Lessons from a pandemic to repurpose India’s agricultural policy
As the coronavirus crisis triggers a large-scale exodus of migrant agricultural workers from India’s food basket, it’s time the country diversified beyond labor- and water-intensive crops, say Dr Arabinda K Padhee and Prof Prabhu Pingali.
Television footages of hundreds of migrant laborers walking for thousands of kilometres amidst India’s country-wide lockdown shook the collective conscience of a nation this April. In the absence of livelihoods, shelters and square meals, these laborers desperately wanting to get back to their home states portrayed the vulnerability of India’s massive unorganised agricultural workforce.
Agriculture, food and nutrition have come into sharp focus as a fallout of the COVID-19 crisis in India. Though the pandemic may not have caused serious disruption to the food system, thanks to good harvests in the previous crop seasons and sufficient buffers of rice and wheat, this is as good a time as any to reboot the country’s agricultural policy, already facing the traditional twin challenges of climate change and malnutrition.