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Thursday, March 28, 2019

Farmers are Critical for the well-being of the Nation

Press Information Bureau 
Government of India
Vice President's Secretariat
28-March-2019 13:25 IST
Farmers are critical for the well-being of the nation: Vice President 

Need to take steps to make agriculture more remunerative and sustainable; Climate change was the most common challenge faced by the world; Constructive debate must take place on the rise and impact of population and its growth; Delivers keynote address at the annual event 'Connect Karo'

Farmers+are+critical
The Vice President of India, Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu has said that farmers were critical for the well-being of the nation and they play a huge role in ensuring and maintaining home grown food security in India. He was delivering the keynote address at the annual event 'Connect Karo', organized by the WRI India, here today.

The Vice President said that collective actions were needed to correct development strategies to include preservation of nature. Talking about the serious impacts of Climate change, he opined that it was necessary that government, people and the private sector join hands to restore the balance that had wittingly and unwittingly disturbed.

Opining that everybody has stakes in the survival of the civilization, Shri Naidu called for constructive people’s movement on initiatives such as tree plantations, keeping surroundings neat and clean, educating the women and girl child, changing lifestyles to avoid the disease burden and others to correct the maladies in our society and to make our civilization environmentally sustainable. School children must be taught about the importance protecting and preserving the nature right from their school days, he added.

The Vice President said that increase in urbanization, cutting of forests, rise in energy consumption by way of increased use of cars, electricity, and others have led to indiscriminate use of resources across the globe and accelerated climate change. To arrest such trends, he advised for judicious and sensible use of natural resources and consciously adopt a low carbon growth path, without compromising on our economic development.

Shri Naidu said that in the Indian context, the cultural traditions of worshipping nature can provide additional inspiration for concrete, accelerated action. We should love and live with nature and preserve nature and culture for a better future, he added.

The Vice President stressed upon the need to take steps to make agriculture more remunerative and sustainable. In order to increase farmer’s income, we have to enhance their access to markets and equipped them to produce adequate quantity of nutritious food to ensure home grown food security, he added.

Shri Naidu called for efforts from scientists, agriculturalists and the policy makers to see that land resources were used efficiently by reducing intensity of harnessing vital natural resources like land and water for producing per unit of nutrition. Constructive debate must take place on the rise and impact of population and its growth based on the availability of resources and its impact on environment, he added.

Saying that India’s commitment towards renewable energy sources had led to the setting up of the International Solar Alliance, the Vice President said that the sector has the potential to create new jobs for men and women across India, contributing to the overall GDP of the country even as we find solutions for complex problems of clean energy. He also called for the urgent need to take systematic measures to improve air quality as it adversely impact the health and well-being of city residents, especially our children.

The Vice President said that climate change was the most common challenge faced by the world and said that the best way to face the challenges of climate change was to be friendly with nature and live in harmony with it. Nature culture together for better future, he added.

 Following is the text of Vice President’s address:

“Today, as we gather on this platform, we are looking at one of the major problems facing the world today.  We are all together fighting the common challenge of climate change that threatens our planet. And as we brace ourselves to cope with this challenge, we will have to marshal all our intelligence, knowledge, science and understanding of nature to do that.

Climate change is upon us.

But we must admit, it has given us ample warnings.

Across the world, weather related disasters have been increasing in frequency and intensity.From wildfires to hurricanes, droughts, flash floods, the world has been ravaged by natural calamities all through last year.

India has had its own share of disasters. In 2018 alone, Kerala saw the worst floods in 100 years;in North India, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and a few other states, were hit by a massive dust storm; and in Maharashtra, several districts suffered severe drought even as Mumbai experienced erratic rainfall throughout the monsoon months – from two deluges in June and July to almost no rainfall in August and September. There were many others.

In view of India’s high population density, any disaster in India impacts many more people than it does in other parts of the world. We know that India is going to become the most populous country in the world within the next generation. More than half our population will live in cities by then. Delhi will become the most populous city in the world, overtaking Tokyo.

Even as our population grows, our economy is also growing. India is set to become the third largest economy in the world.

As incomes grow, people legitimately want better lifestyles. They want bigger houses, more cars, more air-conditioning, more energy and bigger offices.  But, this also means more urbanization, more energy consumption, more carbon emissions, more waste generation, more air pollution and a higher demand for land.

All of these will accelerate climate change, unless we are careful and consciously adopt a low carbon growth path, without, in any way, compromising on our economic development. It is, therefore, imperative that we use our natural resources sensibly.

This is possible and several countries, which also have limited natural resources, have shown that it is possible to chart out a low carbon path. We must learn to maximize our resources and not be wasteful in our behavior.

Having said this, let me dwell on a few important challenges that India is facing and what we are doing to deal with them.

The country is seeing a rapid demographic transformation. Urbanization is taking place rapidly. From just 62 million people in 1951, our cities had over 377 million people in 2011, as per our last census. The share of the urban population went up from 17.3% in 1951 to 31.2% in 2011. Today, we understand that it has risen even further - to 34 % according to the UN - and predictions are that it will exceed 35 % by the next Census year 2021.

While this is a good sign and a manifestation of our shift from being a predominantly agricultural economy to a manufacturing and service sector economy, it also means a need to invest in our cities.

Studies have shown that we need to invest over Rs. 34 lakh crores in our urban infrastructure in the next 20 years. However, the public budget cannot afford this and resources have to come from other sources.

The private sector will need to invest in a big way. Private capital has to be tapped by making our investments bankable. The limited public funds have to be leveraged for this. The smart cities mission launched by the government seeks to do precisely this.

A growing urban population, along with growing income, has led to rapid motorization. This has meant severe congestion that adversely impacts the economic efficiency of our cities. It has also led to poor air quality and an increasing incidence of road accident deaths. Unfortunately, we are seeing nearly 400 road accidents deaths every day, causing untold misery to those who lose their near and dear ones.

The government has been according high priority to investments in public transport systems, including metro rail systems. These need to be planned well and as part of a comprehensive mobility plan. Stand-alone metro systems are not effective and need a holistic approach.

Globally, the mobility sector is also witnessing several new paradigms. Shared mobility systems, electric vehicles, bicycles and connected vehicles are beginning to occupy center stage in the global mobility systems. These are welcome changes and will have the impact of reducing traffic congestion, cleaning up the air and reducing the need for parking space. We have to leverage these changes and mainstream them into India’s mobility planning.  We have to also focus more on the Inland Water transportation and utilize the vast river resources we have in our country.

Let me now turn to our electricity sector. Today we can rightfully say that the era of shortages in electricity is gone. We are producing enough electricity today. However, we do have the challenge of distribution. Electricity needs to reach the remotest of homes and this has been problematic. Over 200 million people have extremely poor access to electricity. India, like most other countries of the world, has invested in a big way in coal-based thermal power. Coal fired power is expensive, unsustainable, highly water intensive and contributes to massive air and water pollution.

It is imperative that we enhance the share of the electricity we generate from cleaner sources like wind and solar.

We have taken up an ambitious program to enhance our solar energy capacity.

In the 2015 Paris Agreement, India made an ambitious commitment that by 2030 about 40 per cent of the nation’s installed energy capacity would be from ‘non-fossil fuel’ sources.

Our commitment towards renewable energy sources has led to the setting up of the International Solar Alliance, the first treaty based international inter-governmental organization headquartered in India.

India’s installed solar generation capacity has grown over 10 times in the last five years.  Today, this sector is creating new jobs for men and women across India, contributing to the overall GDP of the country even as we find solutions for complex problems of clean energy.

Our air quality has been a matter of concern. Every winter many parts of the country face ambient air quality that is extremely poor. This cannot be allowed to go on. We need to systematically identify the sources of the problem and deal with them. Otherwise this will adversely impact the health and well-being of city residents, especially our children.

Let me now turn to our food systems. Our farmers are critical to our well-being as a nation, as they feed us. We must not forget that farmers are the lifeline of urban India. The well being of our hard-working farmers, plays a huge role in ensuring and maintaining home grown food security in India. Agriculture must become more remunerative and sustainable. In order to increase farmer’s income, we have to enhance their access to markets. Schemes like E-NAM should be expanded to cover entire country.

As our numbers grow, we will need more food, and our farmers will have to be equipped to produce it in adequate quantity. We need to  ensure home grown food security.

Our land area is already limited, as I have mentioned earlier. So, we have to produce more from the same land. This can only happen if we use our land resources efficiently.

This will mean better cropping practices like “ Per Drop More Crop”and reduced waste in the movement of food from the “farm to the fork”. The objective is to reduce intensity of harnessing vital natural resources like land and water for producing per unit of nutrition. Perhaps, what we should measure is not the tons of paddy produced per hectare, but the units of nutrition produced per hectare.

Greater tree cover can improve the use of dry and degraded land and also remove carbon from the atmosphere. It is for this reason that we have committed to restore 13 million hectares of degraded land by 2020 and an additional 8 million hectares by 2030. We have also committed to sequester 2.5 – 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent by improving our tree cover.

Many of the challenges we face today need innovative solutions. Business as usual will not work.

As a means to promote innovations and encourage young innovators, the government has opened its doors to startups through platforms like Stand up India, Startup India, Digital India, etc., which will bring smart initiatives on a level platform and encourage innovations.

I am glad that there is a growing recognition of the contribution that small businesses and startups can make towards addressing climate change and promoting sustainable development. I am also happy that special benefits and incentives are being given to startups today.

We need to build 1.8 million affordable houses by 2022. The time is short and funds are limited. We also want to use clean technologies. With a view to bring in new technologies the Government has taken up a global housing construction technology challenge, to get the best technologies around the world – technologies that are clean, cheap and allow quicker construction.

I am delighted to learn that WRI India has been a knowledge partner to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs in this.

I am also delighted to learn that WRI India has contributed to seeking innovative solutions for last-mile connectivity to metro rail stations and to promoting better bus systems. These will prove extremely useful.

I am told that WRI India has also been working with the Governments of Maharashtra and Haryana towards promoting safety in transport systems. I compliment them for these efforts. These are examples of how we can all work together towards a sustainable future.

Our lofty goals will compel us to carve a path that is both innovative and holistic at the same time. Innovative, because it will be making a major departure from the profit-at-any-cost developmental model we are used to. Holistic, because it will set an example by building a circular economy based on reducing waste, recycling, reusing and respecting our natural resources.

Beyond Public-Private binary in our discourse, we should strive to build Public-Private Partnership where both the sectors bring synergy in their respective strengths to bring about public welfare through innovative private enterprise.

We are poised to become a five trillion dollar economy by 2024. Our sights are higher - to become a 10 trillion dollar economy in eight years thereafter.

I am hopeful and confident that, with a wise and stable approach, we can support our burgeoning urban and rural population -- to live well and with dignity, with access to safe and affordable living spaces, clean air, water, healthy and nutritious food, well-networked and equitable transport. We will also strive to make India pollution free again.

Climate change is threatening us, but it has also brought many of us together, those who sincerely care about it.

That is why events like WRI India’s Connect Karo, which strive to bring together a variety of stakeholders on the same platform, are of great value today. It brings us together in the true sense – a single connected nation, society, and world.

It is also an opportunity for us to restore the balance we had wittingly and unwittingly disturbed.

We should probably say “Correct Karo” in addition to “Connect Karo” so that we collectively correct our development strategies to include preservation of nature.

In the Indian context, the cultural traditions of worshipping nature can provide additional inspiration for concrete, accelerated action. We should love and live with nature. Preserve Nature and culture for a better future.

We need to ameliorate certain unwarranted bye-products of our energy-intensive civilization. We all have stakes in the survival of our civilization. It is a task which cannot be done by the Governments alone. It will be my earnest appeal to help create people’s movement for Swachh Bharat, for Tree Plantation, for Per Drop More Crop and for the sake of our daughter Beti Bachao Beti Padhao. Government programmes can supplement but not substitute constructive people’s movement to correct the maladies in our society and to make our civilization environmentally sustainable. Each one of us have stake in the success of these programmes. Each one of us have a stake in a better brighter future.

We have a huge task ahead of us.  I am glad that WRI is taking the initiative to connect all the stakeholders and move forward towards concrete action.

I wish you all the best and echo the collaborative approach ancient sages of India had envisaged when they said, “Let us move and work together, let us share a meal together, let us acquire knowledge together and let us put our knowledge to good use”.
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