to panic selling and a further drop in prices, negatively impacting more what is already an economically unviable activity for most farmers.

Image Caption: Transportation of Crops remains a major problem for the Agriculture Industry Image Credits: Getty Images
Image Caption: Transportation of Crops remains a major problem for the Agriculture Industry
Image Credits: Getty Images

The governments at both centre and state levels have tried to counter these problems. The Central Government has released an advance of Rs. 2000 to 7.92 Crore farmers on the PM-KISAN payments while also releasing funds for states to buy the crop at Minimum Support Price (MSP). Apart from that, the Market Intervention Scheme, which reimburses farmers of perishable crops in case of low prices, has also been implemented and governmental agencies have been asked to increase obtaining of produce from these farmers at MSP. The Haryana Government has guaranteed purchase of entire stocks of mustard and wheat and increased the number of markets so that there is one market to every three villages, while also ensuring the measures to contain the spread of Coronavirus in these markets. Telangana has announced a token system for the farmers to go to the mandi and a complete decentralisation in procurement, whereby the purchases will be made through respective Primary Agricultural Cooperative Societies in every village to cut down on the need for transport.

However, a lack of a coordinated policy at the national level is likely to hurt the farmers. The Centre needs to work with the State Government(s) and implement a strategy that enables the farmer to sell their wheat or other crops without having to arrange for transport. The Government can also try and get labourers to come and work if they’re willing to, perhaps taking a page out of Germany’s book, who flew in labourers from countries like Romania and Bulgaria to pick the agricultural produce. The railway network should be utilised effectively to ensure supplies reach where they’re needed and the Haryana and Telangana models should be implemented throughout the country so that the produce reaches the proper channels.

A lack of supply isn’t the problem- the winter crop this season has been bountiful. Matching the supply with the demand and getting it to where it is needed is an urgent problem that needs to be tackled on a war footing. The government needs to be proactive in its approach. While our flour mills cry out for wheat, the Food Corporation of India (FCI)is sitting on 27 million tonnes of wheat from the previous Rabi season, with a record 110 million tonnes estimated to be harvested this season.

While most of us sit in the comfort of our homes, the farmers toil daily to ensure our meals. As we clap for our doctors, this Baisakhi, we should also celebrate the farmers and express our gratitude by not indulging in hoarding of food items, wastage of any kind and use our privilege wisely to impact those who are struggling to meet their ends in such circumstances. This is the time for us to translate our solidarity into action.

Featured Image Credits: The Hindu Business Line

Khush Vardhan Dembla

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At Dvara Research, we are delighted to host the inaugural Dvara Research Blog Competition 2019 for students currently pursuing Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in India. The theme of the competition is “Suitable Finance for Agricultural Households”. It is aimed towards encouraging students to conduct analyses on the agricultural sector in India, and how suitable finance can serve as a lever for lower-income agrarian households to improve their social as well as financial capital.

Agriculture as an occupation is dependent on circumstances that are highly unpredictable. The likelihood of shocks for workers engaged in agriculture, as well as the seasonality of cropping cycles usually leads to such households not having a regular source of income. As a result, regular financial products and services, with their calculations made based on monthly averages, fall short of being able to address the issues faced by agricultural households.

At Dvara Research, the Household Finance Research Initiative aims to rigorously understand the financial choices and decisions of low-income or excluded individuals and households, and their relation to achieving households’ objectives. In this context, we realise that one cannot look at the financial well-being of households without ensuring that they are protected from being prescribed unsuitable methods by which to achieve it. We believe that financial service providers must ensure that the customers’ interests are adequately and effectively protected as a matter of business process. Through this competition, we hope to encourage and invite thinking on ways of aligning these two important aspects of household finance, to apply suitable finance to the issues and challenges faced by agricultural households.

The competition builds on our intent to develop and promote the household finance research community in India. Earlier this year, the Household Finance Research Initiative had launched two tools – the Financial Well-Being Evidence Gap Map and the Dvara Open Online Repository – to engage with the broader household finance research community and to pool resources that would help further their work. The competition serves as a means to encourage students to engage with the theories and resources of household finance, thereby building the community and increasing the flow of ideas within the sphere.

Students are encouraged to submit their original analysis/insights by 20th October 2019, which would be reviewed by an eminent jury, comprising of Dr. Ajay Kumar Tannirkulam, Bindu Ananth, Dr. Ritu Verma, and Dr. Sudha Narayanan. The top three entries as selected by our jury will receive INR 35000, INR 25000, and INR 15000 respectively. The top three entries will also be featured on our blog. For competition rules, grading criteria and relevant resources, please visit this page.


(This article was contributed by Vishwanath C from Dvara Research)

The Indian Annual Symposium, saw an amalgamation of academicians, the Government, and industry leaders to illustrate the possibilities of scientific advancement.

On Thursday, 4th February 2019 at Vigyan Bhawan, the Indian Annual Symposium – ‘Science and Society’- was organised by the Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute (LMSAI) Harvard University, in collaboration with NITI Aayog and Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India. The opening ceremony was graced by Mr. Tarun Khanna, Director of LMSAI. Mr. Khanna talked about bridging the gap between scientists and the society.

Following the ceremony, the first session was titled ‘Setting the Context for Science and Society’ and it was moderated by Mr. Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog. The first speaker of this session, Dr. V.K. Saraswat, Member (S&T), NITI Aayog and Chancellor, Jawaharlal Nehru University spoke of science as an important tool for the sustainable society. He further said that science, technology, and society are a three-way road which must go together as they have the power to transform civilisation. He ended his note by urging social scientists and society leaders to take lead for converting problem areas to workable strategies and decisions, especially in the fields of agriculture and healthcare.

The next speaker of the session was Ms. Kiran Mazumdar, Chairperson and Managing Director, Biocon, who talked about the areas and the ways in which India needs to improve in science and technology. She said that science should be celebrated and well-connected with the society.

Dr. K. Vijay Raghavan, Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India, took the session forward by highlighting the biggest challenge faced the nation, which is the lack in inclusiveness of the three pillars of the country – government, industry, and civil society. He stated that science and technology, which is the fourth pillar of the nation, can help overcome this challenge. For that, he added, the country needs to embark upon large scale educational programmes so that the “language of science” is accessible to all. Countering Ms. Mazumdar’s example of Bangalore as a success model, Dr. Raghavan called the success essentially “an accident.” Thus, according to him, there’s a need to be little more active if we were to replicate the same success in multiple places.

Mr. Amitabh Kant ended the session by voicing the need of massive investments in science and technology for the development of India.

The second session of the Symposium was to highlight the ‘Technological Advancements in Agriculture,’ moderated by Mr. Manoj Kumar, Senior Advisor and Head – Innovation, Tata Trusts.

Dr. Shannon Olsson, Associate Professor, Naturalist-Inspired Chemical Ecology, National Centre for Biological Sciences, talked about the challenges faced by agriculture in India. She highlighted the need for India to have a better handle of its diversity and to focus on adapting sustainable technology. According to her, the ecological regions in the country need to be identified and awareness must be increased among the people.

Mr. Amitabh Mohanty then elaborated how we need to have “competency development” as well as “capacity development.” In his speech, he focused on the challenge# faced by the farmers – such as land, input quality, weather, nutrition security, and how it’s pertinent to have a look at farming needs and using technology to fulfill it.

Dr. Suresh Subramani, Professor of Molecular Biology at the University of California, San Diego said that extensive export of crude and food by India has precipitated a national crisis in food security. He introduced to the audience CRISPR-cas technology and explained how it can be beneficial for the farmers. According to him, India has immense potential to leverage this technology. He also made everyone of its challenges since it’s a new technology.

At the end of the session, Dr. Olsson strongly condemned the need for any more new policy. She added that the country already has a lot many of them and it’s time that people work on the existing policies.

Dr. Venkatesh Murthy, Professor and Chair of Molecular and Cellualar Biology, Harvard University, moderated the third session of the event titled ‘Why study Life Sciences?’ He initiated the discussion by highlighting how Life Sciences is intrinsic to the daily life of the people.

The first speaker of this session, Mr. Sanjeev Galande, Professor and Chair of Biology, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research said that Life Sciences provides us with a platform to find the common thread of life. In his well elaborated presentation, he explained various technologies like single cell biology, and next generation sequencer, among others.  

Dr. Yamuna Krishnan, Professor, Department of Chemistry, University of Chicago, began her address with a powerful statement – “We are all born basic scientists.” She demanded innovations in labs and universities to have supportive mechanisms to bring them out and make them reach people.  

The session continued with Mr. J. Satyanarayana, Chairman of Unique Identification Authority of India, addressing important concerns regarding designing a system for health care which utilises data securely and creates a system that is “secure by design, private by design” in his National Digital Health Mission report.

Mr. Rahul Matthan, Lawyer, Head of Technical Division, raised ethical and legal questions regarding privacy and security. This was followed by a panel discussion and a short Q/A session.

The next session was led by Mr. Tarun Khanna, and focused on ‘Method and Tools to Enhance STEM Education in India.’ Mr. Dmitry Popov, Technology Development fellow in the Wyss Institute at Harvard, gave a detailed account of Soft Robotic Toolkit which can be used by high school and university students alike to explore the world of robotics.

The concluding session included Dr. Rajiv Kumar, Vice Chairman of NITI Aayog, talking about an effective system of government and industry working together to achieve development in the society with the help  of science and technology.

Image Credits: Surbhit Rastogi for DU Beat

Maumil Mehraj

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Shreya Agrawal

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Antriksha Pathania

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