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Impact of economic reforms on Indian agricultural sector: Application of geomatics technology to reduce marginalisation and vulnerability of small farmers in India

Madaswamy Moni
Senior Technical Director, Agricultural Informatics Division, National Informatics Centre, Ministry of Information Technology, New Delhi - 110003, India
Tel: 91-011-4362790, Fax :91-011-4364378
E-mail :moni@hub.nic.in

Agricultural Sector is the mainstay of the rural Indian economy around which socio-economic privileges and deprivations revolve and any change in its structure is likely to have a corresponding impact on the existing pattern of Social equity. Sustainable Agricultural production depends on the judicious use of natural resources (soil, water, livestock, plant genetic, fisheries, forest, climate, rainfall, and topography) in an acceptable technology management under the prevailing socio-economic infrastructure. Various research studies and policy papers highlight that the Indian Agricultural sector faces resource constraints, infrastructure constraints, institutional constraints, technology constraints, and policy induced limitations. To achieve sustainable agricultural development, it is essential to combine natural resources, capital resources, institutional resources, and human resources (i.e. to optimally utilize the agricultural resources). As an enabling technology, Information Technology (IT) plays an important role in the rapid economic growth and social transformation in developing countries. Information Technology and Bio-Technology, which are "the drivers" of globalisation with their complementarities of liberalisation, privatisation and tighter Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), are bound to create new risks of marginalisation and vulnerability in the Indian Agricultural sector. To reduce the risks of marginalisation and vulnerability, this paper suggests development of a comprehensive Agricultural Resources Information Systems using Geomatics Technology in districts with public funding, facilitating sustainable agricultural development, and also suggests the need for development of metadata and application of OpenGIS model for optimal utilisation of agricultural resources in India.

The existence or absence of favourable natural resources can facilitate or retard the process of economic development. Professor W.A.Lewis writes : "Natural resources determine the course of development and constitute the challenge which may not be accepted by the human mind". Developing countries, embarking on programmes of economic development, "usually have to begin with and concentrate on the development of locally available natural resources as an initial condition for lifting local levels of living and purchasing power, for obtaining foreign exchange with which to purchase capital equipment, and for setting in motion the development process" [Fisher64]. With the basic thrust on higher growth in food grain production and other agricultural commodities, increase in productivity and efficient use of resources in agriculture has received special emphasize all through the process of the development, since independence. Sustainable agricultural production depends on the judicious use of natural resources (soil, water, livestock, plant genetic, fisheries, forest, climate, rainfall, and topography) in an acceptable technology management under the prevailing socio-economic infrastructure. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has formulated the following definition for sustainable development in the context of agriculture, forestry and fisheries:

"Sustainable development is the management and conservation of the natural resource base and the orientation of technological and institutional change in such a manner as to ensure the attainment and continued satisfaction of human needs for the present and future generations. Such sustainable development (in the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors) conserves land, water, plant and animal genetic resources, is environmentally non-degrading, technically appropriate, economically viable and socially acceptable".

Economic Reforms Process
Since July, 1991 the country has taken a series of measures to structure the economy and improve the balance of payments position. The New Economic Policy (NEP-1991) introduced changes in the areas of trade policies, monetary & financial policies, fiscal & budgetary policies, and pricing & institutional reforms. The salient features of NEP-1991 are (i) liberalization (internal and external), (ii) extending privatization, (iii) redirecting scarce Public Sector Resources to Areas where the private sector is unlikely to enter, (iv) globalization of economy, and (v) market friendly state. Research reports reveal that this macro-economic adjustment programme is remarkable for its relatively painless transition compared with similar programmes elsewhere and a large part of the credit for absorption of these shocks is due to the steady increase in agricultural production. The GATT Agreement signed in 1995 will fundamentally change the global trade picture in agricultural sector.

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