Prof Madhav was getting ready for his yearly break for a week that he spent at Chikmagalur devoid of any electronic devices. Although he liked the IISc climate with the young energetic students, every once a while he craved peace.
He only had a letter to send. It was to his childhood friend who had now become a minister in the Punjab Government.
“I hope you are in the pink of health and happiness, with a heavy heart I write to you this. I did the best that I could and used everything in my power to help, but couldn’t come up with a feasible solution. The rice crop was sucking the fields dry and since the government was subsidizing electricity, farmers were pumping up water as if it were free. It’s was a nexus that ran the full cycle, farmers were happy with the money and government with the votes. The only problem was that the water tables were depleting very rapidly. We had given multiple warnings but were called by the MoA only when after this year’s delayed Monsoon, when farmers couldn’t even grow wheat. We needed crops that could work with 25% of what we used to plant.
The only solution was genetically engineered crops and we were no Monsanto. I reached out to International rice institute and even visited and collected historic rice samples from Svalbard. I studied areas which had similar circumstances as us. Israelis developed drip irrigation tech where every drop of water is used efficiently whilst the Chinese made rice grow up on marshes. We came up with a rice clone with wheat’s characteristics which uses 50% of water and is specifically suited to Punjab’s arid soil but current water levels can’t support it sustainably. We also tried a whole bunch of other hybrids which provide same nutritional content with much lesser water. Will people find it palatable given the anti-GMO sentiments? We adopted potato and coffee which came in through trade.
This whole incident is for us to learn from our mistakes. The government has to incentivize farmers for water saving procedures, it has a lot of upfront costs putting the burden on the ex-chequer but there’s no way out. It’s better than waiving farm loans and patiently waiting for them to default again.
I am also attaching various reports for each soil type and most efficient crop pair. Hope it helps.”
He turned over the letter to one of his grad students.
“Anand can you verify the attachments and send the letter”
“but sir some of our results are yet to come, I had simulated about a million interplant hybrids and we had planted the top 100, 5 of which aren’t fully ripe yet, 95 others failed as they weren’t edible”
“Ok send it when you are done”
Gov. couldn’t afford big water conservation subsidies which could replenish the levels. Madhav was anxious about his letter and it’s consequences but spend the whole week reading Ruskin Bond, a week of his own time is all he wanted. Upon his return, he soon fetched up the reply.
I am very happy to hear from you, I spoke to the Ministry of agriculture and they are ready to grant an immediate 5 crore grant for the testing and mass production of this rice-jowar crop. We can’t change what happened in the past but will put an effort to take the best steps going forward. There’s always hope and people can adjust it’s a battle for survival for half of the people the in the country.”
He knew something had worked.