New Delhi: Calling for a "big change" in agriculture, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday launched the DD Kisan channel and pitched for increasing average productivity of paddy to three tonnes per hectare from the present two tonnes.
Launching the channel on the first anniversary of his government, Modi said the agriculture sector had been "neglected" and there was need to make the sector "vibrant".
He said 50 percent of farmers would not know if there is an agricultural department of the government.
"There is need for a big change in agriculture... It has been left to the fate of farmers," he said.
Modi said that if the country has to move forward, villages must make progress and if villages are to progress, it was essential for agriculture to grow.
Modi, who was repeatedly cheered by the gathering during his nearly 45-minute speech, gave many suggestions to boost farm income.
"Agriculture should be divided into three parts. Try this experiment and agriculture can be self-sufficient. Keep one-third of field for traditional agriculture, one-third for animal husbandry and one-third for timber," he said.
He said the country has to import timber but lakhs of hectares of land has been wasted due to fences erected by people along their fields.
"Plant timber trees (instead of a fence). Plant them when a girl child is born and cut them when she gets married," he said, adding that the sale of this wood will meet expenses for the girl's marriage.
He said there was a time when agriculture was the most preferred profession but the situation has changed and it was now regarded below service and business.
Modi said if modern technology was taken to the fields, the youth of the country will be again connected to agriculture and provide a new momentum to the economy.
The prime minister said the country's population was rising and the only way to ensure food security was to boost productivity.
"At present, the average paddy productivity in India is two tonnes per hectare whereas the global average is three tonnes per hectare. We will have to think how we can reach the global average. It looks small (step) but is a difficult task," he said.
He also pitched for competition among the sub-divisions in the country about good agriculture practices.
Modi gave credit to late prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri for the country gaining self-sufficiency in food after being dependent on imports in the first few years after independence.
"Lal Bahadur Shastri ji gave a mantra 'Jai Jawan Jai Kisan', and the farmer of the nation got inspired by that mantra," he said.
Noting that India imports pulses and oilseeds, he said the country should attain self-sufficiency in their production.
He said farmers can benefit the most from information on weather being obtained through satellites and asked DD Kisan to provide regular updates so that it becomes a habit with farmers.
Modi said the channel should also inform farmers about global markets so that they can take informed decisions about the crops they sow.
He suggested that the channel can start competitions about best agricultural practices by inviting farmers and facilitate video-conferencing about innovations so that these can be replicated across the country.
chairman A. Surya Praskah said the channel was an idea of the prime minister.
He said the channel was in Hindi but the best programmes would be dubbed in regional languages.
Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore said the first programme of the government on its first anniversary was dedicated to farmers.