First open Agricultural University to be set up in Nagpur
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Farmer suicides, poor yields, low remunerations, crop damage due to untimely or inadequate rains, were some issues disturbing me for the last few years, said former Maharashtra Agriculture Minister Ranjeet Deshmukh, who will be at the helm of this proposed varsity, named after his father.
"Together some experts in the field and we came up with this concept of an open agricultural university that would take the lead in educating and training farmers," he said.
"We will start with study centres and training programmes first in Vidarbha and the state and gradually spread over to all over the country," said Mukund Gaekwad, who has been appointed as the Chancellor of the new university.
He is a visiting professor of agriculture in international universities and former head of horticulture department at Mahatma Phule Agriculture University, Rahuri.
Several experts like farm consultant and scientist Subhash Nalange, weather specialist B N Shinde, value addition expert Jyoti Surse, PDKV's former Vice-Chancellor C D Mayee, Ramesh Fiske are in the managing committee of the university. "We have applied for registration to the Distance education Society, New Delhi, and expect to get it in two weeks," said Ashok Dhage, the new Vice- chancellor. Explaining how it will be different from traditional agricultural universities where students at the end of three to five years of education get little practical knowledge to improve agricultural practices, Deshmukh said, "We plan to entirely revolutionise farm education by giving it a practical base."
"Unnecessary technical jargon and subjects that are imparted in agricultural universities which hardly help in training a student for field work will be junked. Our courses will be structured on local needs. For instance, in Vidarbha where cotton, soyabean and paddy are main crops the varsity will design specific courses for these crops," Deshmukh, also twice former president of Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee.
The varsity will offer courses a three-month certificate course, a diploma degree and postgraduate specialised course.
Our approach will be professional with latest technology and methods in the field to increase crop quality and yield. Organic farming, nano-technology in farming and horticulture will be imparted for the first time in the country," said Deshmukh.
"We want to make farming people-friendly. Modern concepts like soil testing helps in big savings on costly chemical fertilizers. Most of the farmers woes are because of unscientific approach and traditional methods ignoring ground realities. We want to change all this with modern approach and easy to learn ideas that will bring results to farmers," Dhage said.
Stress will be laid on use of weather forecasts, value addition of crops and eco-friendly organic farming.
World class scientists will be hired who will teach (through video-conferencing) the latest farming methods," said Gaekwad.
Getting into action in right earnest, these experts will survey orange orchards in Narkhed taluka in Nagpur district between February 26-28 and train owners about techniques of soil testing and pruning to save the orange trees.
Fee structure and enrollment formalities are yet to be finalised. Also, there is no age bar and anyone wanting to learn farming can join various courses.
"We will try to keep the fee affordable. But quality and professional education does cost a bit," said Deshmukh, who will be the head of the university.