“India needs agricultural scientists”: G.B Pant Univ, VC

ONE of the success tales of Indian Agriculture has been the flourishing of the G.B. Pant University of Agriculture and Technology in 1960, which brought to the centre stage age-old profession of 'agriculture' in various dimensions. The Land Grant Pattern was introduced into the country for the first time through the creation of this university. The transformation galvanized the country known for food scarcity to a food grains surplus nation. Ask the VC, Alok Kumar Jain what agricultural research urgently need? He quickly responds, “There renewed focus on hybrid seed production in food and vegetable crops, fruit breeding, conservation agriculture, precision agriculture, value added food and post harvest management and more…” He contemplates a ‘Rainbow Revolution’ or ‘Ever Green Revolution.



Q. India has come a long way from the situation “Living from ship to mouth” to “food self-sufficiency”.
Where should India focus on agriculture education? Why?

A. The agricultural sector is getting more complex due to globalization, impact of climate change, entry of corporate sector in agricultural value-chain, diversification of agriculture towards high value commodities, expanding demand for processed food, and postharvest technology. To address these challenges, India needs rich human capital of highly qualified, motivated, and well trained agricultural scientists. It is the responsibility of the State Agricultural Universities (SAUs) to provide such human resources.


Agricultural education has to take two-directional focus: Firstly, on high-tech agriculture and advanced researches to meet the requirement of world market. We have to strive to lead in floriculture, vegetable, fruits and other value added commodities to provide best-quality products for export. We have to make agriculture remunerative for the country to earn foreign currency. Secondly, we have to look into the local requirements to nurture our graduates and post-graduates to serve teeming millions in the country through their acumen and dedication. We have to look into the requirements of small, marginal and landless farmers which currently form the majority. An inclusive growth is the need of the hour.

 

Q. GBPUAT has come a long way. Share us your experience and why must a student study at GBPUAT?
A. One of the major events leading to the success story of Indian Agriculture has been the establishment of the G.B. Pant University of Agriculture and Technology in 1960, which brought to the centre stage age-old profession of 'agriculture' in various dimensions. Land Grant Pattern was introduced into the country for the first time through the creation of the university. The transformation galvanized the country known for food scarcity to a food grains surplus nation. It also strengthened ability of the country to compete with best of the institutions of its kind in the world. Since inception the University has set patronizing benchmarks in education, research and extension. For its significant role in ensuring green revolution, the university was termed as the ‘harbinger of green revolution’ in India by Dr Norman E. Borlaug. Twice (1997 and 2005) the university has bagged ICAR’s best institution award. Also, continuously for two years (2012 and 2013), the university has been securing first position at the national level in ICAR’s JRF examination. During the last 3 years, about 830 research papers in national and 175 in International refereed journals were published.

 
Starting with 2 faculties, the University at present has eight full-fledged faculties with 63 departments, 13 research centres and 11 KVKs. The University offers a wide range of teaching and research programmes for many undergraduate and post-graduate degrees. Undergraduate programmes are available in 15 disciplines and post-graduate programmes are offered in 121 disciplines, which include 69 master's programmes and 52 Ph.D. programmes. University-industry linkages have also been established for supporting teaching. Pantnagar is well known for its dedicated teachers, sincere students and quality seeds.

 

We have scores of sophisticated labs in each discipline like Biotechnology, Plant Pathology, Plant Breeding, Ago Meteorology, Food and nutrition, Food Technology, Ag. Implements, Fisheries,  Central Analytical Lab, Electron Microscopy lab, etc. But more than that, we have fields as our lab where we put our students for Practical Crop Production course for complete one year to experience practical farming in one hectare land per team of students. We put our students for Rural Agricultural Work Experience for six months. We are rearing them for best performance under field conditions.

Q. Where should be value addition in agricultural research today? 
A. The country has had record harvest of 259 million tones of food grains lately, which still is not commensurate with the growing demand to meet food and nutritional security as per future predictions. Certain areas that need renewed focus include hybrid seed production in food and vegetable crops, fruit breeding, conservation agriculture, precision agriculture, value added food and post harvest management, food price prediction and advisement, fast-track communication, agri-mechanization, women empowerment, etc. The record harvest of 257 million tones excludes 40% pre and post harvest losses due to biotic and abiotic causes. If plant protection with renewed environment strategies can contain this tremendous loss, we can move closer to achieve much sought after ‘second green revolution’.

We will remain largely isolated from the mainstream research if we do not integrate agriculture biotechnology into crop improvement, production and protections programmes. This would necessitate designing suitable programmes and generating resources for their pursuance. Tarai soil, the so called ‘gold mine’ of agriculture is likely fatigued. Long term prescriptions would have to be evolved that have national relevance.  Small-farm agriculture is going to be the norm among Indian peasantry and should be the same for the researchers.  Fortunately, Uttarakhand offers an ideal location in this regard.  More than ever, we are compelled to address the needs of this emerging class that would again have relevance to the entire nation.  Farmers, our clients, must continue to look at us with the hope that has thus far fulfilled their granaries and made them proud customers of the university. This would need generation and successful transmission of technologies that can propel economic growth and solve critical problems facing our region and our nation.

Q. Which area needs immediate attention? 
A. Learning lessons from the first Green Revolution, we must now contemplate for a ‘Rainbow Revolution’ or ‘Ever Green Revolution’ wherein crops, livestock, forestry, are all intimately linked to bring the much needed food, nutrition, environment and livelihood security in totality.  In this endeavour, efficiency mediated, sustainable agriculture productivity and profitability enhancement strategies would be followed. As there is going to be greater demand for value-added food such as milk, poultry, egg, meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, nutraceuticals and processed products, greater emphasis would be laid on crop diversification. 

Being a state agricultural university, how do you analyse grave problem pertaining to state universities?  There is a serious internal governance issue in the state universities. I would reckon that there are serious quality issues in terms of intake of faculty and students. It’s tough to ensure that faculty is committed to teaching and research. In most affiliated colleges, classes are not held regularly, so the teachers complain students and students complain about teachers not coming. Education is in serious trouble. Universities experience a lot of political interference in every day to day matter. Even small things, like running a hostel canteen, they will have agendas around it. This is my man please recruit, if a person make a good food then how can we recruit him.  They have to leave university alone. The selection vice chancellor is politicized. If you make a semi-politician as vice chancellor then he will disrupt the entire system. Policies will be catering to certain political faction. They have no conection with academia and all that they could do is bring in agendas. If you will design institutions wrongly, then you will get bad results. There is a problem of defining the nature of nominees. Something has seriously gone wrong with our higher education system. The UGC norms don’t operate healthy on the field. We need lot of autonomy. The line of funding coming from state or central should be assured. The governing bodies of universities should professional who can spend time to oversee day to day problems. If you keep big shots part of governing bodies, mostly they will be absentees. State government promises and then they don’t fund.  

Q. What is your Vision for the university?

A. The university should emerge as International Centre of Excellence for integrated holistic higher education, research, extension and policy support in agriculture, agri-business and allied sectors with highest order of specialization in hill agriculture. It should transform to an institution that can deliver manpower, appropriate technologies and products for ushering and managing integrated rural development where the economic growth of urban population as well as rural areas will match the industrial progress in manufacturing and public sector.

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