Context:

  • The agricultural education system needs to be redefined in India.

Introduction:

  • Agricultural education is the teaching of agriculture, natural resources, and land management.
  • The Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) is the apex body for agriculture education, research and farm extension in India.

Need for agriculture education:

  • Education increases knowledge or information and it increases farmer’s capacity to learn.
  • As the farmer becomes better educated, new ideas from outside hit them more often and they are more likely to understand, appreciate and adopt them.
  • As the level of agricultural education increases, farmers will become more and more self-reliant and will depend more on their self studies of the literatures dealing with farming and less on personal help from the extension personnel’s.

The Role of ICAR:

  • Up to 1966, the council could play a very limited role in the development of agricultural education in the country because it had neither adequate financial resources to support the development programme of agricultural and veterinary colleges nor the statutory authority to enforce the standard of education.
  • The ICAR was recognized in 1966 as an autonomous society with full-fledged division of agricultural education.
  • It was established to provide the necessary leadership and support to accelerate the pace of development of agricultural education in the country.
  • In 1977 Council appointed high level review committee known as Randhawa Committee, to assess the progress of agricultural universities and submitted its report in 1978.

The problems plaguing ICAR are listed below:

  • ICAR recruitment’s are manipulated and have a high degree of nepotism and lack of accountability.
  • Although women farmers account for more than 50% of the agriculture workforce in India, women recruitment to ICAR found wanting for more
  • There is no inter departmental coordination between agricultural universities and institutes in India
  • Sometimes the research work done by ICAR is getting stolen by the private companies resulting in both intellectual property loss and monetary loss preventing the institutions to tread on a path of self financing.
  • ICAR have strong bias towards crop sciences at the cost of animal husbandry neglecting the importance of animals in making the farmer self sustainable.

The reforms needed to ICAR to make it more productive are:

  • ICAR should be given autonomous status and should report directly to the prime minister.
  • Its functions should be limited to farm research and education and oversight over non-ICAR institutions and farm extension should be left to state government
  • In the view of climate change and global warming more research should be done on climate resilient farming.

Problems related to agriculture education:

The agricultural education is deteriorating in India due to the following factors.

  • Over 1,000 unregulated private agriculture colleges which have sprouted across the nation churning out degrees like street food. Many are without proper labs, infrastructure or farm land.
  • As agriculture is a state subject ICAR/Central government jurisdiction doesn’t apply to these proliferating private profiteers. They thrive because states haven’t enacted a regulatory framework.
  • Technology transfer or farm extension is shared with the states and is the biggest disappointment of all.
  • To offset the constant paucity of funds, State Agricultural Universities (SAUs) are forced to augment their resources by seeking research grants irrespective of the state’s priorities.

Challenges:

The Agricultural Education in India is facing major challenges some of them are listed below:

  • There has been a dilution in the quality of agricultural education. Agricultural Universities, with inadequate infrastructure, financial support and autonomy have mushroomed. To ensure academic excellence, agricultural universities should have complete autonomy coupled with accountability.
  • The recruitment policy, and also the policy of freezing new recruitment, needs to be reviewed
  • Centralized planning of Agricultural education system and curricula is not addressing the local needs to the extent required. There is a need for establishing more Central Agricultural Universities like IIT’s.
  • Around 700 Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVK) funded by the ICAR are designated for capacity building and technology refinement and transfer but are neither fully staffed nor equipped
  • It has to identify its role in equipping the human resources for enhanced agricultural productivity and sustainable use of natural resources.
  • Practically, state governments barely manage to fund the SAUs. To offset the constant paucity of funds, SAUs are forced to augment their resources by seeking research grants irrespective of the state’s priorities
  • Convergence between ICAR and state agriculture agencies has failed.
  • ICAR cannot escape its share of culpability — recruitments are manipulated, inbreeding and nepotism are rampant.
  • Salary structures based on government promotion rules of time-bound promotion do not recognise research output and talent is ignored
  • Most farmhands are women, but women are not even recruited in equal numbers.
  • Inter-departmental coordination is lacking within the 71 agriculture universities and the whopping 101 institutes across India.
  • IPR registrations and internal resource generation like that in the developed world universities is improbable.

Solutions:

New Strategies and Institutional Reforms to Meet the Challenges of agricultural education:

  • Economic liberalization and WTO regime pose a big challenge to Indian agriculture. To cope up with changed global scenario, agricultural education and extension would have to be redefined
  • The Punjab government has notified a regulatory act; other states must follow the same.
  • Evolving consumer preferences, changing the narrative from farm to food, environmental impact, climate resilient agriculture require a reorientation of priorities and mindsets.
  • The Budget allocations for agriculture R&D must be pegged as 2 per cent of the GDP from the less than 1 per cent at present.
  • There is a need to provide a curricula reorientation to academic institutions to create an environment sensitive faculty and to help bring about attitudinal changes among rural communities.
  • Rural students need to be encouraged to study in agricultural universities. Steps may be taken to promote such admissions as urban-based agricultural graduates are not so comfortable in rural environment.
  • Specialized courses in educational technology should be developed to upgrade the teaching skills. A Teachers Training Institute in agriculture at the national level would help
  • ICAR and the agricultural education system need an independent regulatory body like the UGC to streamline and give direction to the system.
  • The agricultural education system needs to be redefined so as to equip the new graduates with subject competency, self motivation, positive attitude, agri-business skills, knowledge of computer and information technology, and communication skills in both English and regional languages.
  • A manpower planning and clear proportion for the financial allocation for agricultural education, research and extension education needs to be formulated.
  • SAUs should have unified administration and complementarily of departments and multidisciplinary teamwork in the development of programmes of education, research and extension.
  • The Model Act of the ICAR should reflect in the functioning of the State Agricultural Universities (SAUs) and deemed universities.
  • SAUs could provide regular specialized training to rural youth, particularly school dropouts, and adults who are not eligible for enrolling for formal agricultural courses.
  • Private-public partnership, to strengthen the present system of education, research and extension in India, is need of the hour.
  • Agricultural education should lay increased emphasis in future on topics like, alternate farming, bio-fertilizers, pressurized irrigation, integrated water management, integrated nutrient management, integrated pest, disease and weed management, resource optimization, post harvest technology and value addition, and marketing
  • ICAR needs to play a more pro-active role in initiating, implementing, reviewing and monitoring reforms in education system.
  • Effective partnership linkages with advanced centers of education in the country and abroad. Greater autonomy to academic institutions, SAUs and statutory power to ICAR

Governments’ initiatives:

Government of India has come up with the following assistance to facilitate better education in agriculture sector:

  1. Education on role of private investment in agriculture.
  • Efforts are being made to create favorable economic conditions to promote participation of the private enterprises in the establishment of Agro-based industries.
  • Institutions such as Exim Bank Ago of India and National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) and Directorate of Economics and Statistics are very much instrumental in channelizing investment from private sector to the agriculture sector.
  1. Education and awareness on credit facilities to farmers:
  • To meet local credit needs of farmers, many Rural Credit Banks have been established
  • These RCBs also offer Crop Insurance Schemes with lower premium and without red tapism
  • Banks like National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) and Exim Bank Ago of India can be of great help in this regard.
  1. Education on Use of Water Resources
  • To tackle the problem of water scarcity education on effective canal water management and Adoption of improved irrigation methods is necessary.
  • Ministry of Water Resources does provide education on the issue.
  1. Education on strong Marketing infrastructure
  • Education focused on the effective marketing infrastructure and techniques of preservation, storage, and transportation etc. with a view to reduce the post harvest losses and ensuring better returns is provided to farmers.
  • Institutions like Indian Council of Agricultural Research and Marketing Research and Information Network (AGMARKNET) are working for the cause of up gradation and dissemination of market intelligence for the rural community.
  1. Education on the role of Effective Agro – processing techniques
  • Setting up of Agro – processing units in production areas also helps reduce post harvest wastages.
  1. Education on Laws and Regulations in Agriculture
  • It is necessary to get grants from various state governments.
  • It is also necessary to bring in transparency and tackle legal issues involving concepts like VAT
  • Ministry of Rural Development (Department of Land Resources) and The Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture, Govt. of India  formulate various policies for this sector.
  1. Agri-Price Support
  • Market intervention scheme involving procurement through a notified agency like Commission for Agriculture Costs and Prices, Agricultural & Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), and Marketing Research and Information Network (AGMARKNET) etc, can surely be of great help in assuring fair returns to farmers.

Other steps taken by the government for agriculture education:

  • The government of India established a full-fledged department of Agricultural Research and Education in 1973 to strengthen the linkage between the centre and States Governments to enable the ICAR to deal with international agencies.
  • The period between 1966 to 1974 witnessed revolutionary changes in the agricultural education policy and structure in India.
  • ICAR established Krishi Vigyan Kendras for vocational training of farmers and fishermen and the first KVK was established in 1974 in Tamil Nadu.

Conclusion:

  • Market oriented agricultural education and extension along with changes in agricultural marketing policy for the national and international markets is the need of the hour.
  • ICAR should be transformed into a truly autonomous body reporting directly to the prime minister like the Atomic Energy Commission. Its functions should be restricted to farm research, education and oversight of non-ICAR agriculture institutes. Farm extension services should be completely delegated to the state governments.
  • To effectively capitalize the global competitive advantage, Indian agricultural institutes have to work out policy with regards to technology, more market access opportunities, and more transparency.

 

 

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