The water resource department (WRD) proposes to sink wells in paddy fields to make water available for intensive cultivation and higher farm production. Is the government really serious? In the past too, scores of open wells and bore wells were dug but most were abandoned as the wells collapsed or did not yield enough water. The government must implement the proposal with a clear roadmap about the availability of sufficient water for encouraging farmers to return to fields and to grow more than one crop. Agriculture was the main occupation in Goa before Liberation. After Liberation it has witnessed decline in the number of persons pursuing it as an occupation. While some gave up for lack of adequate irrigation facilities, others did it because of poor yield and lack of support from the government. Yet others found it uneconomical due to rise in cost of labour.
Though the government tried to help farmers by making mechanized implements and irrigation facilities available, the move came too late and the support was too limited. The support price scheme was also introduced much later and even that was difficult for the farmers to avail of without having to make umpteen visits to the concerned authorities to get their dues. Given the fact that farming is a full-time job the officials of the WRD and agriculture department should pay frequent field visits to help the farmers in not only availing the government schemes but also guiding them in modern agricultural and irrigation practices. Delivery of the services of the two departments should be taken to the doorsteps of farmers, rather than making them come to the offices of the departments to get the benefits. A lot of time is wasted in the process. If the government had followed up its schemes with consistency and made things easier for farmers, many of them perhaps could have continued with their occupation.
The agriculture sector has witnessed rapid changes; at the same time it faces major challenges, be it in the form of erratic rainfall (though not of much concern in Goa yet), rising temperatures and other factors. Besides, there is a considerable change in the food habits of the people and there is a growing demand of agricultural commodities. Over the years the state has remained largely dependent on import of vegetables and other products from neightbouring states to meet its requirements. But with hostility on certain emotive issues witnessed in the recent past the state cannot afford to be dependent entirely on imports and steps have to be taken to be self-reliant. The younger generations of farmers have given up agriculture for one reason or the other; the government has a task at hand to bring them back to farms. This could be a Herculean task but the officials as well the society need to make serious efforts to instill the belief in youth that agriculture could give them not only higher returns but higher status too. There is need to create role models, giving them additional incentives, among the youth for others to follow. The success stories of young agricultural entrepreneurs need to spread across the state to motivate more and more younger and educated Goans from families with agricultural background to return to the fields.
With government steps to promote agriculture not yielding the desired results, the authorities need to come out with out-of-box ideas to not only promote it in a big way but also to ensure that a new green revolution takes place in the state. It is not only mechanization of agriculture but also short-term cropping pattern with higher yields and continuous irrigation facilities that could help reverse the trend. It should not be the endeavour of the WRD officials to sink wells just to meet any target and to show that expenditure has been made but also to ensure that water from these wells is used for intended purpose. Before giving concrete shape to any proposal for sinking wells, the WRD needs to ensure that the soil conditions are tested and the farmers properly guided in crop intensive techniques. The onus of ensuring proper usage of the well irrigation scheme by farmers should be placed on the WRD and agriculture officials. The officials should not only be tasked with making the facilities available for the farmers but also ensuring that the farms give the desired yield. Fixing responsibility of the officials would make them not only visit the farms but also guide them properly and achieve the intended goal of increasing the agricultural output. Sinking wells that might have to be abandoned would only mean waste of public money and fattening of illegal purses of ministers and officers.