At a time when the trails of Corona pandemic are continuing and the fear of its derivatives is looming large, the Science and Technology community in India and around the globe is well advised to focus on an integrative approach to cultivation of science and interdisciplinary engineering to develop technologies to take mega challenges such as Climate Change, securing Water and Energy Security and cause a major upsurge of high-tech rural technologies to significantly boost farmers income and the national economy of a predominantly rural country like India where much of the Bharat resides says Kulpati Prof PB Sharma an eminent academician who is past President of Association of Indian Universities, AIU and currently Vice Chancellor of Amity University Gurugram.
The memories of the horror of Corona pandemic that forced migrant workers to lose their jobs and walk bare foot hundreds of miles to their native habitat in rural India are still afresh in the minds of all of us. It was thought that we shall, in our developmental plans cause a major departure in our approach to developing India of 135 crore plus population and devise policies , mechanisms and systems to attract the educated tech savvy youth to turn to their roots in rural India. They were also expected to make the Digital Transformation deeply penetrate in the rural areas to help create a robust rural high tech economy that shall help achieve the goal of inclusiveness and create millions of jobs in rural India from where earlier the workers were forced to migrate to mega cities to build modern India of the post Independent era.
It is heartening that the Govt of India has recently come out with a Policy frame work of National Biotechnology Strategy that shall cause the much needed departure in our approach to achieve the noble objective of inclusive development.
The National Biotechnology Development Strategy recently launched by Hon’ble Minister of Science and Technology Dr Harsh Vardhan at the recently concluded CII Global Biotech Conclave clearly emphasized its thrust on “Taking Science to Society – Empowering the Rural Sector” among other key initiatives to harness great potential of modern biotechnology advances to Nation building and global leadership in areas of major strength in biotechnology research and innovation in India.
The policy document articulates that ‘Under the overarching umbrella of Scientific Social Responsibility, Scientific Solutions need to percolate down to the grass-root level to have a wider societal impact and ensure Ease of Living of the Citizens. This
Will bring biotechnology closer to fulfilling societal needs and in the long run will contribute to building the public confidence in scientific solutions. Creating employment opportunities through biotech led micro-enterprises, wealth creation, and ensuring local resources’ sustainability are some of the myriad ways biotechnology can interface with society”.
The policy document further emphasizes the urgent need to “Establish Biotech Innovation Hubs for societal development promote Rural Bio-entrepreneurship and up scaling of grass-root innovations through the demonstration of viable and ecologically compatible technologies to the target groups for adoption in a holistic and sustainable manner”.
In addition the focus of policy is also on promoting ‘Scientist-Farmer Partnership for agriculture innovation through participatory research to connect science laboratories with the farmers to find innovative solutions and technologies to be developed and applied at the farm level”.
The government policy has come at a highly opportune time when we are in search of creating a robust rural economy that shall significantly boost the farmer’s income and make India lead the world in Rural Biotech Research and Innovations to take the mega challenges of food security, clean environment and climate change head on.
But to succeed in effectively implementing the National Biotechnology Strategy it would be highly desirable to cause radical departure to the way R&D is carried out in areas such as Biotechnology, Info technology, Nanotechnology, Life sciences and Environment Technologies.
It requires an integrative approach to bio info nano sciences in an environment of interdisciplinary science and technology for new product development and implantable scientific solutions for Agritech, Foodtech and Bioenergy technologies that together shall cause a major upsurge in grassroot high-tech rural entrepreneurship.
The leaders of farmers agitation need to understand that for a long time we all were in search of scientific solutions for significantly boosting farmers income and to rebuild rural India of our dream as a vibrant economic entity and a major partner in national development strategy.
The Annadata, the farmers of India are now poised for a major gain from National Biotech Strategy that provides a sound scientific basis for rural development under the go rural high tech impetus under the new policy framework for development.
It is ironical that despite producing more than its needs India continues to be classified as a country of hunger, infact 94th the Global Hunger Index 2020 out of 107 countries.
Even as India continues to suffer from a serious level of hunger, it is even more worrying that the nation continues to waste a significant portion of its farm produce. As per the statistics available 4135.224 MT food grains were wasted of which wasted rice accounted for 2831.912 MT and wheat 1303.312 MT in different Food Corporation of India (FCI) godowns as on January 1, 2019. It was primarily because of lack of enough storage capacity and also proper care of stored food grains of what was purchased by the government through MSP policy. On top of that the lack of chain of cold storage results into 16% of fruits and vegetables being wasted every year. Up to 10 per cent oilseeds, pulses and cereals grown in India are also completely wasted each year.
As such there is no denying of the fact that India need to significantly improve its storage capacity for food grain storage as well as its chain of cold storage capacity to avoid this colossal food and vegetable waste each year and year after year.
Let it be also understood that MSP for the current and future produce is only a small part of the strategic development of farmers, the major boost shall however come from the go rural impetus to the info nano bio lead Agritech and Food Tech industrialization of rural India that shall secure a bright future to rural youth and build a robust ecosystem of rural economy meeting the triple challenge of job creation, boosting farmers income and also assuring food security