India would not have lost its sheen as a country of farmers if Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel had been the first Prime Minister, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi said on Saturday, ruing the "poor" national agricultural growth.
"The nation is falling behind in agriculture. If 'Khedut Putra' (son of farmer), Sardar Patel had become the first Prime Minister, this would not have happened to our farmers... Somehow, we took the wrong way," Modi said addressing a gathering of farmers at Krishi Mahotsav in Bharuch.
Expressing the need to strengthen agriculture, Modi said India was fast losing its identity as an agricultural nation.
"If we have to improve our economy, give jobs to our youth and strengthen our villages then there is no other way apart from strengthening our agriculture," the chief minister said, adding that the development of villages is proportional to the agricultural growth.
Modi said the need of the hour was to adopt modern technology in increasing the land under cultivation to reverse the scenario of decline in agricultural growth.
"How to integrate technology into farming... That is the need of the hour. Land is not going to increase. What we have to do is (to) increase productivity to cultivate more," he said.
Modi said farmers should employ modern techniques like greenhouse farming, tent-house and polyhouse farming. "We are leading in polyhouse farming," he stressed.
The chief minister claimed that it was a "historic feat" that Gujarat clocked a double digit (over 10 per cent) growth in agriculture, which is three times that of national average.
"Agriculture was never associated with Gujarat. We were drought-prone state. Whenever talk of agriculture comes then Punjab, Haryana and Ganga belt are at forefront," he said.
Modi said Gujarat's agriculture growth rate used to be half of the national rate in the past. If India was at 3 per cent, Gujarat's contribution stood at 1.5 per cent then, he said.
"But today the scenario has changed. Our (Gujarat's) agriculture growth rate is three-four times (that of the nation). This is what our farmers have done.. I congratulate them," Modi said.
Taking a dig at outfits criticising Gujarat, the Chief Minister said, "Some people are busy with only one thing: Negate anything that comes to Gujarat."
"There will be a day (when) there will be an NGO that will say 'we will honour the NGO that defames Gujarat the most'," he said.
On efforts made by his government to tackle water scarcity in arid regions, Modi said, "In the stretch from Umargam to Ambaji where tribal communities live, there is water shortage. This time, budget of Rs 4,000 crore has been alloted for this."
He said water conservation is the mantra as many villages are suffering from scarcity.
"Through satellite images, we have identified 700 places in tribal areas where we can conserve water," Modi said.