Why Agriculture is not an Integral and Major Part of our Education?

Hannan Mollah


Different modes of production developed for ages to cater various needs of the human society and production process and production relations became the guiding force of human history. In the beginning, the human being was a hunter-gatherer who either hunted other animals or collected food the only need at that primitive stage from nature, but gradually to come out of the uncertainty of this process, they discovered cultivation, which developed as agriculture in course of time. After that, the industrial and technological production came into being, and developed as most important mode of production, and it continues to strengthen. Along with that, we found the growth of different types of services production and it was later taking the dominant position in the developed society. We also experienced the growth of various production – may be called intellectual production to cater the mental and psychological needs of the people. Agricultural production gave food and related goods for physical nutritional needs of animals and human beings essential for the existence of human being. The industrial and technological produces provided all sorts of worldly necessities and commodities. The service production catered to innumerable institutional and communicational services which continued to increase in the modern era. Lastly, for the intellectual needs, the production of literature, arts, music, film and cultural necessities, for education, religion and various scientific materials which were also increasing with the growth of human civilization. Here we shall discuss the agricultural production and its relevance in modern education of our country.

Emergence of Agriculture

Since the inception of human life, we found to fulfill the physical nutritional needs, human being searched for food. For that they initially picked up whatever they found in the nature–that may be fruits, leaves, roots etc and they also hunted birds, animals etc. This was the primitive mode of production. They continued to improve the methods but it was always uncertain and for immediate use. So they thought of the process of how to get food certainly and to stock and preserve it for longer time. In this quest they discovered cultivation or reproduction of food from seeds and domesticating animals that could provide meat and milk. It took ages through experiences to reach to the destination of settled cultivation or agriculture as we know it today. They learned how to collect seeds, sow it, reproduce the grains, collect and stock it for future, consume it and again go for reproduction. Gradually they discovered new methods to grow more, to preserve it for longer period and later on to exchange and sell it. All these experiments led to the gradual emergence of advanced, developed and modern agricultural production system–now it was organised, comprehensive, developed, scientific mode of production and it continued to improve further. The advancement of human civilization modernized agriculture. Initially, the experience and observation, later on, science and technology were used to advance the system, to the present stage. First there was production for food, then it was for exchange with other goods, then it was commodity for sale, then for market and profit and then as instrument for exploitation and establish domination in the hands of ruling class.

Agricultural Policy after Independence

During our independence days, our agriculture was very old and traditional and production relation was feudal, semi-feudal. As a result, agricultural production was much below the need of our people. So import of food was inevitable from the days of British imperialist rule. After independence, it was most important for our country to increase food production. We needed to reorganize land relations through scientific land reform and also to improve the modes of production using all modern scientific methods and helping farmers in every manner. The government decided to implement some policies in this direction. But in our rural agrarian economy, the dominance of landlords and big land owners was very strong and they also had influence on our political system, especially in the states. As a result, they made land reform ineffective. On the other hand, all assistance was given to the big land owners–such as fertilizers, seed, subsidies, bank loan, extension services and also minimum support price for their produce and procurement by government agencies and expansion of irrigation etc.This was called “Green Revolution” –for agricultural development in the country and it helped achieve self-sufficiency in food production. In this way, agriculture was partially modernized and production also increased. But major beneficiaries of this policy were the big landlords and rich peasants. In the absence of real land reform, the poor and marginal farmers, lakhs of small peasants and landless people–about 70 to 75 per cent of peasantry did not benefit much. Upper strata of the peasantry, rich and big land owners cornered the lion share of the benefits. However, at that time, the government still had an important role in agriculture. The government invested large public money in the Five Year Plans for agricultural sector. The Nationalized banks were entrusted with the social responsibility lending and agricultural cooperatives were encouraged. Research and development for agriculture was taken up and the extension services were provided to farmers. Broadly, the government policy was pro-farmer – though it was pro-rich farmer. In spite of that, the agriculture in our country partially developed, production increased, and we became self-sufficient in food production to some extent.

Change in Agrarian Policy

But this farmer oriented policy gradually changed in course of time. Capitalist development was the programme of the ruling classes and the Indian National Congress which was the ruling party. Capitalism also naturally made its inroads into agriculture. Capitalist agriculture grew rapidly and the production motive also changed. From food production, the stress was on commodity production–instead of production for consumption, production was shifted for export. The market gradually became the motive force for agrarian products also. Policy was changed from consumption-oriented to market-oriented; profit-oriented and export-oriented.

Agriculture Under Globalisation

This policy matured in the atmosphere of globalisation and export oriented agriculture was promoted by the ruling classes. Developed countries had excess food production, so they needed large markets for absorbing it. The developing countries could provide them the market. The General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) was signed for this purpose. The developing countries including India were forced to remove the quantitative restrictions and tariffs and duties on imports and open their markets to the developed countries. On the other hand, those advanced countries have cold weather and they could not grow many products of their need which was easily produced in other countries. They forced the policy on developing countries to produce those goods such as vegetable, fruits, flowers, cashewnut, spice, tea, coffee, cocoa etc and export them to the developed world. They also wanted that the poor countries to produce low quality grains for the animal feed in advanced countries or crops for alternative fuel. Thus the production of food crops in our country would reduce, acreage under food crops would shrink and one day it would endanger our food security. Now WTO is forcing the backward countries to accept the condition of the rich countries. When poor countries unitedly fought at Doha meeting, now rich countries started to go for bilateral free trade agreements with those countries and India signed many such FTA agreements with rich countries. Our farmers were exposed to the stiff competition with highly subsidised foreign products in global markets. There was no protection for our farmers.

Serious Agrarian Crisis in India

Due to the adoption of neoliberal economic policies and changes in our agricultural policy after 1991, our agriculture has been facing a serious crisis. The agricultural subsidies were reduced. There was minimum public investment in agriculture, in planning and budget. Government withdrew from agriculture. Costs of inputs increased manifold. No remunerative price was given for the produce. Farmers were caught in a severe debt trap. Agriculture became a loss-making venture. More than three lakh farmers committed suicide in last one decade. According to a study more than 40 percent farmers wanted to give up agriculture as it is no longer viable. Another section of rural poor, agricultural workers are also not getting jobs, proper wages and have no social security benefits. MNREGA was passed for providing 100 days of work to them but only 34 days of work was given under it. Thus agriculture in India fell into a grave crisis. Besides that, the government has now proposed a new dangerous policy of public-private-participation in agriculture. In this project, big corporate companies would capture agriculture and farmers would become further helpless and slave of the corporate houses. The massive land-loss due to corporate and Real Estate takeover of land became a challenge to the farmers. So this attack on agriculture, anti-farmer policies of the government, corporate grabbing of land, MNCs loot of the farmers, growing pauperization of the farmers, should be challenged by all farmers, agricultural workers and patriotic people of our country. The student community should understand this danger to our agriculture and join in the struggle to save agriculture.

Why this Change of Attitude Towards Agriculture?

But why there is this neglect and step-motherly treatment to agriculture? It is important to raise this debate among the new generation. Students and youth should come forward for ensuring a proper place for agriculture in our life. I have already told that a section of farmers want to leave agriculture, if any other opportunity is available. On the other hand, the new generation from agricultural families is averse to taking up agriculture. They do not want to join agricultural activities. A section may want to leave it and go to other profession and there is nothing wrong in changing profession. Besides, the theory is there for long that gradually we have to go to industry from agriculture, from rural to urban life. There is fast urbanization. In addition to the migration to urban areas in search of a livelihood, a part of rural population is shifting to towns because there are many attractions of urban life. This evolution of human society is not unnatural. But why is there such neglect for agriculture? Changing profession is one thing but neglect and apathy to an important profession like agriculture is a matter of grave concern.

One of the main reasons is our attitude to agriculture. Our agriculture still has not come out of the clutches of feudalism; there is feudal dominance in the agrarian society. Our agricultural modes and methods are old, traditional and backward. Modernization and dominant role of science, research and technology have not yet been ushered into our agriculture in a big way. We have an old idea about farmers such as they should be illiterate, backward, superstitious, half naked, bare footed rural folk-rustic human being, moving in bullock carts. We still cannot come out of such image of farmers in our mind. We don’t ponder why a farmer would not be modern-minded, free from superstition; with some education and culture, a modern human being? Why he should not be in good dress? Why he would not use a modern vehicle? With the change of time, why the old image of farmers also should not change? Why such backward image appears in our mind when we think of peasant? This is because we do not think about the change of such a stereotyped image. In our talk, thinking, education, culture, art and literature, we do not try to depict the modern image of a farmer in the new age. The urban middle class and educated people–who dominate the consciousness of the people–their mental poverty is revealed in such denigrating of farmer’s image. This is despite farmers being very innovative and hardworking as well as developing better varieties through their own initiative.

Near Absence of Agriculture in our Education

At first, we can take up our education system, which also builds up different images in the minds of educated people. I have told in the beginning about the five streams of modes of production which exist in our modern day life. Our education system is supposed to take all of them with equal importance for teaching. But in practice it is not the case. In our education, we give more importance to industrial production, service production, culture and intellectual production but much less importance to agricultural production, though it is the oldest mode of production. In our school education system, from primary level to secondary, especially after 9th standard, science got utmost importance and that is correct. Because, the students who go for engineering, computer, electronics, mathematics etc, they seriously follow the science stream. Those who go to medical-paramedical etc streams, they take biology in their school education, seriously. Those who will go for commerce, trade, banking, insurance, management, clerical, accountancy etc, they select commerce in the school and prepare for their future course of education and those subjects are available in all schools. Those who will go for education, teaching, arts, culture, music, film, songs and drama, literature etc, they take up arts stream in the school. All these four streams are seriously included in school syllabus and students are trained from the beginning for their future course of life and employment.

But 60 per cent of our people are engaged in agriculture. In our country, the largest number of people is still employed in this sector. But there is almost no importance given to agriculture in our education. Few schools or colleges or universities teach agriculture. But that is negligible in comparison to the number of population agriculture serves. This subject has no place in school syllabus or curriculum, no respect for its education, no attraction to this profession through education. There is not special subject on agriculture from 9th standard, for preparing those students to study agro-science and train interested people to become future agriculturists in all schools. To produce 40000 doctors, we have 300 medical colleges, to produce 1.50 lakh engineers, we have 1000 engineering colleges, to produce few thousand management personnel, we have hundreds of institutions, but to produce at least five crore agriculturists annually in the country, we have almost nothing. To cater to such huge number yearly, thousands of institutes are necessary. For other streams, we spend thousands of crores of rupees to produce few lakhs graduates, but we are not ready to spend anything to produce a few crore agricultural graduates. We want to create modern man – they are in different trades, but we do not want to produce modern agriculturist as modern man in the country.

If agriculture gets adequate attention in education, to produce more and more modern, efficient, advanced educated farmers, we would see this profession becoming as respectable as others. The farmers would send their children to study farming to become better farmers. The present day apathy of young generation towards agriculture and looking for other avenues will be halted. Agriculture can become a respectable profession, can fetch good earning for better living, production will increase manifold, exodus from rural to urban areas will reduce. But our leaders never thought in this way, our governments never planned and formulated policy in this way, our educationists never pay attention to this stream of education. Thus, we perpetuated the backwardness of agriculture, kept it old and ancient, did not give it respectability, and made it unattractive for the new generation.

It is correct that a doctor saves the life of one patient so he correctly commands respect and also earns good money. But a farmer provides food for all. He saves the lives of all–the entire humanity. Does not he deserve same respect? Have we thought this with proper importance and weightage? Do we give him his dues in society? And as we do not do it, we kept them neglected, ignored; he remains a poor farmer, whom people see as some remnant of an ancient past, and he is not portrayed as a modern man. This leads to an inferiority complex. He cannot compare himself with other professionals. Hence there is no attraction in agriculture and children of farmers do not want to become farmers. They feel apathy to farming and look for other professions. They do not think agriculture can be profitable and can be a respectable profession; so considers it better to leave it. Neither do youngsters from other sections get attracted towards agriculture as they do to management and other professions.

Importance of Training in Each Profession

All professions need special training. No profession is left to the tradition. Doctor’s son does not become doctor through learning from his father. Nobody will visit such traditional quack doctor who has not passed from medical college. That is true for all professions. But it is not so for agriculture. We leave it to farmers to learn farming from his father or grandfather. He need not be trained in any institution whereas each and every farmer today should be a modern farmer, prepare his career from school and get training in higher institutions. Only then he will be equal to others. So if we look at this issue in this manner, we must include agriculture in school syllabus compulsorily–agri-science should be in all schools as preparatory curriculum. In higher education like other subjects, agriculture also will have hundreds of streams like horticulture, floriculture, dairy, fishing, goatery etc etc. Such things are taught in few Agriculture Universities, but that is a negligible minority. It should be in lakhs given the number of people engaged or to be engaged in agriculture. Then we need lakhs of institutions and lakhs of teachers on these subjects. It will open the floodgate of employment.

Need of Modern Infrastructure for Rural Life

Another reason for apathy of farmers’ children and other youngsters to leave farming and villages is the monotonous life without much diversity. In urban life, there are many attractions and opportunities. For this, we cannot bring agriculture to the cities but definitely we can bring those attractions of city life to the villages, to some extent. But inspite of many propaganda of rural development, we have failed to make village life more attractive, even after six decades of independence. There is no pollution in village, there is more clean atmosphere and climate, but no pure drinking water. Beauty of nature is abundant but no good roads. There are more children but no good kindergartens. They have their own cultural understanding and art forms but no infrastructure to practice them. There is no good cinema, theatre halls, stadium etc. There are more patients but no good hospitals. There are more students but no good schools. So the attraction of city life is so strong. But if we can shift some of these facilities to rural areas, a large section of the villagers will stay there. There will be less migration to city to swell its slums. But the fortune makers of the country, mostly city dwellers, do not think in this line and no proper action has been taken in that direction. So if we can change our mindset and urbanise the rural areas with such opportunities, the children of farmers will stay there and participate in modern farming if it is improved, scientifically and technologically to suit their liking and fetch them proper income. It will also attract modern educated youth towards agriculture and villages.

Make Agriculture Attractive and Respectable

For that, we have to make agriculture also attractive. To attract millions of children of farmers to agriculture, we have to make it modern, efficient and profitable and suitable for modern living. We have to bring agriculture in education, in a big way. Along with other four modes of production, we have to give same importance to agricultural production; rather a little more importance should be attached to it. It should be compulsory part of our education. Agricultural science should be taught from lower classes in schools, especially from 9th standard, it should be a part of syllabus. And that should be taken to higher education so that like good doctors, engineers or advocates, lakhs of good efficient agriculturists can be produced, they can apply modern education in agriculture; agro-science can become part of rural life, it can develop as the modern centres for employment.

As agricultural products are main raw-materials for industry, both can be used together in rural life. Agro-based industries must be set up and encouraged to cater to the local agricultural producers and thereby increase agricultural production as well as employment in rural areas. For that, the major role should be played by government, cooperatives and farmers together. Instead of becoming the arena of corporate loot, agriculture can become the main source of human life and living. Only then, the new generation will engage themselves in this mode of production, they will feel proud of it and gain self-respect in their work.

Hundreds of Streams of Agriculture

Agriculture is not only cultivating crops in the field. Everything related to food and consumption is agriculture. The close relation of agriculture and industry should be utilised in such a fashion that the rural life can be a place of attraction, even a section of urban people may be attracted to rural life. Modern jobs can be created in massive scale. We can increase food production many fold by involving entire farming community, implementing proper land reform and modernizing all agricultural processes. With the growth in standard of living, consumption pattern changes–people consume less cereals and more fruits and vegetables for vitamins and animal products for protein. For producing adequate quantity of all those products for 125 crores of people, we will require massive growth of horticulture for vitamins and dairy, fishing, goatery, poultry etc for protein. Use of flowers is also increasing–its cultivation will grow. For all these, we would need agricultural marketing, more banks for loan, more cooperatives for agro-management. All these will naturally create many modern jobs. But for that, we need qualitative and basic changes in agrarian policy. The IMF-World Bank-WTO guided agro-policy mainly seeks to serve the corporate houses, multinational corporations and advanced capitalist countries. This should be reversed. We have to make massive public investment in agriculture. We have to revamp our education system by giving more importance to agriculture in syllabus at all levels of education. Encourage younger generations, specially from rural areas to join agro-studies in a big way. We should give them more facilities and encouragement to study this subject and make it more respectable and attractive in our educational and research institutions.

This matter should be raised in a big way by student community and it should be an important issue for the student movement. It should be debated in our society and educated community. This should be taken up with the policy makers and Education Ministry, Agriculture Ministry and Planning Commission. The long neglect of agriculture in our education system should be taken up by all interested quarters, so that we can establish agriculture in its real glory, as a respectable way of life, as a savior of humanity and advancement of civilization.

Author: Hannan Mollah