(This column space will talk on the policies and laws of Indian government pertaining to agriculture and environment, instigated ever since the day of independence in a series.)
Session No. 03
In the previous Lawpoint sessions, we went through the two rounds of land reforms which took place in our country until late nineteen eighties. In this session, we move forward to another imperative set of reforms in agriculture which dawned in the mid nineteen sixties.
What is the background for reforms?
India, before independence and even up to a few years after independence has a history of being famine hit. Famines were always a deadly danger on the roof! The rising population concerns added to the heat and this made the policymakers to stick to agricultural reforms ever since the first five year plan. Under such flimsy grounds, India entered an agreement with US in August 1956, by which it would import food grains, specifically wheat under the US’s ‘Food for Peace’ programme popularly known as PL – 480 (United States Public Law 480). There is a popular theory that it was during this import period that the invasive weed Parthenium hysterophorus (Congress grass) was sent along with wheat to India, though the US has denied it! Food grain scarcity was frequent those years and borrowing food grains from US was also frequent until early nineteen sixties. Due to diplomatic tensions that prevailed, India found it humiliating to get fed by the US. Also, the long standing crisis of food scarcity demanded to be checked.
Food grain scarcity was frequent those years and borrowing food grains from US was also frequent until early nineteen sixties.
How do the reforms take place?
In 1959, Ford Foundation, an US based think – tank made a report on “India’s Crisis of Food and Steps to Meet it”. The report comprehensively suggested ways and means to the country’s burning issue. It advocated the government to replace traditional farming practises by way of modern technologies. Accordingly, revolutionary reforms in agriculture were incorporated in the third five year plan of 1961 to 1966. This marks the beginning of the ‘New Agricultural Strategy’ (NAS). Firstly, a pilot project called the ‘Intensive Area Development Programme’ (IADP) was introduced in 1960 in the selected seven districts of selected seven states. Progressively, the IADP project was further stretched out to all other states, at the rate of one district per state. The project was renamed in 1965 as Intensive Agricultural Areas Programme (IAAP) and reintroduced as an exclusive intensive cultivation project in 144 districts out of 325 districts (as on 1965) of the country. Around the same time, the new high yielding varieties developed by a Mexican scientist Prof. Norman Borlaug was charming all around the world and was a shot in the arm for the developing nations. With the aid of another US based think – tank Rockefeller Foundation, Indian scientist Dr.M.S.Swaminathan developed similar localised high yielding varieties of food grains. On the same line, High Yielding Varieties Programme (HYVP) was implemented in 1966 as a package programme. In wheat cropping, varieties like Lerma Rojo, Sonara – 64, Kalyan and PV – 18 and in rice cropping, varieties like TN – 1, ADT – 17, Tinen – 3 and IR – 8 were popular. The HYVP introduced package of practises including varieties, mechanisation, irrigation, fertilizers and plant protection. As the high yielding varieties were of shorter durations, multicropping became the prominent practise. All these reforms together constitute the ‘New Agricultural Strategy’, which in other terms is called the ‘Green Revolution’.
Apart from the technology transfers, the NAS also brought in a few regulated mechanisms to succour the benefits of revolution. Firstly, in order to make the new technologies attractive for the farmers to adapt an incentive determining mechanism was put in place. Correspondingly, in 1965, Agricultural Prices Commission (APC) was set up to fix two sets of administered prices, viz., Minimum Support Price (MSP) and Procurement Price. In order to maintain a buffer stock and to make food grains available at low prices for the poor an agency called the Food Corporation of India (FCI) was established again in 1965. Moreover, it would be noteworthy to mention that the Indian Council of Agricultural Research was also reorganised in 1965.
What is the aftermath of reforms?
The New Agricultural Strategy was the true savior for an ailing famine prone nation like ours. It happened to be a major breakthrough in the field of farming wherein traditional practises played a dominant role. It increased the land area under cultivation in huge trends and also promised better agricultural productivity. Also, the food grain production hopped over leaps and bounds, such that within an extent of two to three years, India became the leading global food grain producer, besides being self – sufficient at first hand. The revolution helped to set new nutrition standards and also to fight the malnutrition of poor.
On the flip side, the revolution seemed to have caused many environmental concerns. Critics have always argued that the green revolution was the killer of the Nature’s gift, ‘Soil Fertility’. Taking to the statistics, it could be observed that though the green revolution was primarily focussed on major food crops like rice, wheat, jowar, maize and ragi, emphasis was always on the rice and wheat crops. Even among these two, wheat had an upper hand such that it is obvious to consider this Green Revolution as ‘Wheat Revolution’ too! The reform was not uniform in operation all over the country as it was a big success in a few states alone. The other states felt neglected and backward also. This created wider regional disparities. Even among the areas where this revolution gained a magnetizing momentum, it seemed to have favored only the well – to – do farmers, as the poor farmers couldn’t afford the package practises. This widened the income disparities even more. Though there are arguments that the green revolution increased and buzzed – up farm activities resulting in added employment generation, it is also true that mechanization caused a significant drop in the number of farm laborers. Furthermore, green revolution is also accused of depleting ground water levels to a massive range, with regards to its irrigation requirements. Let alone ground water, the green revolution is also credited with the nuisance of poisoning pesticides which are evolving as a mounting jeopardy.
On a concluding note, the Green Revolution would have left its scar, but it was the need of the hour!
…Session adjourned until next month…
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This article was originally published in The Agraria e-magazine.