Agriculture during 1950-1990
Agriculture can be defined as “The art and science of growing plants and other crops and raising animals for food, other human needs, or economic gain”. It came from two Latin words, ‘Ager’, meaning field, farm, land, and ‘Culture’, meaning cultivation. Thus, agriculture is the art or the practice of cultivating soil, producing plants, and raising livestock.
The agricultural practices began thousands of years ago, and it has been a literal part of the Indian economy, both before and after independence. Before 1947, the Indian agriculture sector contributed more than 90% of the total national income of India. Agriculture was the primary source of livelihood in India, as a large portion of the country’s population resided in rural areas. The pre-colonised India was sustainable and self-sufficient even with the production of two crops; namely, rice and wheat.
Due to the invasion of the British government, the Indian economy, especially the agricultural sector suffered a lot and had a downfall. And, on the eve of independence, the most remarkable sector of India was suffering from stagnation and constant degradation.
Role and Importance of Agriculture
Agriculture is often considered the backbone of the Indian Economy. Though the industrial sector plays a major role in the development of the Indian economy, the contribution of the agricultural sector cannot be denied as well.
1. Contribution to National Income
The contribution of the agricultural sector towards maintaining the national income of the country has been observed from the very beginning. In the year 1950-1951, the contribution of agriculture was 59% of the total national income of the country. Although there has been a decline in the share of the agricultural sector with the growth of other sectors, it is still high in comparison to the share of other developed countries.
2. Source of Livelihood
More than half of the Indian population is engaged and dependent directly on agriculture for livelihood. According to a survey, around 66% of the working population in India is engaged in the farming sector as compared to 3% in U.K. and U.S.A., 6% in France, and 7% in Australia.
3. Source of Food
The agricultural sector is the only major source of the food supply that is providing food to a huge population of India. Around 60% of the daily household consumption needs are met by the agricultural sector.
4. Source of Government Revenue
The government is getting a major part of its revenue from the agricultural sector, as this sector plays a major role in generating revenue for both, the Central government and the State government. It also generates revenue from the sectors like railways or the transportation sector as the movement of agricultural goods takes place.
5. Role of Agriculture in Industrial Development
Agriculture is the major source of supply of raw materials such as raw cotton, raw jute, tea leaves, raw rubber, etc., to the industries. More than 50% of the income generated by the manufacturing industries comes from agro-based products.
6. Contribution to Trade
Both the internal as well as external trade is highly influenced by the agricultural sector. Around 70% of India’s exports originated from agricultural products, like tea, coffee, tobacco, spices, cashew nuts, manufactured jute, cotton textiles, sugar, etc. Further, agriculture also helps in earning precious foreign exchange to meet the required import bill of the country.
7. Source of Employment
Agriculture and other agro-based industries employ farmers, farm-workers, and other people who engage in the cultivation of the soil, growing of crops, raising livestock, and even in the sector of agriculture finance, and marketing. All these activities provide employment to a huge population of people.
Features of Indian Agriculture
1. The pressure of the population on Agriculture
The rapid increase in the population of India, and the shifting of people from rural to urban areas has increased the demand for land, which resulted in the destruction of fertile lands.
2. Subsistence Agriculture
In subsistence agriculture, the farmer owns a small piece of land on which he grows crops with the help of his family members and consumes almost the entire farm produce after which, they are left with little or no produce to sell in the market. This type of agriculture has been practised in India for over hundreds of years and still prevails.
3. Seasonal Employment
Some crops can only be grown in a particular season. This results in farmers getting unemployed during the off-season of such crops. This hampers them as their work capacity is not fully utilised.
4. Monsoon Dependency
In India, the agricultural process is mainly dependent on the monsoon. If it rains more than what is required, or if it rains less than what is required, in both cases the crops get destroyed.
5. Variety of Crops
India is a country that has both tropical and temperate climates; hence, crops of both climates are found in India. This differentiates India’s agriculture from other countries, as there are only a few countries in the world that have a variety of agricultural production.
6. The Predominance of Food Crops
The first priority of Indian farmers is the production of food crops, as they have to feed a large population of people. To achieve the desired production amount, more than two-thirds of the total fertile area is devoted to the cultivation of food crops.
7. Seasonal Pattern of Crops
There are namely three distinct agricultural/cropping seasons in India:
- Kharif: From monsoon till the beginning of winter (Crops of Kharif- rice, maize, jowar, bajra, cotton, sesame, groundnut, and pulses such as moong, urad, etc.)
- Rabi: From the beginning of winter till the end of winter or the beginning of summer (Crops of Rabi- wheat, barley, jowar, gram, and oil seeds such as linseed, and mustard)
- Zaid: In summer (Crops of Zaid- rice, maize, groundnut, vegetables, and fruits)
Problems of Indian Agriculture
The biggest problem faced by Indian agriculture is the instability in the monsoon season. The production of crops fluctuates as the monsoon keeps on fluctuating. This leads to a shortage of food all around the country, which further leads to a rise in price and employment fluctuations.
2. Cropping Pattern
In India, there are namely two types of crops grown: food crops and non-food crops. Food crops include sugarcane, food grains, and beverages, whereas non-food crops include oilseeds and fibres. Due to the imbalanced cropping patterns of the farmers, the fertility of the soil gets hampered. It can however be improved by growing food and non-food crops alternatively.
3. Ownership of Land
The ownership of land in India is extremely unequal. A major chunk of the cultivable land is owned by rich landlords, farmers, and moneylenders, whereas, only a small piece of land comes under the ownership of small farmers. If the farmers were not able to make a profit within a year, then they had to borrow money at a high-interest rate from moneylenders, and then get caught into the never-ending debt trap, which ultimately resulted in a loss of their lands.
4. Poor Quality of Seeds
As the yielding of crops depends largely on seeds, it is important to use high-quality seeds. But, due to the high prices of such seeds, the farmers cannot afford them. This results in a poor yield of crops and a debt trap for farmers. Several measures have been taken by the government to eliminate this problem, but cereals/staples like rice, pulses, and millet are grown mainly from unimproved seeds.
5. Improper Irrigation Facilities
The lack of proper irrigation facilities in India has hampered the agricultural sector. The lack of adequate supply of water as well as the over-irrigation of fields can result in poor or less production of crops.
6. Soil Erosion
One of the basic problems of Indian agriculture is the deterioration of soil due to water and wind. This removes the fertile layer of the soil leaving the land to be not fit for the cultivation process.
7. High Cost of Farm Inputs
Farm inputs, such as fertilizer, insecticide, pesticides, HYV seeds, farm labour costs, etc., are very expensive because of which small farmers cannot afford them, which further results in poor quality of produce.
Policies for Growth of Agriculture
There were various policies undertaken by the government to promote the growth of Indian agriculture. It can be classified into two categories namely, Land Reforms and Green Revolution.
Land Reforms refer to the change in the ownership, tenancy, and management of landholdings. It refers to the growth in the agro-economic organisation. Land Reforms include measures and policies relating to redistribution of land, regulation of rent, improving the conditions of tenancy, agricultural education, etc. The Land Reforms were found to be successful in Kerala and West Bengal, as they were committed to this policy. Other states; however, did show the same level of improvement. The measures of this policy are:
- Abolition of intermediaries to make the farmers the owner of the land.
- Tenancy regulation to improve the contractual terms, including the security of tenure.
- A ceiling on landholdings to redistribute surplus land to the landless.
- Attempts to consolidate disparate landholdings.
- Encouragement of cooperative joint farming.
- Settlement and regulation of tenancy.
The concept of the Green Revolution was introduced by M.S. Swaminathan (the Father of the Green Revolution) in India, in the year 1965. It refers to a period when India had a tremendous increase in agricultural production with the usage of high-yielding seeds, techniques, and modern tools such as tractors, pesticides, fertilizers, improved irrigation facilities, etc. The Green Revolution mainly focused on three elements. They were:
- The expansion of agricultural land
- The practice of double-cropping system, i.e., growing two crops in a year
- Usage of high-yielding crops and seeds with improved genetics
Disputes over Subsidies to Agriculture
- Usually, subsidies are made by the government to prevent the decline of industry or to simply encourage the industry to hire more labour. In reference to agriculture, subsidy means the supply of inputs to the farmers at prices lower than the market rates.
- It is generally agreed that the use of subsidies to provide an incentive for the adoption of the new technology by farmers in general and small farmers, in particular, was necessary.
- Some economists believed that subsidies should be phased out once the purpose of adopting them has been served, i.e., the technology has been found profitable and has been widely adopted.
- The subsidies were taken into measure in consideration that they will benefit the farmers but, a substantial amount of fertilizers subsidy also benefits the fertilizer industry.
- Hence, it is argued that there is no use in continuing the fertilizer subsidies as it is not benefiting the target group, i.e., small farmers, and is creating a huge burden on the government’s finances.
- On the other hand, some economists believe that the government should continue the agricultural subsidies because most farmers in India are poor, and it will be difficult for them to afford the required inputs without subsidies.
- Along with this, it is also believed that removing the subsidies will increase the inequality between the rich and the poor farmers, which will further violate the goal of equity.
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