Everyone has an important role to play in the society and in today’s world this is often directed by the status, power, influence, and accessibility. The weaker section of the society that are very much laborious than the average Indian, if provided with adequate facilities can do wonders for the progress and prosperity of nation. Our country has a total tribal population of 104 million that represent about 8.6% of the total population. The state of Jammu & Kashmir has about 11.9% of the tribal population which is the only state of northwest India having such a considerable share of schedule tribes. Although, they are almost isolated from different parts of the country due to number of reasons but they are potential source of indigenous knowledge, tradition and culture. The knowledge and expertise of these tribal people can be utilized in different sectors for the progress of nation and in fact for the progress of these people as well. The knowledge and expertise is currently being exploited by the rich ones without any change in the status of the tribal people.
There are different sectors where this population can flourish and improve their standard of living. Since, most of these people are practicing agriculture over the years, but are unaware about the various agricultural developmental programs that are being implemented for their upliftment due to illiteracy and ignorance. The undulating surface and dilapidated condition of roads as well as the poor frequency of public transport and private vehicles have made these areas out of reach; this condition worsens even during harsh winters and in rainy season. Due to poor irrigation facilities the agriculture has not been modernized in these tribal areas even after seven decades of independence. The tribal areas in most part of the country are devoid of basic facilities. The modern irrigation facilities can’t be achieved without proper electrification, but it is a dream yet to come true for these areas. Arguments are many, problems are well defined in these areas, and solutions are difficult but achievable in these areas with sincere efforts. Tribal are the owners of the small holdings where they cultivate crops to feed themselves and generate their income, but the income is not sufficient to enhance their standard of living as the productivity is very low due to traditional methods in practice. We have to reach these small marginal farmers who know nothing except the traditional practices of farming. This will be the key factor and we have to invest here by selecting small holdings with innovate techniques. The water that is required and available in sufficient quantity need to be properly diverted. Government has enough budgets to electrify and provide proper irrigation to these areas but need sincere efforts and strong will that is possible when we have sincere officers and scientists who will intervene. Investment in agriculture in these areas may definitely make them economically sound as agriculture is the main occupation and source of limited income for these people. Currently, dependence on rainfall, lack of irrigational facilities and the substantive type of farming makes this major activity uneconomical to the tribal people.
The different organizations working in this direction have made great strides in agriculture research and technology but are limited to wheat and paddy. We have to shift modern agriculture technology to other crops as well. There is a need for comprehensive research programme that will increase the agricultural productivity and economy of the tribal population. The large area occupied by these tribal’s for agriculture is not fertile or its productivity is very low, can turn into fertile land by educating the tribal women as they play an important role in agriculture production. This can be greatly achieved by recruiting the women as the agricultural extension staff so that it can effectively reach to the beneficiaries. The training must be effective and should be practical in approach with the involvement of all stakeholders. This can be achieved by the intervention programs by different institutes like universities, colleges, NABARD etc.
The traditional agricultural practices must be imbibed by modern agricultural practices; otherwise, it could cause negative effects on the ecological balance and the growth of the area. It is, therefore, indispensable to aware people with the trials about the new practices of crop cultivation and the possible benefits of it. This will change the attitude of tribal farmers towards the new agricultural technology. Further, the State Government and Zilla Panchayat should pay attention towards the spread of knowledge about new agriculture practices and the supply of the crucial inputs like high yielding varieties, healthy seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, etc. to the farmers.
The technological innovation in this area is necessary that will solve the problems of soil erosion that is an important concern of these areas and will also promote the rearing of healthy livestock. Better agriculture will provide better food and choices for the livestock and in turn will provide adequate protein to the tribal’s and subsidiary income. The use of compost and organic pesticides can be developed indigenously will help in the maintenance of soil fertility and pollution problem. The water logging a main issue in these areas can be tackled by the use of low laying areas with proper drainage system. The concept of drip irrigation, center pivot irrigation, or the use of sprinklers will also help solve the problem. Hydroponics may also be tested in these areas. Technology is changing the way that humans operate the machines, so computer monitoring systems, GPS locators, and self-steer programs and implements can be introduced to achieve the goals.
There is great scope to play a big inning by investment and enhancement through minor irrigation projects. But currently, it is not well mechanized as most of the tribal farmers use to sell their produce to money lenders for the repayment of debts. Sustainable agriculture is the key that holds the prosperity along with preservation of environment. Traditional knowledge along with modern technological advancements can help tribal’ to become the foremost runners of our society. The huge gap between extension staff of the government and tribal farmers needs to be reduced by undertaking appropriate measures.
(The author is Assistant professor in Department of Environmental Science, ITM University Gwalior)