Mumbai: Vice-president M Venkaiah Naidu on Saturday called for strengthening agriculture by bringing in long-term structural changes as farming is our basic culture providing livelihood to nearly 60 per cent of our population.
Agriculture has to be made profitable, sustainable and resilient and the farmers have to be encouraged to diversify into allied activities like poultry, horticulture and fishing to ensure sustainable livelihood, which can ensure home-grown food security for all, he said.
"Agriculture should be our prime area of focus. As you all are aware, it is the backbone of our economy and the primary source of livelihood for nearly 60 percent of our population. Agriculture is the basic culture of our country," Naidu said while addressing an event organised by industry lobby CII here.
The comments assume importance in the wake of agrarian distress--driven by falling prices and rising input costs leading to their indebtedness--which has led to tens of hundreds of farmers committing suicides across the country.
This was visible in the recent state elections where the ruling BJP was voted out in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh-states which has seen hundreds of farmers ending their lives-while in Telengana, the ruling TRS was voted back with a larger mandate, as it has been providing cost-effective cash support to farmers.
"With value addition, the Indian food processing industry and horticulture have immense scope for expanding its footprint," he added.
A well-nourished and healthy nation can be a wealthy nation and therefore, there is a need to increase the resilience of agriculture by making it much more rewarding for the farmers, he said, adding, "we must adopt organic farming and promote judicious use of inputs and irrigation."
The country should also strive to promote innovation and invest more time and money in R&D, he said stressing on the need for innovations addressing the everyday problems of the common man.
"Science and technology should ultimately result in the betterment of human condition," he added.
Stating that our youth possess all the qualities required to lead this country to prosperity, the vice- president underlined the need for imparting them with skills and providing them with opportunities so that we can reap the demographic dividend.
"The private sector can and should step up skilling programmes to generate more employment for the youth," he said and emphasised that the private sector should provide equal opportunity and to not to practice discrimination against women in any form or any level.
"Let women empowerment and gender equality be among the founding principles of all our businesses," he said.