In a change from his regular anti-Centre rhetoric, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday praised the Union Government for supporting the 'Vibrant Gujarat Agriculture Summit.
"It was a big challenge before us on how to find progressive farmers from every district of the nation. But the Government of India helped us in finding them from across the country," Modi said adding the Centre's help was sought so that deserving farmers, adopting best agri practices, are awarded.
Modi was speaking at the valedictory address of Vibrant Gujarat Global Agriculture Summit-2013.
"We formed a jury, which was supported by the Centre, to screen farmers from India. The entire exercise took six months, after which farmers adopting the best practices in every district were selected," he said.
7,000 farmers from 29 states, including those from two union territories, participated in the two-day summit. Of these, 445 farmers selected for their best practices were felicitated with a cheque of Rs 51,000 each by the Gujarat government.
"We further want that all details of farmers adopting best agri practices be displayed on the Gujarat government website," Modi said adding that after this honour "we want that the world should know how their contribution has helped the nation grow".
"It will illustrate how you achieved excellence, what was your process, what results you got, what experiments you did, so that farmers in the entire country can learn from these experiences," he said.
Secretary, Agriculture, Ashish Bahuguna and Director Indian Council of Agriculture Research Dr S Ayyappan, speaking at the event, praised Gujarat's pro-active initiatives for boosting agri growth.
Responding to them, the Gujarat Chief Minister said "the country's politics has turned such that if someone praises the other, he might face consequences."
Modi, however, attacked state Leader of the Opposition Shankarsinh Vaghala for criticising his government for giving cash awards to farmers from outside the state. "I do not know if such people can be called leaders. Are the farmers who received the award here not Indians?," Modi asked.
Amidst reports of average 1.16 hectares of land-holding left with small farmers, Modi suggested a slew of measures to them to cut costs and boost productivity.
Modi said the thrust would have to be given on holistic water management. He said linking of rivers will have to be looked at seriously, an idea floated during the government of former Prime Miniser Atal Behari Vajpayee.
"If the country has to progress, then water disputes betweent the states have to be resolved," he said adding Narmada water was flowing into water-scarce Rajasthan.
"By interlinking of water grids, we can lower the input costs of farmers and discussion should be held on this," he said.
Suggesting a three-tier model for promoting agricultural practices, Modi said allied activities should be interlinked with farming to boost productivity.
"I suggest that agri activity should be divided into three parts, one what they are doing in field, link animal husbandry and agro forestry," he said.
He claimed that at a time when Current Account Deficit (CAD) of the country was high, imports of timber could be reduced by switching over to agro-forestry. "Growing trees on the 3-4 feet of farmland lying idle between two fields could help achieve this," Modi said.
Modi suggested developing the right agro-marketing linkages would help farmers fetch better remuneration for their produce as they often tend to sell it under pressure to repay debt.
He claimed although 58 % population of the country was into farming, only 5 % was covered by the banks and this scenario has to be changed so that farmers can avail more advantage of bank linkage.