Development of Agriculture
middle of the 1960s the scenario with regard to food production was very grim.
The country was incurring enormous expenditure on importing food. Land reforms
had made no impact on agricultural production. The government therefore turned
to technological alternatives to develop agriculture. High Yielding Variety
(HYV) of seeds of wheat and rice was adopted in 1965 in select areas well
endowed with irrigation.
traditional agriculture, cultivation of HYV seeds required a lot of water and
use of tractors, chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The success of the
initial experimental projects led to the large-scale adoption of HYV seeds
across the country. This is generally referred to as the Green Revolution. This
also created an enormous demand for chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and
these industries grew as well.
Finally, within twenty years, India achieved self-sufficiency in food production. Total rice production increased from 35 million tonnes in 1960–61 to 104 million tonnes in 2011–12. The increase in wheat production was even more impressive, from 11 million tonnes to 94 million tonnes during the same period. Productivity also increased. A large reserve stock of food grain was built up by the government through buying the surplus food grain from the farmers and storing this in warehouses of the Food Corporation of India (FCI). The stored food grains were made available under the Public Distribution System (PDS) and to ensure food security for the people.
positive feature has been the sustained increase in the production of milk and
eggs. Due to this, the food basket of all income groups became more
Green Revolution has been very successful in terms of increasing food
production in India, it has also had some negative outcomes. First of all, it
increased the disparities between the well-endowed and the less well-endowed
regions. Over the decades, there has been a tendency among farmers to use
chemical fertilizers and pesticides in excessive quantities resulting in
environmental problems. There is now a move to go back to organic farming in
many parts of the country. The lesson to be learnt is that development comes at
a certain cost.
1970s, the levels of poverty had not declined in spite of overall development
of industry and agriculture. The assumption that development would solve the
problem of poverty was not realised, and nearly half the population was found
to be living below the poverty line. (The poverty line is defined as the level
of expenditure required to purchase food grains to supply the recommended
calorie level to sustain a person.) Though the percentage of the persons below
the poverty line did not increase, as the population grew, the number of
persons living below the poverty line kept increasing.
prevailed both in rural and urban areas. But since nearly three-fourths of the
population lived in rural areas, rural poverty was a much more critical problem
requiring immediate attention. Poverty levels were also much higher among
specific social groups such as small and marginal farmers, landless labourers
and depressed classes in resource poor regions without irrigation and with poor
range of rural development programmes was introduced by the government to
tackle rural poverty. These included Community Development Programmes, reviving
local institutions like Panchayati Raj, and targeted programmes aimed at
specific groups such as small and marginal farmers. The thrust was on providing
additional sources of income to the rural households to augment their earnings
from agriculture. Two major programmes are explained in greater detail below.
In 1980 a
consolidated rural development programme called Integrated Rural Development
Programme was introduced. The purpose was to provide rural households with
assets which would improve their economic position, so that they would be able
to come out of poverty. These could be improvements to the land, supply of cows
or goats for dairying or help to set up small shops or other trade-related businesses.
Introduced in all the 5011 blocks in the country, the target was to provide
assistance to 600 families in each block over five years (1980–1985), which
would reach a total of 15 million families.
capital cost of the assets provided was covered by subsidies (divided equally
between the Centre and the States) and loans. The subsidy varied according to
the economic situation of the family receiving assistance. For small farmers,
the subsidy component was 25%, 33.3% for marginal farmers and agricultural
labourers, and 50% for tribal households. Banks were to give loans to the
selected households to cover the balance of the cost of the asset. About 53.5
million households were covered under the programme till 1999.
animals accounted for 50% of the assets, non-farm activities for 25% and minor
irrigation works for about 15%. The functioning and the effects of IRDP were
assessed by many economists as well as government bodies. These studies raised
many questions about the end result.
proper selection procedures for identification of beneficiaries, insufficient
investment per household, absence of post implementation audits of the scheme,
regional disparities in lifting the identified beneficiaries above the poverty
line was a major issue.
the limited success achieved by the programme it was restructured in 1999 as a
programme to promote self-employment of the rural poor.
years, due to concerted efforts, the percentage of households below the poverty
line has come down substantially in India. It is now widely recognised that
eradicating rural poverty can be achieved only by expanding the scope for
non-agricultural employment. Many programmes to generate additional employment
had been introduced over the years. Many were merged with the employment
guarantee scheme, which is now the biggest programme on this front in the
National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (subsequently renamed MGNREGA after
Mahatma Gandhi) was passed in 2005, with the aim of providing livelihood
security to poor rural households. This was to be achieved by giving at least
100 days of wage employment each year to adult members of every household
willing to do unskilled manual work. This would provide a cushion to poor rural
households which could not get any work in the lean agricultural season which
lasted for about three months each year. In this exercise, the work undertaken
would create durable assets in rural areas like roads, canals, minor irrigation
works and restoration of traditional water bodies.
earlier targeted programmes of rural development were based on the
identification of below poverty line families, which had led to several complaints
that ineligible families had been selected. MGNREGA, however, is applicable to
all rural households. The reasoning is that it is a self-targeting scheme,
because persons with education or from more affluent backgrounds would not come
forward to do manual work at minimum wages.
earlier employment generation programmes did not give the rural poor any right
to demand and get work. The significant feature of this Act is that they have
the legal right to demand work. The programme is implemented by Gram
Panchayats. The applicants have to apply for this work and are provided with
job cards. Work is to be provided by the local authorities within 15 days. If
not, the applicant is entitled to an unemployment allowance. The work site
should be located within five kilometres of the house of the applicant.
contractors are to be involved. This is to avoid the profits which will be
taken by the middlemen thus cutting into the wages. The ratio of wages to
capital investment should be 60:40. One-third of the workers would be women.
Men and women would be paid the same wage.
all government programmes, many studies have brought out the weaknesses in the
implementation of MGNREGA. On the positive side, agricultural wages have gone
up due to the improved bargaining power of labour. This has also reduced the
migration of agricultural workers to urban areas during the lean period or
during droughts. One of the most important benefits is that women are
participating in the works in large numbers and have been empowered by the
the workers are paid directly into bank accounts or post office accounts to
ensure transparency and hassle - free transfer of payments. The involvement of
civil society organisations, non-governmental organisations and political
representatives, and a more responsive attitude of the civil servants have
improved the functioning of MGNREGA in states like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh
and Rajasthan. Efficiency has increased up to 97%.
2006 and 2012, around ₹ 1,10, 000
crores had been distributed directly as
payment under the programme, generating 1200 crore person-days of employment.
In spite of many shortcomings, the functioning of the programme has improved
due to higher levels of consciousness among the rural poor and concerned civil
society organisations. Though many critics feel that the high expenditure
involved in the programme increases the fiscal deficit, the programme remains
popular and nearly one-fourth of all rural households participate in the
programme each year.