For the past decade, I and many other people have been arguing to establish a central agriculture university in the Kalahandi region of Odisha. The idea is supported by the urgent requirement in the region as in the past eight years, under the leadership of both UPA and NDA Government, the Central Government of India has been giving special importance to agricultural growth in the eastern part of the nation, which includes states like Odisha, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, and Jharkhand.
When the agriculture land area is decreasing due to urbanization and industries across the world and at the same time population is growing substantially in India (In last 40 years population doubled in India), the pressure on agricultural output per hectare of agricultural land will enhance with the increase in population to meet the food demand at the national and international level.
This will require very advanced technology, modern tools, innovation, and creativity at the world-class level that institutions like central agriculture university could only fulfill in the coming decades. Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India has established Central Agriculture University at Imphal, Manipur (one of the backward regions in India) for serving North-Eastern states.
Union Ministry of Agriculture has also made Central Agriculture University in Jhansi in Bundelkhand, Uttar Pradesh (another backward region), and Dr. Rajendra Prasad Central Agriculture University, Pusa (Samastipur) in Bihar.
All these three central universities are under the Indian Council of Agricultural Research of the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare. Further Banaras Hindu University, a central university under the Ministry of Education, Government of India, has an agricultural discipline serving the interest in the north part of the nation.
Agriculture is contributing substantially to the economy and human resources in Odisha. The performance of agriculture in Odisha has been recently adorable. At the national level, Naveen Patnaik led Odisha Government has been often receiving central Government appreciations and awards for the state-level agricultural development in India for the past few years.
This is a positive sign as agriculture is the primary source of the rural economy and is the backbone of the nation, especially for Odisha and it’s backward regions like the undivided districts of Kalahandi, Balangir, Koraput (KBK), and Boudh-Kandhamal. Agriculture also provides, directly and indirectly, the largest number of employment in rural India and the aspirational districts of India.
The social development of tribal and backward parts like KBK, Boudh-Kandhamal, Bastar, Dantewada, Kanker, Mahasamund districts of the country largely depends on the development of the agriculture sector. Fortunately, many of these backward pockets in the nation have great agricultural potential.
Today KBK region of Odisha shares a high percentage in rice, pulses, and cotton production in the state. Realizing its potential in agriculture, the state government has established an Agriculture College at Bhawanipatna in 2009. However, unlike state-level college, the central university receives better financial resources.
More importantly, the faculty and students in central institutions come after the national level rigorous scrutiny, so they are highly competitive, intelligent, skilled, and competent to serve better in producing advancement of technology, conducting excellent research and consulting, and collaborating with local farmers.
Thus, establishing a central agriculture university in Kalahandi region will indeed further catalyze the growth of agriculture and agro-based economy in the whole region and neighbouring tribal and backward districts in Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh.
Moreover, Kalahandi is the topmost agriculture producer, mainly for paddy, pulses, cotton, etc. among the KBK districts. It is among the 25th largest paddy producer districts in India and among the top three districts in Odisha. Kalahandi tops for cotton and pulses production in Odisha. The agriculture growth of the district is not yet saturated and it is predicted that it can be one of the forefront districts in the nation in agriculture growth.
Bhawanipatna is located centrally among all KBK districts and suits the interest of all the KBK districts. Most of the KBK district headquarters are 150 km from Bhawanipatna (four of them are in the 100 km range).
The proximity of Bhawanipatna to all the existing Regional Research and Transfer Technology Stations and Regional Research and Transfer Technology Sub-Stations of Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology (OUAT) in KBK and Western Odisha region even demands the location of the proposed central agriculture university at Bhawanipatna.
In addition, by now Agriculture College at Bhawanipatna is functional. OUAT already has faculty, staff, and students to run this institution at Bhawanipatna, thus, it can be easily upgraded to a new central agriculture university by developing further its subsequent infrastructure.
Water, electricity, and road infrastructure is already available in the existing agriculture college building. No need to build additional roads or electricity and water connection to reach out to the proposed central agriculture university except that current facilities need to be expanded within the campus.
Agriculture College at Bhawanipatna is located in the township area and neighboring to Bhawanipatna railway station and on Khariar-Bhawanipatna SH 16, which is under consideration to be a national highway and being expanded to a four-lane road. Schooling, marketing, and other urban facilities are available from this site.
A Central School, three Govt. high schools, two Government colleges, a Govt. Engineering College and many private schools and colleges are available for the children of central Government faculty and staff within the township. District collector of Kalahandi had identified 500 acres of land potentially for a university around the present agriculture college.
All these add to the advantage of Bhawanipatna as a location for the central agriculture university. In summary, a central agriculture university in Kalahandi will not only trigger the development of advanced technology and research skill in the agriculture sector as par with other national institutions at the world-class level but also benefit the local economy by improving the living standard for marginalized people in a backward cluster of KBK, Gajapati, Boudh, and Kandhamal, as Bhawanipatna is located centrally to this tribal and backward cluster.
Out of 11, nine of these districts are aspirational districts as per the classification of the Government of India. Similarly, other aspirational districts in the neighboring areas such as Bastar, Dantewada, Kanker, Mahasamund in Chhattisgarh, Dhenkanal in Odisha, and Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh will also be immensely benefited to boost their agriculture and agro-based economy from such a central institution.
(The views expressed are the writer’s own)
Digambara Patra, M.Phil, PhD
Professor Department of Chemistry
American University of Beirut
( Images from the net )