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OpinionsAgriculture @75: Chronicling a Journey of Accomplishments

Agriculture @75: Chronicling a Journey of Accomplishments


Dr. Parveen Kumar

India became a republic on January 26,  1950 and since then it has not looked back. The country once called as the ‘land of snake charmers' and ‘magicians' now is the leader with its trajectory going up and up. A country which remained under the rule of a foreign empire for about a century, which was looted of all its wealth and resources, best described by Late Dadabhai Naroji in his famous book ‘Drain of Wealth' has shown resurgence and resilience, extraordinary and unparallel. Today the country has conquered land, space and water and become a role model for many other countries. Developmental programmes launched by the country have become case studies for other nations to learn, analyze and follow.

The story of these seven decades is a story of achievements and accomplishments and that instills a sense of pride and confidence in all of us. After a disciplined mass struggle against the colonial imperialism, country finally succeeded attaining freedom on Aug. 15, 1947. ‘Tryst with Destiny' considered being one of the greatest speeches of 20th century; delivered by Pt. Jawaharlal Lal Nehru on the eve of independence, the late Prime Minister had said, ‘At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance. The ambition of the greatest man of our generation has been to wipe every tear from every eye. That may be beyond us, but so long as there are tears and suffering, so long our work will not be over. And so we have to labour and to work, and work hard, to give reality to our dreams. Those dreams are for India, but they are also for the world.'

After being forced to declare it as free country, the next thing was to have a constitution of our own. After two and half years of independence, came the constitution of the country which was adopted in 1949 and came into force on Jan. 26, 1950. When the country was given freedom in 1947, it inherited a set of challenges and contradictions. Economically, it was placed in the league of backward countries. Agriculture being a crucial sector of the Indian economy was in doldrums. The agriculture sector at the time of independence suffered from numerous challenges that include feeding the increasing population, low productivity and stagnation, creating adequate employment opportunities for the surplus labour besides ensuring timely availability of inputs to the farming community. Agriculture at that time also suffered because of outdated technology, crude practices and huge dependence on timely rainfall. It was referred to as the ‘begging bowl' with major portion of our food requirements being met from imports from other countries. Farmers' of that era were a static entity even reluctant to go for any change in their crude and unscientific cultivation practices. Overhauling the agriculture sector was not possible without ensuring that the relevant technology reached out to farming community well in time as well as motivating the farming community to adopt the new technologies.

In all these years of country's journey post republic, the agriculture sector has been the country's strength in its contribution in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country, in providing employment to the population and as a source of livelihood for the vast majority of rural populace.

From a ‘begging bowl' to a ‘bread basket': India from a ‘begging bowl' thus changed to a ‘bread basket' and the fortune changed by what is known as ‘Green revolution'. Dr. Norman E Borlaug was the person credited with the green revolution and from saving millions of lives in India, Mexico and Middle East. Back home, Dr. M. S. Swaminathan took green revolution as a project. The period corresponding to 1967-78 witnessed huge upsurge in food grains production especially in states of Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. Green revolution spread to millions of third world countries also. Reports reveal that the absolute number of poors peoples fell from 1.15 billion in 1975 to 825 million in 1995. All this happened despite a 60 per cent growth in population. Since the Green revolution of 1960s, India has never looked back. After seven decades, today we have developed many high yielding varieties of all crops, hybrid seeds of different crops with superior genotypes, modern technology and vast network of irrigation facilities which allow multiple cropping sequences. It is also here pertinent to mention that the country's undernourished population decreased from 247.8 million in 2004-2006 to 224.3 million in 2019–21, according to a report from the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World in 2022.

Leading producer of many commodities: The climate of the country varies from humid and dry tropical in the south to temperate alpine in the northern reaches and has a great diversity of ecosystems. Four out of the 34 global biodiversity hotspots and 15 WWF global 200 eco-regions fall fully or partly within India. Having only 2.4 percent of the world's land area, India harbors around eight percent of all recorded species, including over 45,000 plant and 91,000 animal species.  The country has the largest area under cultivation. It is the largest producer of pulses, spices, milk, tea, cashew, jute, banana, jackfruit and many other commodities (FAO). It stands second in production of fruits and vegetables, wheat, rice, cotton and oilseeds. India is the 2nd largest grower of rice over the world. Increasing demand in the market, rice production is in trend in India including white rice and brown rice grown in the eastern and southern parts. The major rice production States in India are Punjab, Odisha, Assam, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh. India has the largest cotton cultivation area all over the world after China and the USA and it is the prime agriculture commodity or fiber crop worldwide. India is the 3rd highest potato producing country. The major Potatoes producing states in India are Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab. India is also the second largest producer of Pulses in the world. With 520-million-workers, the Indian labour force is the world's second-largest as of 2019. The country also has the largest livestock population. The 535.8 million livestock in the country constitute 31 per cent of the world's livestock population and the milk production in the country accounts for 22 per cent of the global produce.

The way forward: Despite remarkable achievements in the agriculture sector, there has been another side of this achievement. The negative impact and threat posed to our environment by large scale indiscriminate use of chemical fertilizers and plant protection chemicals to increase the yields are now clearly visible. The ground water has been rendered poisonous and contaminated with harmful chemicals. Such is the infestation that vast stretches of land extending up to kilometers is now not fit for any drinking water. Soils have been degraded, turned barren and a large number of biodiversity has been lost. From a chemical intensive green revolution, we have now to move towards an evergreen revolution based on the principles of natural farming, sustainability, local resource use efficiency, economic viability, social compatibility and profitability. The government of India has also come up with many pro-farmer schemes and programmes which include Primeminister Kisan Samman Nidhi (PMKISAN), Primeminister Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY), Soil Card (SHC), Primeminister Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY), and Primeminister Kisan Mandhan Yojana. To attract and retain Youth in agriculture, Entrepreneurship development schemes like Agri-Startups are being promoted with handholding and financial support to the youth who are interested in setting up agriculture or allied ventures. All these programmes have started showing results. Many youths have left their high earning and started their own startups in agriculture and creating job opportunities for others also. Farmers particularly farm women feel more empowered, youths are now more skilled and the once static farming community is now a dynamic and vibrant one.

The author writes on agriculture and social issues; can be reached at





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