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Higher farm productivity must to check prices: President

New Delhi, Jan 25 (Calcutta Tube) With food inflation at a high of over 17 percent, and potatoes, pulses and sugar costing twice as much as they did last year, President Pratibha Patil Monday said time had come to think ‘out of the box’ to bring down prices with focus on farm productivity through a second Green Revolution.

‘The world over, as also in our country, there is a rising demand for food-grains,’ the president said in her address to the nation on the eve of the country’s 61st Republic Day.

‘This foretells the need for an intense focus on increasing agriculture productivity to ensure food availability, particularly of agricultural produces that are in short supply to avoid spiralling food prices,’ the president said.

‘I call for urgent steps toward a second Green Revolution. There should be use of new technologies, better seeds, improved farming practices, effective water management, as well as more intense framework for connecting the farmer with the scientific community with lending institutions and with markets.’

India’s first Green Revolution saw the country’s grain productivity grow manifold during the 1970s and 1980s with use of new and improved variety of seeds and much better irrigation technologies to help India become a net exporter of food.

The president said ‘out of the box thinking’ was necessary, as higher agriculture income would improve the living standards of the over 145 million rural households, in the over 600,000 villages of the country.

‘With higher income levels, the rural economy will generate demand and provide impetus for growth in other sectors,’ she said adding a more proactive farm sector in the growth process will enhance production and as generator of demand for products and services.

Delving at length on the issue of farmers, Patil — who first spoke in Hindi and then in English — said possibilities of partnerships between industry and agriculture should be explored.

‘For example, the food processing industry when located close to agricultural areas can transform India’s rural landscape. Currently food processing is as low as 10 percent of production compared to 65-85 percent generally seen in developed countries,’ she said.

‘Other agro-based industries would be equally important as propellers of growth. The question is: How to attract farmers into such partnerships that do not adversely affect but rather keep the interests of farmers in the forefront and take into account their various sensitivities, particularly about their land-holdings.’

Calling the beginning of 2010 ‘the deciding decade, the decade of reckoning’, Patil said policies to promote growth to the bottom of the pyramid and to those currently outside its purview must be pursued.

‘Empowering the poor and the disadvantaged, enabling them to move up the economic ladder, to join the ranks of the prosperous, is a task that must be accomplished by all of us. Women need to be made full and equal partners. The inclusive growth strategy, which we have chosen, can make our growth process equitable and sustainable.’

Patil laid emphasis on eradication of social malpractices, especially those related to discrimination against women.

‘These pose a hindrance on our path to building a more progressive and equitable nation. We should follow a positive agenda for the empowerment of women. A change in our mindsets will be important to remove prejudices and create equal opportunities for all citizens. This is essential for our inclusive growth agenda and for tapping the full potential of our population,’ she said.

The president also warned that ‘weak implementation and corruption in the system’ were obstacles due to which policies were not having their desired results.

‘A bottleneck and an impediment in bringing about the desired results, for which policies and schemes have been formulated and huge allocation of funds made, is weak implementation and corruption in the system,’ she said.

‘The causes of the chronic ailment of tardy implementation have to be treated. There should be accountability for lack of implementation of projects, programmes and schemes. This is critical for bringing about positive change.’

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