<br>The nationwide lockdown in India is proving to be an effective measure to control the spread of coronavirus. The whole country is trying to follow the lockdown measures in accordance with the directions of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
People are cooperating in the implementation of the lockdown by remaining indoor. The state and local authorities are also cooperating by doing their jobs with alertness.
It is because of such cooperation that the number of coronavirus cases in India has not reached frightening proportions, as has been the case in many other countries.
Even as India has managed to control the number of coronavirus infections, it is becoming increasingly difficult to run the country in a normal way. While the Indian economy has been adversely affected by the lockdown, the daily lives of the masses is increasingly becoming problematic with each passing day.
One positive aspect that has emerged amid the bleak scenario is the importance of the Indian farmers as a ‘provider' or ‘benefactor”.
Each and every Indian has understood that the country's farmer is no less than a superhero for us since he is trying to provide us wheat, milk, fruits and vegetables to our houses at normal prices amid the lockdown.
Everyone, from the common man to the rich businessman, has understood that whatever they gathered in life through hard work, which they thought were irreplaceable, pales in significance before our need for food.
Nowadays, ensuring two meals made up of wheat, milk, vegetables, and fruits has become the biggest need of us all. All this has been possible due to the country's farmer, who did not get any importance or respect.
The importance of going out, eating sumptuous food, wearing expensive clothes, mobile phones, owning expensive cars and houses fade away when compared with a handful of wheat grown by the country's farmer. We can live without luxuries, but can't live without food. And that food is grown by our farmers who sweat and toil in their fields.
India is primarily an agricultural country, with farmers making 70 per cent of its population. Despite this, the country's farmer is not capable of ensuring the basic necessities of life for himself or his family. Neither is he well-off.
The main reason for this situation is that farming and farmers have been considered less significant to other professions and activities. Since Independence, many schemes have been made for the welfare of farmers. But now is the time to ponder whether these measures have actually benefitted the farmers. The situation is such that farmers ensure food for their countrymen but themselves find it difficult to ensure two meals a day for their families.
Had stress been given to strengthen agriculture and animal husbandry since independence, the country's situation would have been totally different. Farmers would not have been forced to give up farming in his own village and look for other means of livelihood in far-off urban areas in the country.
Despite the fact that India is primarily and agricultural state, education was not in any way connected to farming, with the result that no educated person nowadays is willing to take up farming as a means of livelihood.
There are many factors which have contributed to the bad situation in which the Indian farmer finds himself in – natural calamities, shortage of water for irrigation, lack of agricultural resources, illiteracy, lack of information on high yielding crops, lack of information on methods to earn more with lesser agricultural inputs etc.
Though many schemes were formulated to ameliorate the condition of Indian farmers, their lot could not be improved during the terms of earlier Congress and Congress-supported governments due to illiteracy of farmers, non-communication of benefits of various schemes to intended beneficiaries in proper form and corruption in the distribution of relief packages to farmers in case of natural calamities etc.
When the Narendra Modi government came to power in 2014, it began by taking the good step of opening zero-balance Jan Dhan accounts. This is enabling direct benefit transfers to the accounts of intended beneficiaries like farmers, labourers and other intended beneficiaries.
The government also launched various schemes for the benefit of farmers, under which the compensation money is directly transferred to the accounts of farmers in case of any crop loss due to natural calamity.
The Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana is also proving to be quite beneficial to farmers, who now get Rs 6,000 each per annum. So far, each of the 7.92 crore farmers has been provided this amount by the Centre.
The Krishi Mobile Rath app has been launched to resolve problems of transport of agricultural produce from one place to another. Any farmer can contact authorities on the helpline number and get his problems related to transport resolved.
It is the constant endeavour of the government to ensure benefits of various schemes to more and more farmers, such efforts are not going to permanently resolve the problems faced by the agricultural sector, including farmers.
If we are to ensure a prosperous farmer in the country, we have to find permanent solutions to various problems of agricultural sector. In order to ensure that India comes on top in agricultural sector, educated youths have to come forward and adopt farming as a viable profession.
The farmers have to be educated about high-yielding crops, productive soil, production of high quality seeds, scientific methods of crop storage and transport, methods to ensure good crops with minimum irrigation, etc.
If farmers are ensured remunerative prices of their produce in markets, more and more people will come forward to adopt agriculture as a profession.
This situation will in turn help in redressing the problem of unemployment faced by the country.
When the country's farmer becomes self-dependent and prosperous, India's economy will benefit.
(The writer is Union Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmer Welfare. The views expressed are personal)