India has become 'bread basket' from 'begging bowl': Pranab Mukherjee

Chennai, Aug 7 (ANI): President Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday said that the year 2013 would mark a significant milestone in Indian agricultural and social history, and expressed confidence that the Parliament would pass the National Food Security Bill believed to be the world's largest social protection measure against hunger.

"The National Food Security Ordinance was promulgated and the Bill in this regard has been introduced in the Lok Sabha today. He is confident the Parliament would approve this measure. This initiative is believed to be the world's largest social protection measure against hunger," said President Mukherjee in his address on the occasion of the Silver Jubilee Celebrations of M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) here.

"Henceforth, availability of food at an affordable cost would be a legal right to over two thirds of our population," he added.

President Mukherjee said 'every Indian can be proud of this transition from the days of the Bengal Famine of 1943 in which over 3 million people died to the implementation of the Right to Food with our own home grown food'.

"However, this Rights based approach to Food can be sustained only if we pay greater attention to farmers and farming. The National Commission on Farmers, chaired by Prof M S Swaminathan has given valuable recommendations for converting the Green revolution into an Ever-Green revolution, resulting in higher productivity in perpetuity without associated ecological harm," he added.

President Mukherjee said land is a shrinking resource for agriculture.

"We have hence no option except to produce more from less land as well as less irrigation water. This is where the farmer participatory research programme as well as the farmer to farmer learning institutions like Farm Schools promoted by this Foundation are extremely valuable," he added.

Asserting that eastern India has large untapped production potential, President Mukherjee said: "The future of our food security system will depend upon the progress we make in assisting farm families in this region produce more in an environmentally sustainable manner. When I was the Finance Minister, I had delineated in the Union Budget for 2010-11 a strategy to extend the Green Revolution to the eastern region of the country. "

"As a result of this initiative, farmers in the selected clusters have adopted good agricultural practices and benefitted from the yield advantage of hybrid rice technology. It is important that the Green Revolution in eastern India is provided impetus through synergetic packages of technology, services and public policy," he added.

President Mukherjee pointed out that climate change, leading to adverse changes in precipitation, temperature and sea level is a major threat to our food security system.

"Drought, floods and extreme weather events are likely to become even more frequent. We have just witnessed the havoc caused by the floods in Uttarakhand. We should strengthen the coping capacity of rural and tribal families in the area of climate risk management. I am happy this Foundation is developing a cadre of Community Climate Risk Managers, with the ultimate goal of training at least one woman and one male member of every Panchayat in the science and art of climate risk management," said President Mukherjee

"There is great scope for marrying traditional knowledge and wisdom with modern science in this area. Our earlier systems of agriculture focused more on risk avoidance than yield enhancement. Now, we need to combine both," he added.

Commenting on nutritional maladies in the country, President said: "There is hidden hunger caused by micro-nutrient deficiencies, such as iron, iodine, zinc, vitamin A, Vitamin B 12 etc. Financial provision for a new initiative for organizing nutri-farms where agricultural remedies can be applied to overcome nutritional maladies has been included in the 2013-14 budget by Finance Minister Shri P Chidambaram. Credit for this idea also goes to Prof Swaminathan," he added.

President Mukherjee further said 'non -food factors like clean drinking water, sanitation and toilets, environmental hygiene and primary health care need equal attention, if we are to ensure nutrition security for our people'.

President said he was happy that he was honouring the farmers of the Kuttanad region of Kerala and Koraput in Odissa. He said: "This unique system of rice-fish cultivation developed by farm families against great odds has been declared by FAO as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS). I am glad the Chief Minister of Kerala, Shri Oommen Chandy has come all the way to receive the Plaque on behalf of the farm families of Kuttanad. I am also happy that the Assistant Director General of FAO is with us today for the specific purpose of handing over this Plaque. It will be appropriate to recall that the first GIAHS site to be recognized in our country is the tribal farming system of Koraput in Odisha. Kuttanad farmers are the second to receive such a global recognition."

On the occasion, he recalled the contribution of political leaders like Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi and C Subramaniam who had realized the strengths in the areas of science and farming.

"Their indomitable spirit helped scientists and farmers to convert the nation from a begging bowl into a "bread basket," he added. (ANI)


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