PART II

In the last post which is here we discussed how after independence the government first initiated reforms based on socialistic ideas. However due to continuing dire condition of the agricultural sector government went for capitalistic and technological solution. The most important in it was the Green Revolution which we will discuss in detail.

IMPACTS OF GREEN REVOLUTION

The green revolution in India refers to a period when Indian agriculture was converted into an industrial system due to the adoption of modern methods and technology such as the use of HYV (high yielding variety) seeds, tractors, irrigation facilities, pesticides and fertilizers.

This led to increase in the crop production and productivity which has helped India in ensuring food security. India has not only become self reliant in food grain production but has become exporter of food grains. It has also given impetus to agriculture input related industries and agro-processing industries. It has made rural areas as markets for goods as incomes have increased.

However not everything is as rosy as it seems. These benefits have come at a huge cost. The benefits of green revolution have not been equitable. There are huge interstate as well as intrastate inequalities. States like Punjab, Haryana and western UP have derived maximum benefit while other states have largely lagged behind. Within states, large farmers have reaped immense benefits whereas the condition of small and marginal farmers, which account for around 85% of the total farmers, has deteriorated. Also the input intensive nature of green revolution has led to large scale debt among them.

The unscientific and unwise excessive use of inputs like fertilizers and pesticides has led to pollution of groundwater, bioaccumulation of toxins, decreased fertility of soil and land degradation. Excessive use of water has led to groundwater depletion, salinization of soil and desertification.

Also the excessive focus on food grains (also favored by MSP regime) has impacted biodiversity and ensured food security at the cost of nutritional security.

Situation is further complicated by norms of the WTO, to which India is a founding member, as they have exposed the farmers to international price fluctuations. Incomplete land reforms, fragmented land holdings, erratic monsoons, low productivity, land degradation, financial debts among others continue to haunt the agriculture sector.

Now we will see some of the specific issues pertaining to the agricultural inputs and supply chain and also discuss the steps taken by the government to resolve these issues and further suggestions.

SPECIFIC INPUT AND SUPPLY CHAIN ISSUES

1. LAND – Around 85% of the farmers are small (1-2 hectares) and marginal (<1 hectare) farmers. 5% of the farmers hold massive 32% of the land. This shows the stark inequality. There is lack of proper and complete land records. Though the government had introduced land reforms and digitization of land records but these still remain incomplete and unsuccessful. Without these the other reforms will also not succeed.

2. SOIL- Close of one third of India’s soil has turned problematic. The organic matter content has been reduced to a critical level of 0.3% to 0.5%. Subsequently, the conventional problems of soil salinity, soil degradation, desertification and soil erosion have continued to persist. The government has introduced Soil Heath Card scheme.

3. SEED- India suffers from a dismal seed replacement ratio due to huge demand supply gap. The emergence of hybrid seeds without due awareness and absence of a prudent regulatory framework has adversely impacted the self-sufficiency of farmers. Seed village program and seed banks have been launched to address the shortage. Further there is need to strengthen the regulatory framework and encourage PPP in seed production.

4. IRRIGATION- Only 46% of India’s net sown area is irrigated and rest continues to depend on monsoon. There is huge regional imbalance in rainfall. Problem is aggravated by sub-optimal utilization of irrigation infrastructure. PM Krishi Sinchai Yojna has been launched to address these issues on massive scale. Further, focused approach towards watershed development, rain water harvesting, interlinking of rivers, optimal utilization of water resources and learning from best practices such as those practiced in Israel for optimum water utilization can greatly help in overcoming the challenges.

5. FERTILIZERS – India is dependent on imports of many fertilizers like potassium and phosphorous. There is unscientific use of fertilizers which has worsened soil quality. Also, India’s per hectare consumption is far lower than developed countries. To address these issues government has launched programs like Nutrient Based Subsidy, Neem coated urea, Soil Health Card etc. Further there is need to educate farmers on these issues and promote new practices like fertigation (fertilizers mixed in water used for irrigation) and focus on micronutrients rather than just NPK.

6. AGRICULTURAL LABOR AND MECHANIZATION – Agriculture in India is mostly dominated by manual labor. However there are issues of disguised unemployment and shortage of labor due to competition from MNREGA. There is lack of mechanization due to small and fragmented land holdings and lack of capital to buy equipments. There is need to promote agri-mechanization by providing for “Custom Hiring centers” which rents out machinery to small farmers like in Madhya Pradesh.

7. EXTENSION SERVICES – India has only 1 extension worker per 800-1000 farmers. Also, around 60% farmers don’t receive technical know-how which is important part in agriculture productivity. Therefore, it is important to increase the network of Kisan Call Centres and also increase the manpower to increase reach to farmer. Government has launched National Mission on Agricultural Extension and Technology (NMAET) to address these issues. 

8. CREDIT- Despite many efforts for financial inclusion, still around 44% of farmers borrow from informal credit sources. Also, credit is mostly cornered by rich farmers. Government has undertaken many steps to bring farmers under the formal financial institutions like PM Jan Dhan Yojna, PM Fasal Bima Yojna, Kisan Credit Card among others. There is further need to spread massive awareness campaigns and financial inclusion drives.

9. POST HARVEST LOSSES – According to Ashok Dalwai Committee, Indian farmers incur a loss of about Rs. 92,000 crore annually due post harvest losses because of lack of proper storage, cold chain, and transport infrastructure. Investment of about Rs. 89,000 crore in such infrastructure can massively bring down losses. Also, only about 2% of India’s farm products are processed which if increased have potential to not only reduce post harvest losses but also ensure better income to farmers.

10. REMUNERATIVE PRICES TO FARMERS – There are issues such as corruption in APMC mandies, MSP policies favoring rice and wheat and procurement under it being low, exposure of farmers to international price fluctuation after joining WTO among others. Government has taken steps like e-NAM, model APMC Act, PM AASHA etc. The recent farm laws could have greatly helped in increasing farmers’ income, however, unfortunately they were politicized and government had to repeal them under pressure of few protesting farmers’ groups. There is need to hold discussion with farmer organizations to reach common ground and revamp policies of MSP, contract farming, APMC etc.

11. MARKETING AND EXPORTS – India needs to strengthen regulatory framework for quality certification, diversify its export basket to include medicinal plants, herbs, horticultural products as well as diversify export destinations from Europe to Africa to Americas etc.

Apart from solving these conventional issues there is a need to look at the unconventional agenda.

UNCONVENTIONAL REFORMS

“Our farmers are pride of our nation.”– PM Modi

There is a need to change the attitude towards the farmers. Rather than viewing farmers as poor and vulnerable, we need to see them as people who hardworking and risk taking. Agriculture sector should be seen as one with infinite opportunities and a sunrise sector due to impetus for organic farming, Zero Budget Natural Farming, vertical farming and vegan movement.

Agricultural sector is also attracting entrepreneurs and becoming a hotspot for startups. Herbivore farm in Mumbai is a startup doing urban farming using aquaponics. SaptKrishi is providing technological solution for reducing post harvest losses. Kamal Kisan is focused at providing low cost customized farm equipments. Ninjacart is a tech based supply chain management system. There are many more such examples.

Further there is need to promote integrative farming, urban farming, agroforestry, agritourism and allied sector activities like bee-keeping, dairy etc. Government can ensure support by promoting agri-innovation hubs, agri-budgeting, instituting new Indian Agricultural/Rural Service. Further there is need to infuse technology, traditional practices, wise use of resources and PPP.

Government in last few years has extensively focused on doubling farmers’ income and taken many important steps in this regard. However, there is still a long way to go before we can realize the goal. Concerted, concentrated and continuous efforts to improve the agricultural sector, the backbone of our economy, can unleash its potential and energize the entire economy.  

P.S. To know why you are reading this topic on os.me, you can read my post “For Myself, You All and Vikrant”.

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Dr. Aarzoo Sharma

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