The Changing Bihar

I am really happy today. Bihar has come out with a roadmap of 1.5 lakh crore for spending on improving its agriculture. But more so with a statement of the development commissioner: “Agriculture will be taught as a subject from high school (from Class IX). Agriculture will be another stream apart from traditional science, art and commerce for students at the Intermediate level,” I have suggested this in my writings about Bihar. It might not be my idea but some in Bihar government must be having similar thinking as mine on the subject.

I am sure the curricula will be more practice based particularly in rural Bihar. In good old days when we attended the village schools, we used to have a good size flower growing area in the front of the school and the lone teacher encouraged the students for growing seasonal flowers. I saw a similar thing a middle school in Silicon valley USA in 2008. The step taken by Bihar government will certainly bear long term result. It will make the students to appreciate the farming as an honest and respectful career. Agriculture today integrates traditional knowledge with science and technology.

With the decreasing landholding of the farmers, it will be only with scientific approaches that the farming can remain as sustainable profession. The country requires thousands of farmers like Sumant of Nalanda who has produced a global record in production of paddy. Every farmer must emulate and improve his ways to average the yield to global standard. ‘Yields per hectare of food grains, fruits and vegetables in India are far below global averages. India’s rice yields are one-third of China’s, and about half of Vietnam’s and Indonesia’s. Even India’s most productive states Punjab’s yield of rice in 2010 was 3.8 tonnes per hectare against the global average of 4.3 tonnes. The average yield for apples in India (J&K) is about 11 tonnes per acre compared to the US, New Zealand, Israel or China, where yields range 30-70 tonnes per acre. Bihar’s example of the inclusion of agriculture as subject in school may be copied by other agriculture dominated states to. With 60% of Indian population dependent on farming, this is a welcome move. Workers with the knowledge will certainly help in meeting the yield target.

However, there is another area that I shall the government administration to appreciate. Rural women need enlightenment and informal education more than anything else to become more productive. Can the government take a 5-year project for reaching to these rural women, to make them appreciate their important role, the basic hygiene, the need of sanitation, and certain skills that make them empowered to contribute to the society?

Many of these women can certainly be trained to produce many saleable consumer items based on inputs available locally for urban population and add to the earning of the family. Surprisingly, in many regions in Bihar one can observe that the younger generation of the female population are not interested to work and participate in sharing the burden of the family copying the life style of the women of the well-to-do families in the villages. Can such imparting of skills to the girl students be also planned?

Can the government find a scheme to provide some incentive to the girl students to teach their parents at home whatever they are taught in schools? The scheme will be multiplying the output. It is important to emphasize on the slogan, ‘Educate a Woman and She Educates a Family’.

I shall be looking forward to see the agriculture in the schools around my village.

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