The rains have caused disappointment to the farmers and the government. The monsoon has so far been deficient in the country. It might cover up somewhat in the remaining two months, but the yields are going to be affected. There is a genuine fear of shortages of essential agricultural production like lentils and oil seeds. Consequently prices are feared to be heading northwards in a few weeks. Drought conditions prevail in several parts of the country. Several districts have already been declared drought affected. Such areas witness shortage of food grains, drinking water and grass, hay and straw for farm animals like cows, buffaloes, goats, sheep, horses and camels. The availability of such kind of animal fodder brings its own problems of shortages, transportation, subsidies and corruption. This is a yearly feature in the arid zones. Some part or the other is under pressure every year. Special funds provided by the central government are misappropriated.
The government has not developed any policy and infrastructure to overcome the perennial problem of fodder in a scientific manner. At least the websites of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying do not provide any information about any such policy or organization in existence presently. As compared to the situation prevailing in India, the advanced countries have highly developed programmes and support infrastructure to take care of the harvesting, cultivation and storage of hay. After all, the idiom “make hay while the sun shines” didn’t originate without any wisdom behind it. In India, however, they don’t believe in making hay while the sun shines. On the contrary they use another idiom, which means washing your hands in the flowing river Ganga or the Gangage. As India has vast tracts of forage, round the year production, it wastes more than it consumes. If all the grass is properly converted into hay scientifically, it would help facing difficult days of shortages during summers or even later. Similarly, straw from wheat, bajra, jwar, gram and other grain crops can also be stored scientifically. For this, the government has to activate the concerned ministries and the Planning Commission to make their Think Tanks exercise on the issue and devise policies and programmes on a priority basis.
One initiative can be taken immediately by setting up a Corporation on the lines of the Food Corporation of India. It can be called the Grass Corporation of India or the Chaaraa Nigam or Chaaraa Bhandaaran Nigam.The programme will need adequate investment initially, far greater than the limited exercise under the Central Fodder Development Organization(CFDOs), comprising Regional Station for Forage Production & Demonstration. As far as I am aware, there is little awareness among the farmers in the country about scientific methods of forage production, techniques, benefits, warehousing facilities and help during the rainless days (no rainy days!). Hardly are the farmers aware of seeds or cropping techniques & hay making. There are no short films on cropping, baling, storage of grass, hay-making, moisture content etc to educate the farmers. As a result, either the fodder becomes too hard or loses nutrients while lying in the open. It does not provide the same amount of vitamins, protein or minerals to the animals as properly made hay could do. Thus it makes for a very strong case for the setting up of the Grass Corporation of India.