Although they dominate this sector, government agriculture universities have not been able to sufficiently raise per hectare yields to best global levels
India’s government agriculture universities are one of the big disappointments of the post-independence national development effort. Although the apex-level Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR), Delhi is credited with having master-minded the Green Revolution of the 1970s, it received great help from American agro-scientist Dr. Norman Borlaug, who introduced the Mexican dwarf wheat variety to India.
Yet despite the success of the Green Revolution, the plain truth is that average wheat and rice yields in India are a fifth of China and a tenth of France, Ukraine etc, and although 60 percent of the population is employed in the agriculture sector, it contributes a mere 17 percent of GDP.
This situation is not helped by the media-aversion of ICAR (estb.1929) and its affiliated 71 government agriculture universities. They have transformed into fortresses which resist all media enquiries into their governance and performance. Typically, they are defined by huge establishment expenses, low tuition fees for students, and large research budgets. And while their model farms sustained with best fertiliser and pesticide inputs showcase impressively high yields, they maintain minimal connect with rural communities and farmers. Some years ago, they abolished their ‘extension services’, i.e, application of research and laboratory know-how in wider fields beyond their campuses.
Therefore persuading sample respondents to rate and rank agriculture universities was an arduous task and is based on woolly perceptions. That said, the 2023-24 league table of India’s government agriculture universities has experienced a major churn. The apex-level ICAR, Delhi ranked #2 last year, has been elevated to India #1 in 2023-24, pushing the state government Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana to #2. ICAR’s National Dairy Research Institute, Karnal is ranked #3 and the Top 5 is completed by GB Pant University of Agriculture and Technology, Pantnagar jointly ranked #4 with the Gujarat government backed Navsari Agricultural University (#4) and Ch. Charan Singh Haryana Agricultural University, Hisar at #5 (#3).
Dr. Z.P. Patel, Vice Chancellor of Navsari Agricultural University (NAU), Gujarat is delighted that the state government promoted NAU is ranked among India’s Top 5 agriculture universities for two years consecutively with high scores on the parameters of competence of faculty, curriculum and pedagogy and placements.
“We are happy that our concerted and continuous efforts to provide quality agricultural education and farmer-oriented frontline extension services have borne fruit. Our 400 expert faculty, healthy teacher-student ratio and strong research focus — 25 research centres sited in 15 locations statewide conduct rigorous research on mandate crops such as paddy, sugarcane, cotton, sorghum, small millets, etc — have given us a good reputation. Since inception, NAU has developed over 75 varieties in 21 crops and more than 550 technologies. We also have an excellent placement record with 60-plus companies visiting for campus recruitment every year,” says Patel.
In particular, Patel takes pride in NAU’s farmer extension services and network. “NAU has made huge efforts to reach out to farmers. We have established five Krishi Vigyan Kendras covering South Gujarat which have organised over 30,000 activities to benefit local farmers. Moreover, 11 experiential learning units funded by ICAR provide hands-on training and earn-while-you-learn opportunities to our students,” says Patel.