Bihar needs jobs, incomes

Kashmir Times. Dated: 11/9/2020 10:42:07 AM

Only an innovative approach can ensure the desperate needs of jobs and income in Bihar, which can create plenty in farms and industry

The successive central and state governments do not appear to have paid a serious thought to the agricultural potential of Bihar in the past seven decades. The agricultural potential has never been in doubt because of the reason that its abundant water and land resources made it a perfect destination for India’s second Green Revolution. The fertile soils and water resources from Ganga and its tributaries of Sone, Gandak, Burhi Gandak, Bagmati, Kosi and Mahananda have always created fertility of thoughts and philosophy for the world from this land for centuries. Perhaps that could also be the reason that it was host to civilizations of India over the past three millennia. The state has not quite delivered on the promise, though glimpses of what it can do can be seen in the production of maize. The figures suggest that Bihar today produces almost 25 percent of the country’s maize with its average yields over twice the national average. Many farmers, especially in the Kosi-Seemanchal belt, harvest 50 quintals or more per acre, which is comparable to that in the US Midwest corn heartland and is unparalleled anywhere in India. No other belt in Indian heartland of mountains has been able to match the production of maize of this scale compared to Bihar. The corn revolution has been entirely a private sector-led one in Bihar. The credit for it goes mainly to multinational seed companies which introduced the cultivation of single-cross maize hybrids. They, along with large trading firms and feed millers, recognised the potential of planting these during the rabi winter-spring season, when the mild temperatures with clear skies, absence of flooding and low pests and disease infestation were conducive for ensuring high yields. Moreover, this crop could be harvested during April-June, when there was no corn available from the rest of India or even South America. Bihar’s farmers took to rabi maize in a big way from the early-2000s and it isn’t just corn. The state’s other agriculture success stories particularly the fruits, be it litchi or makhana, have also been largely private enterprise-scripted. And all this has done without any Minimum Support Price (MSP) - based procurement or functional APMC (Agricultural Produce Market Committee) Mandis that farmers in Punjab, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh take for granted.

After the conclusion of the Legislative Assembly elections, the government, that takes over in the next few days, can do more and effectively with some innovations. Bihar’s rural roads have improved in the last two decades. But this is not so with electricity and water availability. These may be available for homes, but not in farms and cottage industries across the state. Without three-phase power supply, farmers use diesel pumps for irrigation, which is expensive and also leads to poor harnessing of the state’s rich groundwater resources. The next government should focus on affordable electricity not just for LED bulbs and fans, but also to power tube-wells, milking machines and bulk coolers. Farmers also need markets; dismantling the monopoly APMC Mandis does not mean shutting them down. Bihar desperately needs jobs and incomes; agriculture can create plenty of these, both on and off the farms and provide a model for other such areas in the country. The sloganeering and promises do not solve the problem of unemployment in Bihar but wholly new approach needs to be worked out for the welfare and development of the people. The rich resources of both land and water can be harvested for the twin purpose of providing jobs and income to every household in Bihar.

 

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