Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday appealed to startups to touch upon less glamorous areas including climate change, millet production and improving the condition of farmers.Addressing a national level summit to promote startups, Sitharaman emphasised more on climate change and asked the startups to find a solution to combat it as that will have a bearing on the agriculture pattern in the country.
“Of course defence production, renewable energy, nuclear, satellites, space technologies, they are all there. You have already touched upon those areas. I am asking you to touch upon some of those less glamorous areas as well,” Sitharaman told the gathering here.”My appeal is, more and more innovations coming from the startups for dealing with climate and climate change is going to be absolutely precious,” the Finance Minister said.She asked the startups to work towards improving conditions of farmers, urban dwellers and give a solution through millets for healthy eating.The startups can also look at markets which can fetch much better price for the farmers, which can also generate lot of employment for them because of the value additions that can be brought in, she explained.
She highlighted that importance should be given to climate and its related solutions for a better climatic condition in India.If the issues related to climate change is not addressed, then it will cost a lot for the Indian economy, which will not be affordable at all, the Finance Minister warned.”The across-the-board damages that adverse climate and weather conditions can create is going to be big for any country to subsume, absorb or take on board,” she cautioned the gathering.Sitharaman pointed out that people can see farmers trying to change their cropping patterns.The sowing of seeds are being pushed further due to the unpredictable monsoon months, Sitharaman said.She pointed out that the rainfall that used to happen in the entire monsoon season is now being witnessed within a couple of days, which no city or no rural area can handle.”All these are making farmers rethink about how they’re going to be plowing, sowing, readying the land and also looking at when the crop is going to be coming for harvest,” the Union minister said.
Stating that climate change is having a direct bearing on the supply chains, Sitharaman said: “Food security is not just an issue of availability of food, but also the cycle in which production happens, post harvest in which value addition happens, and after that when exports happen in agriculture.” A country which has a long lineage of good and rich agricultural activity is going to suffer if the climate-related challenges are not attended to, she noted.The Finance Minister hailed the Indian farmers who with their grit ensured that the agriculture sector was able to perform well between 2020 and 2022.Even in the face of the Russia-Ukraine war, when the world has been facing food security, countries like India where there is a rich farming tradition was able to do well, she pointed out.Sitharaman said the startups will have to look at innovative ways in which the vagaries of monsoon can be handled.”I’m not sure we are yet there to see how monsoon can itself be regularised. That’s a bit far away but what can be achieved is to see how these vagaries can be handled, how urban planning, rural planning can respect such disasters, which may come, and plan for themselves in such a way they’re not going to be inundated or they’re going to suffer for want of drinking water or drought like conditions,” she said.
The Finance Minister explained that the challenges that emerge out of unpredictable climatic condition has a bearing on agriculture, urban living, water management, disaster management, construction of houses, industries and national security.”Therefore, I would want the startups, young minds, energetic minds, restless minds, to touch on areas which are still not predominantly seen in the presence of startups,” she added.The Finance Minister apprised the audience that India will be chairing the G20 summit and one of the meetings will be on finance ministers and central bank governors, which will take place in February in Bengaluru.Every opportunity should be utilised to the hilt by the startups, she said.
Further, the Finance Minister reminded the gathering that the United Nations has declared 2023 as the International Year of the Millets due to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts. Stating that Karnataka is one of the lead producers of various kinds of millets, Sitharaman told the startups that there is much to improve the condition of farmers growing these crops. She also pointed out that it can generate lot of employment for our farmers with the value additions that can be brought in by the startups.