6 Nov 2014

A Detailed Observation on Much Needed Reforms and Innovations in Indian Agricultural Education and Administration System

Education plays an important role in shaping an individual’s career and to earn recognition and respect in the society. Undoubtedly education is both socially & personally an indispensible part of human life. However the inequalities in the standards of education are still a major issue that needs to be solved as early as it could be. The importance of education in our life cannot be ignored at any cost. Life would be detrimental and disastrous without quality education. Hence it is the prime duty of mankind to try to make education flexible with changing pace of the world. Primary function of education is to increase the range of options for individuals. Therefore, we tend to define educational quality in terms of quantity of inputs. The best programs are those which provide most opportunities in terms of widest varieties of courses, teachers with most credentials, broadest range of physical facilities.

Indian Farmer in field (pic courtesy : pbs.org)
A demand-driven reversal in rural-to-urban migration patterns is creating increasing interest in the quality education in rural areas and subjects pertaining to those areas like Agriculture and allied subjects, so as to meet needs of people in sparsely populated regions. Just as rural roads have been routinely left off national maps, so too rural subject like agriculture have been routinely left off national educational agendas, strictly while talking about sustainability of our agricultural education system. Of course their meager absence from national educational agenda does not mean that, these have disappeared. But we have to raise our voices to strengthen it for the sake of the country.

Agriculture continues to remain a major sector of the Indian economy. It contributes 13 per cent of GDP, provides more than 50 per cent of employment and continues to be the primary source of living for 58 per cent of the population. Technological progress in agriculture is, therefore, crucial for the overall economic development of the country. With the constitutional changes of 1919, responsibility for agriculture was transferred to the Provincial Governments. On the recommendation of the Royal Commission on Agriculture (1928), the Imperial Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) was established as a Registered Society in 1929, which was funded mainly through a lump sum grant from the Government and the proceeds from the cess levied on certain commodities exported from India. After independence, the Council was renamed as the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) on June 10, 1948.

After independence, the research system has undergone some major changes. First, a number of State Agricultural Universities were established following the recommendations of the first Joint Indo-American Team in 1955. The first one was established in 1960 at Pantnagar in Uttar Pradesh (now in Uttarakhand) and other States followed suit. There are now 53 Agricultural Universities spread over different States. In addition, there are four National Institutes of the ICAR, which are involved in higher agricultural education at the postgraduate level. These are: (i) Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi; (ii) Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI), Izatnagar; (iii) National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI), Karnal; and (iv) Central Institute of Fisheries Education (CIFE), Mumbai. These Institutes have Deemed University status, and offer their own degrees and diplomas in agriculture and allied areas. There is also a Central Agricultural University (CAU) at Imphal to cater to the needs of North-Eastern States and one recently established Rani Lakshmibai Central Agricultural University, Jhansi.
The present agricultural research system comprises essentially two main streams, viz. the ICAR at the national level and the Agricultural Universities at the state level. Besides, several other agencies such as the Conventional / General Universities, Scientific Organizations, and various Ministries / Departments at the Center, and also Private or Voluntary Organizations participate directly or indirectly in research activities related to agriculture. The ICAR is the apex body for coordinating, guiding and managing research and education in agriculture including horticulture, fisheries and animal sciences in the entire country. With 99 ICAR institutes and 53 agricultural universities spread across the country this is one of the largest national agricultural systems in the world.

World is changing with immense pace supported by technological interventions and with targeted missions. In India, are we with the pace of global advancement? What are our broad educational goals in agricultural system; what is our mission? Obviously, the key figure in the educational systems is the students, or learner. What, then, are the objectives for him as an individual? How do we plan to attain these objectives? Only by studying data and analyzing the various alternatives, can we make sound decisions? How do we know, when we have achieved our objectives; what are our methods of accountability? How do we feed this information into the rethinking of our objectives; how do we recycle?
On the basis of such organized process we can plan for the future – not as necromancers but as architects. With a value, rational, didactic, psychological, economic, and political strategies, we can advance towards reforms in educational as well as administrative reforms in agriculture. Whatever design is used, simple or complex, na├»ve or sophisticated, it must serve decision-making processes effectively, with core focus on relevance, significance, scope, credibility, timeliness and pervasiveness for the stakeholders.


When we think of change, we too often think in terms of contrasts and extremes. Usually, however, no matter how drastic the change, how revolutionary the outcome, there is first a series of steps, of trials and errors, even of outright failure occurring along the way until the ultimate is achieved. So it is in AGRICULTURE. Until our goals are reached, until a totally new system is adopted, we will not stand still. New programs will be developed, new directions undertaken. We will go through a series of transitions from where we are to where we plan to be. However, the problem we are facing today is one of rate of change. We can no longer go along at our own comfortable pace, conferring, meditating and setting long periods aside to “see what happens.” Knowledge has accelerated to a degree unknown, this in turn calls for accelerated change, a speeding up of our intellectual reflexes. Our “response time” must be cut down.Because of the urgency to at least meet the world where it is, we must break through our own time barrier and seek new directions for REFORMS.


Agriculture is a “science with human face”, so we have to amalgamate both “import and improve model” and “community based education model” having multiple kind of settings, each tailored to specific needs of different communities. Our agricos need to be trained to compete with one another if they are to be able to compete successfully in the urban market. They need to learn to deal with strangers in impersonal settings if they are to be able to live and work happily in global environment. They need to learn job skills which will be marketable in the cities.

To achieve this well tailored goal, we have to fine tune our existing agricultural education system with subtle innovations, like
a.) Rapid up gradation of course curricula
b.)Development of languages and book promotion in agriculture with major emphasis on technical aspects
c.)Introduction of youth services ,like Krishi Yuvak Kendras as per the pattern of NSS
d.)Compulsory radio and TV talk for students as per their course schedule
e.)One to one interaction in local schools during vacation of agricultural graduates in vernacular with locally relevant issues
f.)Introduction of farm schools at every districts and graduates should be interns there
g.)Scholarship and contingency fund to students pursuing degrees
h.)Short term funds for the projects which not only promote basic research insight among students but also promote them to pursue higher education
i.)Strengthening of infrastructure like libraries and laboratories which promote learning habit among education
j.)Collaboration with external academic bodies through scholarship program and partial financial assistance scheme
k.)Introduction of private agencies in agricultural education and research
l.)Compulsory work experience courses of processing and value addition during each semester
m.)Career counseling through advisory bodies under DSW
n.)Inter-university study exchange program
o.)Inclusion of agricultural education in Indian Educational service
p.)Parity of higher education in agriculture with other professional subjects, like establishments of IARI like institute in major corners of country
q.)Creating separate Indian Agricultural Service cadre which not only promote education system but also strengthen administrative and policy support
r.)Providing license for graduates on the pattern of veterinary and medical students which will boost graduates in terms of career options
s.)Up gradation of ASRB as national body under separate agricultural commission


Apart from all these reforms in educational setup we need a robust administrative and policy support for making it practical. Day-by-day farming has become profitless. Farmers are under debt and committing suicides. Agricultural scientists and Technocrats have no or limited say in decision making in government and hence their service conditions are not sound. There is no regulatory framework for agricultural research and education as developmental program are handled by generalist. The recommendation of various government appointed committees such as National Farmers commission have not been implemented by the government.


In due course of reforms in agricultural administrative reforms, we have to ponder over these important points, like

          a.)Need of overall Administrative Reorganization in the sector to reap maximum out of the HR (Central Subject-state subject issue, tussle between the national and State bodies regarding policy making and implementation):
b.)Constitution of an organized cadre system in the form of  Indian Agriculture Service
c.)Strengthening of Agriculture Extension System in the country for Technology dissemination to farmers:
d.)Introduction of a transparent system by eradicating bureaucratic interference in implementation of agriculture development programs
e.)Inclusion of Agriculture Works (Farm Operations) under MG National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA)  and Engagement of Agriculture Graduates for implementation of MGNREGA
f.)Establishing Centre and State Agriculture Council as regulatory body for giving accreditation to agriculture education and for granting license to Agriculture degree holders by considering agriculture degree as professional degree at par with graduate degree in Medical and Veterinary Science 
g.)Effective regulatory mechanism for supply of quality agricultural inputs to farmers at a reasonable and affordable price with performance guaranty / warranty of inputs and promotion of organic inputs’ production at farm/village/cluster level
h.)Processing and marketing linkage of agriculture produce for value addition to farmers
i.)Framing of National/State Agriculture Policy
          j.) Separate budget for agriculture
k.)Minimum support price for agriculture produce may be made Profitable Price
l.)Creation of Grievances Redress Mechanism for Agriculturists(Agriculture scientists/Officers, Farmers and Students)
m.)Separate TV/Radio Channel and separate page in news paper for covering news related to farmers
n.)Element of Agriculture Levi/Cess on Corporate Sector
o.)Promotion of Mechanization, Diversified Agriculture, Secondary Agriculture, Mixed Farming and Organic Cultivation
p.)Research on GM crops
q.)Maximum use of ICT
r.)Proper collaboration between co-operatives and private agencies through government support


Strengthening of agriculture will not only help in up-liftment of the farmers but also benefit the larger section of the rural poor who are directly engaged in agriculture or indirectly linked with agriculture as consumers. Efficient way of production, stabilized prices, higher income from agriculture would create a more supportive environment for the development of the economy as a whole and rural development in particular. One of the most important component of the much needed reforms is not only implementation of the policy in time but also simultaneous review and evaluations of the impact of the policies and taking immediate steps to rectify the negative impacts caused by any of the policies. Inter sectorial linkages and organization of the agricultural sector also needs to be taken up complementarily. Sustainability is another key issue. 
The visible institutional changes with new models of marketing and cultivation should be supported by government policies too. Priority investment areas identified need to be taken under action plan without any loss of time. Risk management should be forthright and incentive based system needs to be introduced to motivate farmers to efficient agriculture. Empowerment of the small and marginal farmers through education, reforms and development will ensure a better, efficient and strengthened ambience for Indian agriculture. Motivation towards new models in production and marketing along with creating awareness and imparting education to small farmers will help in development of the sector and more importantly improve the economic status of poor farmers. The action plan to strengthen agriculture in India needs to be on reforms of the sector through reduction of government intervention and allowing it to be market driven. Government should play major role as evaluator and implement commensurate policies to unbind the growth, increase investment and prioritize the area for investment etc. Parallel action plans also needed in research to increase productivity and irrigation and water management.
What is your view on Indian agriculture system? How it can be made more advanced and sustainable?
What are your suggestions/ideas to make Indian agriculture system world class?
(Written by Prakash Jha, an Alumnus of Dept. of Agriculture, BHU, Varanasi and currently JRF at IARI (Indian Agricultural Research Institute), New Delhi)



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