Ill    ACTIVITIES 1991-1995

As seen from Table 3, the Centre was functioning with skeletal scientific staff till 1993-94. More staff at technical and administrative levels joined the Centre in subsequent years. Physical and functional establishment of the Centre was the major preoccupation in these early years. However, the Centre made some significant contributions in mandated areas during this period. A brief note on the achievements during the above period is given below.

RESEARCH

Completed Projects

Impact of Tenancy Reforms on Production and Income Distribution - A Case Study of Operation barga in West Bengal.

The progress made by West Bengal in bringing the bargadars (tenants/share croppers) on record has been remarkable. The Left Front Government launched Operation barga - a crash programme for recording bargadars in collaboration with the groups of beneficiaries and with the active support of the peasant organisations in 1978. Over 14 lakh bargadars have been recorded so far out of an estimated number of about 20 lakhs.

Operation barga has bestowed on the bargadars the legal protection against eviction by the landlords. In addition, they have been entitled to the due share of the produce. Measures have also been taken to extend the package of economic assistance to the bargadars. An empirical analysis of the impact of Operation barga on agricultural production, productivity, employment, income including its distribution and on the qualitative improvement in the utilisation of barga land was conducted during the period 1986-88 in the three districts of Birbhum, Burdwan and Jalpaiguri in West Bengal.

The bargadars and the agricultural labourers belonging to the economically depressed class constituted 44.87 percent of the population of the three districts taken together. Most of the bargadars were small and marginal farmers. Although farms under barga cultivation had almost the same access to irrigation facilities as others, it is reported that in many cases the recorded bargadar farms did not receive adequate irrigation in times of need. In the case of recorded land-owning bargadars, the cropping intensity on the leased-in land was lower than that on owned land. The owner-operated farms had registered the highest yield in 47.87 percent of the villages in the case of local paddy followed closely by the unrecorded bargadar (47.37 percent). Similarly, the highest yield of HYV paddy was recorded on the unrecorded bargadar farms and owner operated farms in 57.89 percent and 51.06 percent of the villages respectively. In other crops too, the highest yields were obtained either by unrecorded bargadars (wheat, mustard and jute) or other cultivators (potato, boro paddy).

Most of the landless bargadars did not have any capital or bullock of their own. Although the recorded bargadars received short-term crop loans they did not get badly needed consumption loan. The unrecorded bargadars got consumption and all other types of assistance from their land owners, but were deprived of any assistance, financial or otherwise, from the land owners when they got their tenancy rights on barga land formally recorded.

It is stated in the Share Tenancy Act that 50 percent of the gross produce will be received by the bargadar for offering manual labour on barga-operated farm, while 25 percent of the gross produce will go to the landowner as rent. The Act further provides that the remaining 25 percent of the gross produce will be distributed between the land owner and the bargadar in proportion to their share in cost of material inputs.

It was found that about 21 percent of the total recorded bargadars were not getting even the legally admissible 50 percent of the produce as their share. Even though bargadars, supplying bullock labour and cowdung manure to cultivate their barga-are legally entitled to receive more than 50 percent of the crop share, it was observed that in practice more than 60 percent of them had to remain satisfied with 50 percent or less of the produce as their share. It is to be noted that 77 percent of the bargadars who received 50 percent of the crop as their share supplied bullock power for farming operations implying that only about 23 percent of the bargadars received 50 percent of the crop in compensation for their manual labour only. Thus the performance of Operation barga in terms of one of its objectives to ensure the bargadars of their legal share of the produce was highly unsatisfactory, even after a decade of its implementation, though the situation of unrecorded bargadars was worse.

The analysis in respect of cropping pattern, cropping intensity, input use pattern, land and labour productivity, net return per hectare and return/cost ratios revealed that the land-owning cultivators got a higher yield and higher return than those obtained by the bargadars on their barga land. Interestingly, the performance of the land-owning bargadars was better on their own land as compared to their barga land.

Operation barga appeared to have offered tenurial security and occupancy rights to the bargadars on the land they used to cultivate on lease. They also got subsidised input loan for cultivation on their barga land. But lack of incentives and opportunities for developing entrepreneurial and managerial inputs on the barga-operated land remained an inherent weakness in the barga system of cultivation which the Operation barga could not remove.

During the post-Operation barga period new tenancy patterns emerged to suit the requirements of the socio-economic and political power structure of the rural society. Seven different types of tenancy pattern depending on cost share and crop share were identified. Only 19.4 percent of the total bargadars received their entitled share of the produce. It is rather unfortunate that more than 80 percent of the bargadars did not receive their entitled crop share even after a long time of the implementation of the Operation barga.

The study concluded that Operation barga, albeit partly successful in bringing about a change in the tenancy pattern, did not succeed in augmenting production and productivity on the barga land where the bargadars had been receiving the stipulated crop share. Furthermore, the crucial input of entrepreneurship continue to remain low because of the inherent conflict of interest in crop sharing mechanism coupled with the fact that the bargadars, especially the landless ones, intrinsically lack this input. However, the most remarkable achievement of the programme was that it enhanced social status of the bargadars and security of tenancy.

The unsatisfactory performance of even those bargadars who received their crop share as stipulated in the Act, was due mainly to their poor resource base and lack of access to modern technology and to capital market with the resultant inability to acquire material resources. Moreover, the imperfections in input markets also generally contributed to the poor performance of the bargadars. The State Government should take serious note of these short-comings and modify the tenancy laws to overcome them as early as possible.

Production Prospects and Constraints to Higher Productivity of Pulses in Madhya Pradesh

India is the largest producer of pulses in the world. Once a net exporter it is presently one of the largest importers of pulses. Over the period from 1951 to 1992, the net per capita per day availability of pulses has fallen from 60.7 grams to 33.4 grams. It is significant to note that the area, production and yield of pulses witnessed increase only during the first decade (1950-51 to 1960-61) and declined or stagnated thereafter.

Historically, Madhya Pradesh has been the major pulse producing state in the country. The primary purpose of this study is to diagnose the dimensions and magnitude of the problems inhibiting production and productivity of pulses in this state.

Madhya Pradesh ranked first both in terms of area (19.8 percent) and production (20.9 percent) of pulses in India. Over 20 percent of the Gross Cropped Area (GCA) of Madhya Pradesh is under pulses. It ranked sixth after Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, West Bengal and Gujarat in terms of average yield.

The share of pulses in GCA of Madhya Pradesh remained around 20 percent during the Pre-HYV and Post-HYV periods. The share of pulses in the Gross Irrigated Area (GIA) in 1989-90 is only 12.8 percent. About a dozen different pulse crops are grown in Madhya Pradesh. However, pigeonpea in kharif and chickpea (bengalgram) in rabi are the most important ones, followed by blackgram (uradbean) in kharif and lentil in rabi. Pigeonpea and Chickpea together account for 60 percent of the area and 74 percent of the production of total pulses. While the area under kharif pulses is declining the rabi pulse area is on the increase.

Except blackgram in kharif, all pulses performed better in the eighties as compared to their performance in the seventies. In terms of production and yield, pigeonpea and lentil performed very well though the area under pigeonpea showed a negative growth. On the other hand, even though the yield of chickpea had shown a nominal negative growth the area recorded a significantly high growth rate. Thus growth performance of the pulses in general showed a conflicting scenario.

An analysis of production stability for the different states reveals that Madhya Pradesh ensures long-run production stability without losing its comparative advantage. Madhya Pradesh is thus one of the most important regions where pulse development programmes are likely to succeed in the long run.

The relative price support to pulses has been constantly on the rise after 1982-83. The rising support price ratios for pulses reflect the policy intention to promote pulse cultivation. However, pulse production did not rise commensurate with the increase in the support prices.

Though the growth in the wholesale prices of pulses in Madhya Pradesh during the seventies and the eighties was the highest as compared to its competing crops (cereals and oilseeds), the price variability in pulses was also the largest. The high annual fluctuations in price of pulses indicating a higher risk might have turned the farmers away from pulses and in favour of other competing crops like oilseeds and cereals which did not exhibit high price fluctuations.

Non-availability of seeds of high-yielding varieties in the desired quantities is perhaps one of die major constraints in the expansion of pulses. Although more than 200 improved varieties of pulses have been released since 1970's, its impact hardly gets reflected in die yield. The rate of growth of yield of pulses was 0.03 percent over the past four decades. Varieties with better yield advantage and desirable characteristics to suit the varied agro-climatic conditions need to be developed in pulses.

The fertiliser use in pulses was very low with chickpea receiving the highest priority and pigeonpea and least. Use of fertilisers, especially in kharif pulses, was low. Although efforts to popularise Rhizobium inoculants have been going on for a long time and several public and private sector units are manufacturing them, the adoption of these biofertilisers is found to be very negligible.

Agricultural markets in Madhya Pradesh could not be termed efficient as the price differentials over different locations exceeded the transportation costs. Lack of an effective system of market intelligence and existence of different grades and qualities contributed to these spatial imperfections. Appropriate reporting with quality differences and graded produce could go a long way to reduce the high price differentials, spatial as well as temporal.

There are about 10,000 Dal mills in the country out of which one thousand are in Madhya Pradesh alone. The industry in Madhya Pradesh continues to be as traditional as ever with no technical improvements in the process. The major problems of present day mills are low recovery, separation of whole pulse from dehusked whole pulse, high cost of milling, especially due to oil treatment, frequent breakdowns and high cost of maintenance. Though modern and efficient methods of milling have been developed by government institutions, manufacturers are not coming forward to fabricate these new designs on commercial scale. It is high tune that Government organisations like agro-industries corporations in different states initiate actions to commercially manufacture these improved pulse milling machineries.

Bringing more area under pulses in the long run depends upon a favourable price regime (with less variability) and through technological breakthroughs that make higher yields realised on the farmers' fields. At present wide gaps exist between the yields of improved varieties on the research farms and those obtained on the farmer's fields. The new production technologies might not have reached the farmers in a meaningful way or they might be inappropriate to the agro-ecological and socio-economic conditions of the fanners. These aspects need further in-depth investigation.

Privatising Agricultural Research

Paucity of public resources for investment and low efficiency of publicly managed systems have focused attention on fostering greater role for the private sector. In agricultural research too, which has been in public domain since the very beginning, a serious debate has started on the potential role for private sector. In developed countries, the U.S. for example, the private sector accounts for over 50 percent of the total agricultural research expenditures.

There is no single criterion to define the boundary between domains of public and private sector research. Opportunities for private sector research vary according to areas of research, type of technologies, farming systems, nature of commodity, etc. This is qualitatively illustrated in Figure 1 below in terms of potential under ideal conditions.

Fig. 1 : Domains of Public and Private sector research

The figure shows that in some areas (like chemical, mechanical, processing and information technologies) the private sector has some comparative advantage. It has none or very little in basic research, non-embodied (agronomy, management) technologies, resource conservation, research for subsistence crops and fanning systems. In biological technology, its role is limited to hybrids, and patentable bio-products.

The figure also illustrates that public intervention will continue to be critical; there is a large area of research where appropriability conditions would not exist. Even in areas suited for private research, back-up from the public system would be necessary.

The view that privatization will enable reduction in public expenditures on research assumes that the two are substitutes. They are not, and the case for public research remains strong. The two are complementary and understanding the comparative advantage of each helps in avoiding duplication. This division of labour would enable the public sector to move away from some areas and use the resources so freed to focus more on basic research, frontier technologies, sustainability research, and so on.

Private sector research is nascent in India. Appropriate conditions must be created before a vibrant private system emerges. These relate to : (a) liberalization of the economy; (b) massive investment in basic (roads, markets, power, etc.) as well as modern (communication, information, specialized transport, cargo and shipping, etc.) infrastructure; (c) efficient patenting, registration, copyright and licensing laws; and (d) direct incentives to private firms to undertake R & D activities.

In conclusion, the national research system is still evolving its perspective as though it is a monopoly supplier of research findings. Hence, themes like value addition, food processing, and hybrid seed production are emphasised in discussions on future research thrusts. In the absence of formal interface with the private sector, the national agricultural research system may completely miss out of complementarities, resulting in duplication of effort.

Privatising Farm Extension

Extension services which were mostly public funded world­wide until a decade back are increasingly coming under private domain. The increasing inability of the governments to adequately fund its extension machinery and the entry of private sector in agricultural extension activities are the real forces behind the search for alternative approaches such as 'cost sharing' and 'privatisation'. India has also started thinking on these lines recently, emphasising the involvement of NGO's, private sector and farmers' associations in sharing, augmenting and supplementing public sector extension efforts. However the role played by non-governmental agencies (producers, co-operatives, input agencies, agricultural processing firms, private consultants, etc.) in extension activities at present in India is limited, though private sector participation is on an increase.

An analysis of the functions performed by the private/commercial agencies reveals their interest in performing only those extension activities which immediately benefit them. They are least interested in undertaking long term strategic extension functions such as educating the people. Moreover, the private/commercial firms are interested to invest money mostly in high value crops, large farm sector and in areas with adequate infrastructure. Information on agriculture is mostly a public good in India and so the private agencies are not interested to get involved in a big way as opportunities to make profits are limited. Scope for any kind of cost recovery by the public extension system is also practically non-existent, considering the peculiarities of Indian agriculture.

The lessons learnt through a review of the experiences of other countries due to an unbridled 'private extension' and/or undue haste in 'cost recovery' are as follows. The emergence of competing information sources result in contradictory message flow due to glorified advertisements and sales promotion techniques leading to unnecessary confusion among the clients. The commercial interests of these private agencies jeopardise the efforts presently being made by public research and extension systems towards developing eco-friendly and sustainable agriculture. The human resources development (HRD) role of organising, motivating and guiding farmers groups for an effective empowerment of rural community is effectively sidelined for activities that can generate partial costs or profits. Eventually the contact between the farmers and extension agents will further decline. The inevitable fall out of such an arrangement will further increase regional imbalance as commercial agencies concentrate their activities on areas with favourable infrastructure which allows them to generate good profits in a shorter period of time.

The tasks before the Indian Extension System are more complex than what was earlier as it has to ensure a sustainable increase in production and productivity. The public funded extension in the country, though faced with a number of constraints in terms of operational funds, well trained manpower and transportational facilities, is engaged in the task of technology transfer through education and arranging inputs. Available evidence from both India and abroad shows that returns to investment in extension compare favourably with those on expenditure on other public services. The ground realities of Indian agriculture call for the strengthening of the national agricultural extension system.

In the irrigated areas, a part of the financial burden of providing extension support can be transferred on the farmers provided such services are clearly identified and the mechanism for sharing the costs are appropriately devised. The resources that can be generated/saved from these favourable areas should be effectively used in resource-poor areas which may have to be continuously provided with extension support free of cost for some time more.

The farmers will be ready for cost sharing only when the benefits of such an arrangement outweigh their costs. Extension has to take on the challenge of organising farmers' groups and help them in guiding, operating and controlling their own extension organisations. It may be feasible then to share some of the costs involved in extension with these farmers' groups. Till that time the scope for cost recovery is almost nil. However, these measures can be tried on experimental basis in a few resource-rich areas and high value crops. The ideal policy should be to have a good mix of public, private, voluntary and co-operative extension efforts.

Some other research programmes were also initiated mostly in collaboration with economists at other ICAR institutes. Several research papers were also published by the NCAP scientists.

NCAP PUBLICATIONS

The Centre initiated publication of Policy Papers based on ICAR-sponsored and its own research and Policy Briefs articulating professional views on important themes. Two Policy Papers and two Policy Briefs were published.

Policy Paper 1

:

Impact of Tenancy Reforms on Production and and Income Distribution - A Case Study of Operation barga in West Bengal.

Policy Paper 2

:

Production Prospects and Constraints to Higher Productivity of Pulses in Madhya Pradesh.

Policy Brief 1

:

Privatising Agricultural Research.

Policy Brief 2

:

Privatising Farm Extension - Need for a Cautious Approach.

SEMINARS

Seminar on Prioritisation of Agricultural Research in ICAR System (15 February, 1994)

This programme discussed the methodology and preliminary results of the collaborative study on priorities in agricultural research. The Seminar was attended by senior management scientists from ICAR and senior professionals. The analysis presented in the seminar, based on normative scoring model incorporating efficiency, sustainability, etc, estimated how research resources should be allocated between commodities and states.

Dialogue on Economic Problems Related to Research on Crops (21-22 December, 1994)

This dialogue with the agricultural economists working in different crop research institutes of ICAR focused on providing an orientation to these scientists and brought out research issues and constraints confronting different crops. The meeting highlighted the complementary role of NCAP in improving the quality of research done by economists at different institutes.