Give a man a fish, feed him for a day.

Lao Tzu said “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.”

It is good to feed a hungry person. But it is even better to give him skills so that he becomes capable of feeding himself.

If we merely give a hungry person a meal, he will feel hungry again in a few hours. And if we keep on giving him meals, we will compel him to be dependent on us.

How much better to give him knowledge instead, which will enable him to get food for himself- thus making it possible for him to become independent.

Similar sentiments are expressed in the following Subhaashit

अन्नदानं महद्दानं विद्यादानं ततः परम् l

अन्नेन क्षणिका तृप्तिः यावज्जीवं तु विद्यया ll

The giving of food (अन्नदानं) is a great type of charity (महद्दानं) . But the giving of knowledge (विद्यादानं) is even greater than that (ततः परम्).

The satisfaction (तृप्तिः) obtained from food (अन्नेन) is only momentary (क्षणिका), while that gained from knowledge (विद्यया) lasts lifelong (यावज्जीवं).

Farmers’ suicides have been in the news for some time now. The government prefers remedies which are mostly cosmetic in nature, such as loan waivers and financial assistance on an ad hoc basis to farmers. But the relief obtained by these measures is short lived. The very next season the farmers are again in debt.

There are many reasons for the failure of agriculture in India, but the use of Genetically Modified and hybrid seeds is considered to be a significant one.

These seeds are non- renewable, meaning that seeds cannot be kept aside from this year’s produce to be used for next year’s crops. So the farmers have to buy seeds every year. These GM seeds are usually high-cost and unreliable, too. They also require the use of chemical fertilizers. All this is very costly and forces farmers into debt.

Many agricultural activists feel that farmers need to be encouraged to use organic seeds, so that a part can be kept aside from this year’s harvest, as seed for next year. These are also less costly, and so would reduce the necessity to take loans.

At the same time, education about the best methods of crop cultivation should be given to farmers, which would raise productivity,  increase their income, and restore their independence.

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