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Indira award hails farming as unifying force: Swaminathan

India must work towards insulating its farmers from climate variability and price volatility to ensure food security, said Dr M S Swaminathan.

Ashok Kumar/OneWorld South Asia

New Delhi: Eminent agricultural scientist Dr M S Swaminathan, known as the father of India’s Green Revolution, received the 28th Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration for the year 2012, in New Delhi. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi presented the award to Swaminathan on the 29th death anniversary of former prime minister Indira Gandhi.

In an exclusive interview to OneWorld South Asia, on the day of the awards ceremony, Swaminathan, said that the award holds a special place for him since it is being given for national integration which is an important challenge for India.

Swaminathan feels that recognition of an agricultural scientist as one of those contributing to national integration, highlights the role of farming in forging national unity. “After all Punjab farmers are feeding the rest of the country, therefore it is a good recognition as the earlier awardees have been distinguished political leaders (APJ Abdul Kalam and Shankar Dayal Sharma) or personalities like M S Subbulakshmi, who used music as a binding force,” he said.

The award also assumes significance as this year India passed its Food Security Bill, which is now a legal right and is not a political patronage. Terming food as a political weapon, Swaminathan said that food sufficiency is basic to national independence. “Indiraji understood the linkage between Independent Foreign Policy and food security,” Swaminathan illustrated.

Explaining how the food security law would be beneficial to the farming community, the 88-year-old scientist, said that like the ‘Right to Information Act’ could be implemented with the files, the ‘Right to Food Act’ could be implemented with the help of farmers. Farmers would produce more only when there is assured marketing. “The Food Security Bill which will require 65 million tonnes is one good method of ensuring that the farmers produce will be purchased at the minimum support price. Thus food security bill will stimulate farming. The other important thing is that the very small farmers who form the majority will have double benefits as they can sell their own produce at a remunerative price and at the same time their families are being enabled to get the low cost food,” Swaminathan explained.

Disagreeing to criticism of the food security bill that India was ill placed to afford it, Swaminathan said, “If the country cannot afford food what else it can”. Quoting Mahatma Gandhi, the premier scientist said that ‘Food is God’. Education, health and nutrition are fundamental requirements for every human being and are the fundamental obligations for every government.

Stressing on the need to promote sustainable agriculture, Swaminathan, said that monsoon and market (volatility) are two major threats to sustainability. He stressed on the need for insulating Indian farmers from climate variability and price volatility. The premier scientist said that idea of food security has to be based on homegrown food. “The Right to Food which is now a legal obligation can be enforced with homegrown food. Like food reserves are necessary for food security, similarly, seed reserves are significant for crop security,” he said.

Swaminathan also advised the country to adhere to the ‘Panchsheel’ (Five Principles) for the benefit of farmers, which according to him includes land & water, technology & inputs, credit & insurance, assured & remunerative marketing and the economy of scale to small producers.

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