Bihar sets up agriculture ‘cabinet’ for farm sector

April 25th, 2011 - 3:02 pm ICT by IANS  

Patna, April 25 (IANS) Bihar has become the first state in the country to constitute an agriculture ‘cabinet’ with an aim to improve the agrarian sector and address the plight of the farmers.

The new ‘cabinet’ is headed by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and will have in it ministers of 18 departments including water resources, irrigation, energy, rural works, sugarcane industry, animal husbandry and disaster management.

“Agriculture sector is one way or another dependent on all these departments,” an official said.

The chief minister’s agriculture advisor Mangal Rai, former director general Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR), is a special invitee to this cabinet. The first meeting of the agriculture cabinet is to take place Tuesday.

“All these departments will work with a single goal to develop the agriculture sector,” the official said.

“It is not only a big news for the millions of farmers of Bihar, but beginning of turnaround for agriculture sector. This will help the state to achieve second green revolution,” state Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh told IANS.

Singh said the Bihar government has given highest priority to the agriculture sector and increased its budgetary allocation from Rs.25 crore to almost Rs.844 crore in 2011-12.

The news of a cabinet exclusively for the agriculture sector was cheered by the farmers.

“It appears that the Bihar government is turning its attention to agriculture sector,” Mahavir Mahto, a farmer near Patna, said.

In the last five years, Nitish Kumar has repeatedly said that he wants to have one or two agriculture product from the state on the plate of every Indian in the coming years.

The state government chalked out a roadmap for the agriculture sector in 2008.

“Several steps, including promotion of modern techniques of farming, organic farming, use of improved seeds among others, have been taken in last two-three years but it is still a long way to go in developing the agriculture sector,” an official of agriculture department said.

Atul Singh, an economist researcher in New Delhi-based Jawaharlal Nehru University, said that Bihar’s agriculture growth instead of going up has shown declining trend.

“It is a hard fact revealed by the government’s own economic survey,” Singh said.

According to the official data, against the national productivity average of 2 tonnes of rice per hectare, the state’s rice productivity is about 1.5 tonnes per hectare.

In case of wheat, the state’s productivity is 2.2 tonnes per hectare against the national average of 2.7 tonnes.

The state government holds repeated droughts and floods responsible for this poor production.

The state government admits on its official website that agriculture is the key to the overall development of the state economy.

Agriculture is the backbone of Bihar’s economy, 81 percent of workforce, and generation of nearly 42 percent of the state domestic product, it says.

“Barring maize and pulses, productivity of various farm produce in Bihar is much below the national average. Though the area under cultivation is shrinking, there is tremendous scope for income generation, by improving productivity. Adverse climatic condition, like draught and floods, do play a role in decreasing products,” the official website says.

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