India is predominantly a rural economy where agriculture and allied sectors play a vital role in national income, output, employment generation and foreign exchange earnings. More than 50 percent of the country's population is directly dependent on agriculture and allied sectors. There has been a tremendous increase in production of agriculture and allied sectors during the planned era of development Realising the potential of animal husbandry sector to strengthen the rural economy, the budgetary allocations have witnessed a rise through various schemes and initiatives like:
In fact, agriculture in India is considered a playing gamble with the monsoon because almost in all parts of the country, agricultural production is very much dependent upon the rainfall. It is highly susceptible to natural calamities and risks like droughts, floods, pests, diseases etc. Apart from this, Indian agriculture is characterised with the presence of excess manpower in the form of large scale disguised and seasonal unemployment. It is necessary to promote allied sector activities like animal husbandry, pisciculture, horticulture, floriculture, apiculture, sericulture, forestry and logging and mining and quarrying etc to increase income opportunities.
Among the ancillary activities, animal husbandry being an integral part of farming in India is at the top. The livestock sector has emerged as a sustainable secondary source of income and generating gainful employment during the phases of seasonal unemployment, particularly to the landless, small and marginal farmers. India has been the largest producer of milk in the world since 1998 per capita availability of 394 grams per day as against the world average of 299 grams in 2018-19. Nearly 19 percent of the world's total milk production is contributed by India.
The fisheries sector is also an important source of income and employment generation in India. The country has rich and diverse fisheries resources due to its vast coast line and varied inland resources in the form of rivers, canals, lakes, ponds, tanks, reservoirs etc. The sector provides livelihood to about 16 million fishers and fish farmers at the primary level and almost twice the number along the value chain. The sector has been one of the major sources of foreign exchange earnings, with India being one of the leading seafood exporting rations in the world. In addition, there are job potentials in the field of fish processing, fish seed hatcheries, fish feed industry, aquaculture etc. With a view to boost the fish production through the creation of additional infrastructure facilities in the country, Fisheries and Aquaculture Infrastructure Development Fund (FIDF) worth Rs. 7,522 crore was created in October 2018.
The Horticulture sector is recognised to have the potential to augment rural income, enhance employment opportunities and promote exports earnings. The diverse agro climatic conditions and wide varieties of soil in the country make it possible to grow almost all types of horticultural products like fresh fruits, vegetables, root and tuber crops, flowers, aromatic and medicinal crops, spices and plantation crops. There has been an unprecedented growth of this sector during the last two decades. As per third advance estimates of the Department of Agriculture Cooperation and Farmers Welfare, total horticultural production has increased from 145.78 million tonnes in 2001-02 to 319.57 million tonnes In 2019-20, registering ACGR of 4.22 percent during this period.
India ranks second in fruits and vegetables production in the world, after China. The country ranks first in the production of banana, papaya, mango, lemon, ginger and okra. Despite huge production of horticultural crops, India's share in world exports amounts to less than 1.5 percent. Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH) provides financial, technical and administrative support to State Governments for the development of the horticulture sector covering fruits, vegetables, root & tuber crops, mushroom, spices, flowers, aromatic plants, coconut, cashew, cocoa, bamboo and saffron. Apart from this, to promote horticultural exports, several centers for perishable cargoes and for post harvest handling facilities have been set up with the assistance of APEDA in the country.
Floriculture is an age-old farming activity practiced in India. It has immense potential for generating gainful self-employment among small and marginal farmers. The diverse agro-climatic conditions enable the growth of all types of flowers in one or the other part of the country round-the-year. Due to increased demand of floriculture products in the home market and abroad, farmers have been shifting from sustenance to commercial production of flowers. As per the third advance estimate of the National Horticulture Board, the production of flowers reached at 2.99 million tonnes in 2019-20, witnessing 2.89 percent increase over the previous year.
The major importing countries of Indian flower products are U.S.A., U.K., Netherlands, Germany and UAE. The Government of India has identified floriculture as a sunrise industry and accorded 100 percent export oriented status to it. The Government has set up six agri-export zones for floriculture; one each in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Sikkim and Uttarakhand and two in Tamil Nadu. APEDA has introduced several schemes for promoting floriculture exports from the country. These relate to development of infrastructure, packaging, market development, subsidy on air freight etc. With foreign technical collaborations, the Indian floriculture industry is poised to exhibit strong growth in its production and hence increase its share in world trade.
Apiculture or beekeeping is a lucrative profit giving venture with very low or negligible investment. If practiced in a scientific manner, it can generate huge employment and improve the economic condition of rural people. Beekeeping is not restricted to extraction of honey only, but other products such as royal jelly, bee wax, pollen, propolis and bee venom also yield good income to the farmers. With an output of 64,900 tonnes, India ranked eighth in the world in honey production in 2017-18.
India is one of the leading honey exporting countries. According to an official report, India has a potential of about 200 million bee colonies as against the present level of 3.4 million. The Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare has been giving thrust on promotion and development of scientific apiculture in the country in view of its crucial role in income and employment generation. In this direction a new central sector scheme entitled National Beekeeping and Honey Mission (NBHM) has been launched to achieve the goal of Sweet Revolution in the country.
Sericulture is an age old avocation in India. The Sericulture and silk industry has great potential to contribute towards rural income and employment generation, poverty alleviation and women empowerment. India is the second largest producer of silk (after China) in the world with its unique distinction of being the only country producing all the four commercially known varieties of silk viz. Mulberry, Eri, Tasar and Muga. India's silk industry provides gainful employment to over 9.43 million persons of which a sizable number belong to the economically weaker sections of society. The Indian silk products have high export potential because of their distinctiveness and low cost of production
For the development of sericulture and silk industry in the country, The Central Silk Board was established immediately after independence in 1948. It acts as a facilitator to the States in guiding them to improve productivity and quality of silk through Research and Development intervention, supply of basic seed, post cocoon technology intervention and capacity building. In 2017, in order to strengthen the beneficiary oriented components in sericulture, the central sector scheme-Silk Samagra, was launched with the provision of an outlay of Rs.2161.68 crore.
Agro processing industry is seen as a key instrument for ameliorating the economic lot of the vast majority of people living in poverty in rural India. Rural areas provide abundant raw material from agricultural, horticultural and animal produce to start entrepreneurship in the field of agro-processing. Agro processing not only enables to reduce the post harvest wastages but also helps to fetch fair and remunerative prices to the producers through value addition in their agricultural produce. Presently, processing of fruits and vegetables is only two percent in India, in comparison to 80 percent in the USA.
The food processing sector faces a conducive growth environment, owing to the availability of fresh, abundant & affordable raw material on the one hand and favorable government policies on the other. Moreover, due to rising consumer affordability, rapid urbanization and change in lifestyle, the preference for processed agro-products has been increasing rapidly. There is an enormous and ever increasing demand for canned fruits, juice, jam, jelly, sauce, pickle and honey etc. in rural, semi-urban and urban areas. These activities can be started on part time as well as full time basis as they have very high employment potential with significantly low investment. Realising the importance of the food processing sector for the economy, a central sector scheme, PradhanMantriKisanSampada Nana, with the total outlay of Rs. 6,000 crone was launched in 2016. It aims at the creation of modern infrastructure with an efficient supply chain for the processed food industry.
Water is an essential resource for survival of mankind, we should also consider that the water sector is also a very necessary and irreplaceable resource for economic growth. As per the United Nations report on Water and jobs, it has been estimated that half of the world's workforce i.e., about 1.5 billion people are dependent and employed in one of the eight water and natural resources dependent industries. Hence, it is evident that the water sector in different facets has a potential to empower the rural youth.
The tourism industry, one of the largest contributors to India's GDP, has been hit due to global spread of coronavirus pandemic. As per Word Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), Covid-19 pandemic costs the tourism industry at least USD 22 billion resulting in a loss of 50 million jobs globally'. India boasts varied travel destinations ranging from religious destinations to nature friendly destinations to adventure destinations and much more. Uncharted rural India can attract a large number of domestic travellers offering them an authentic taste and serene beauty of India.
Employment generation coupled with improving employability of rural masses has always been the priority of the Government. The main focus is on strengthening the rural economy by reviving agriculture and allied sectors in the country. The Government is keen to doublefarmers' income by the targeted year 2022, through launching new schemes. In addition to boost income from crop cultivation, the focus of attention should be on promoting allied and non-farm activities in rural areas so that farmers can get gainful employment during the slack season.
Special impetus on creating scientific temper and fostering innovative spirit among the rural youth to attract them to agro-processing, agribusiness and agri-preneurship deserve to be at the top priority of Government and policy makers. Last but not least, a joint effort on the part of the Government, private sector and self-help-groups supported by the public at large can play a vital role in promoting ancillary and allied activities and ultimately enhancing employment opportunities in rural India.
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