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60 years of Indian Agriculture

Agriculture has been the dominant sector in the Indian economy accounting for 18% in the GDP and 60% of the population is employed in agriculture. India is second in the world in terms of farm output and despite a decline in its share in the GDP, it is still the dominant sector of the economy.

In the 1950’s productivity in India was low due to illiteracy, general economic-social backwardness and slowness in implementing land reforms. Other causes were fragmentation of land and inadequate irrigation facility. However this changed with the advent of the Green Revolution with the yield per unit increasing. This happened due to the emphasis placed on agriculture in the five year plans and steady advancements in irrigation facilities and technology, the use of modern agricultural practices and agricultural credit.

The realization that food security was of paramount importance led to the implementation of the Green Revolution in India from 1967 to 1978. The basic elements of the Green Revolution were the expansion of the farmlands and double cropping already existing farmlands and also using genetically improved seeds. The Green Revolution resulted in a record grain output in 1978-79 and established India as one of the world’s largest grain producers with no other country in the world recording such a level of success and led to India becoming an exporter of food grains.

Yield per unit of farmland also increased substantially. The crop areas required more water, pesticides fungicides and other chemicals and led to the growth of the manufacturing sector which created more jobs and helped the country’s GDP. India was able to transform itself from a starving nation to a food grain exporter and gained much admiration in the Third World.

However, even today India’s grain output is sometimes not able to meet the demand. The Green Revolution has thus not been able to transform India into a self sufficient nation. The high yield concept has not been able to reach all regions or crops. It is confined to food grains and regions like Haryana and Punjab. Today there are still places like Kalahandi in Orissa which experience famines and where starvation deaths have been reported.

The high yield system calls for prolonged use of fertilizers and pesticides which have depleted the soil and poisoned the environment. The farmers of states that under the Green Revolution grew bumper crops are now facing heavy debts. They are facing many obstacles such as lack of bank credit, fertilizer adulteration and inferior quality seeds.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2005 promised rural India a 'New Deal' to reverse decline in farm investments through increased funds for agricultural research, irrigation and wasteland development. He said the government was committed to launching the second green revolution.


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