Agricultural Reforms through meticulous planning and use of technology
Agriculture has always been the backbone of Indian economy. But the foreign rulers first interfered in agricultural system and then prevented it from developing and modernizing. When India got freedom, 70% of total cultivable land was owned by landlords (zamindaars) and they in connivance with money-lenders and the British rulers took away or rather snatched away more than half of total agri-produce. At the same time, they did nothing for improvement of agriculture Small farmers and share-crop farmers had not enough money to purchase high quality seeds, fertilizers and domestic animals. They were ignorant of the modern technology and machinery used for agri-production. In 1947, the number of landless agricultural labourers was 28% whereas in comparison to 1901, agricultural production decreased by 14%.
In the beginning of the 20th century, revolutionary changes were taking place in agriculture all over the world. But Indian farmers were using centuries-old agri-techniques. India’s vast population was dependent on agriculture but there was only 9.5 lakh iron-ploughs and about 3 crores wooden ploughs. Perhaps no Indian farmer was aware of chemical fertilizers. 90% of farmers used old and traditional seeds. They were also ignorant of soil-testing and there was no source of irrigation in 73% of cultivable land. There was no arrangement for farmer’s training for the promotion of modern techniques in agriculture. When India got independence, there were only nine agricultural universities in which only 3000 students were enrolled. This data itself reveal that the agri-sector was unable to take the burden and responsibility of the vast population dependent on it. This situation posed a serious challenge for independent India. The other important thing was that 200 years of the foreign rule had disintegrated the fabric of economy particularly employment. Agriculture was not merely a source of food but also a source of employment. In modern age also, the importance of agriculture cannot be lessened in our country since India has only 2.3% of cultivable land whereas our population is 17% of the whole world. It was not possible to feed such a large population, provide them employment opportunities and become self-reliant in foodgrains without developing and modernizing agriculture. Modern researches clearly indicate that only 1% rise in agricultural sector can diminish poverty 2 to 3 times.
Pandit Nehru and the Congress Party were well aware of the fact that under the prevailing circumstances, only agricultural sector would be the backbone of Indian economy. Without developing and modernizing the agri-sector, there couldn’t be creation of opportunities for employment, the country couldn’t be self-reliant in foodgrains and the country’s GDP couldn’t rise. So when blueprint of Five-Year Plans was prepared, agriculture was considered as the core-sector. The budget of First
Five Year Plan was of Rs. 2400 crore. 17% of this budget was allocated for agriculture and schemes of community development. 27% fund was allocated for irrigation and energy-sector so that agri-sector may get the required augmentation.
By this initiative, agri-sector and growth rate of the country recorded a sharp rise. The GDP was aimed at 2.1%, but due to efficient leadership, the country achieved the growth-rate of 3.6% and the Net Domestic Product rose to 15%. The monsoon was normal and the newly developed irrigation facilities along with better management of electricity resulted in bumper harvest. Because of this, per capita income also increased by 8%. Under this scheme, the foundations for Bhakhra and Heera Kund dams were laid down. To make the country self-reliant in foodgrain production was necessary due to ever increasing population and bitter experiences of farmers. But there was dearth of agricultural scientists and scientific agri-system. Pandit Nehru and senior leaders of the Congress Party decided to focus on agriculture science. Agri-engineering departments were established in prestigious engineering colleges across the county in 1947. In 1954, agricultural engineering department was established in IIT, Kharagpur. Agricultural engineering and technological colleges were established at Pantnagar, Ludhiana, Jabalpur, Udaipur and Coimbatore. It helped in strengthening of the study and research in agriculture. In 1949, the first river-valley project was started in the country. It was called Damodar Valley Corporation. Its aim was soil and water testing. The purpose of this corporation was to increase fertility of soil and water conservation. The Indian government established several institutions across the country for soil conservation. Later on, these institutions were made part of ICAR, Dehradun in 1975. ICAR started its six branches on regional level. ICAR has remained as the country’s premier institute in the field of agricultural engineering and technology particularly in horticulture, crop science, natural resource management. Under the leadership of Pandit Nehru, the government of India after establishing agricultural institutions for scientific farming, paid attention to up gradation of agri-tools and machines. ICAR was given directives in this regard. In its initial phase, the manufacturing of agri-machines were inspired by Britain. To make agri-tools and machines better suited to Indian conditions, ICAR made changes in their designs. The designs of ploughs drawn by oxen, plough blades with wheels and harvesting machines were changed by ICAR. ICAR also carried but research works in each state for technical changes and modernization of agri-tools in 1954.
ICAR followed the guidelines of the Congress government and established 17 centers of testing and research training. Its aim was to encourage use of better tools and machines and to do research for scientific farming. ICAR developed a power tiller keeping in mind the conditions of Indian agri culture. It proved the first step for the manufacture of a very useful tractor. In the beginning, few hundred tractors were manufactured per year which has now reached to 2 lakh tractors per year. India has become the biggest manufacturer of tractors in the world. Under the leadership of Pandit Nehru, the Central government brought agri-engineering department under Central and State agricultural ministries. This step was taken in second and third Five Year Plans. They started to sell and to rent tractors, oil-run engines and other equipment. Training centers were established and workshops were organized in each state so that farmers can be encouraged to adopt modern techniques. Apart from all this the government made high quality seeds and fertilizers available to farmers. On the whole, it can be said that the Congress government tried to make the infrastructure for modern farming. It contained modern technologies, modern equipment, new means of irrigation and training. But there were unfathomable possibilities in Indian agriculture. Pandit Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri and other leaders of the Congress Party succeeded in laying strong foundation of modern farming. After that Indira Gandhi emphasized on Green Revolution in 1966. Foodgrain production increased sharply due to high quality seeds, fertilizers, use of modern agri-tools and adoption of modern technology. Wheat production increased three times between 1966 and 1968 whereas the production of other food grains increased two times. Due to Green Revolution, we became self-reliant in food grain production and it resulted in sharp fall in foodgrain imports. The storage of food grains became possible and food grains were exported also. The visionary Prime Ministers of the Congress Party established Indian agriculture as front runner in the world arena. Today India exports its agriproducts to more than 100 countries. It includes rice, pulses, maize, wheat, fruits and vegetables. India exports food grains worth $10.1 billion. India holds second position in rice production and first in jute production. India has 63% share in total jute business of the world and earns $ 9 million. Due to Green Revolution, use of tractors, thrashers, harvester combines, diesel engines, electrical motors and water pumps along with chemical fertilizers, pesticides and weeds segregators increased many times. It resulted in an increase in production of these equipment and things. It further created new employment opportunities. The rise in agri-production provided the raw-materials for cotton, sugar and edible oils.
Some scholars of that age feared that the adoption of modern technology and equipment in agriculture may increase unemployment. But it was proved wrong. According to renowned research scholar Govind Thukral, due to Green Revolution lakhs of employment opportunities were created only in Punjab. It provided livelihoods to 15lakh people belonging to Odisha, Bihar and Eastern Uttar Pradesh. They also took new farming methods and technology to their own villages.
Observing immense possibility for employment generation and for extension of agricultural sector, the Congress Party, its Prime Ministers and senior leaders tried tirelessly to encourage and strengthen it. When the country achieved the target of rise in food grain production, the focus moved towards Food Processing sector. This new sector also had immense possibility for creation of employment opportunities. A new dimension was to be added in industrial sector of our country. The Congress Party led government consented for the business of processed and packed food items. The business got momentum around 2000. In its initial phase, the Food Processing industry was only 6% of the total agri-production. It is rising slowly but continuously and in near future it would be worth 20% of the total agri-production.
The processed and packed food industry is labour centric and 50% work of this industry is done manually. Because of this, employment opportunities are increasing continuously. Multinational companies have made this sector very competitive. New type of machines made packing secure and quality-based. As a result, this sector succeeded in making its own space in national and international markets. Today India processes 73% oil seeds and 45% sugar canes with modern machines. This figure doesn’t include commercial crops. The policies of the Congress government helped in establishing a specific identity for basmati rice in the world market. India is the second largest producer of rice. The government made available the machines complying international standards so that the packaged food industry should develop and become competitive. Today, the high quality basmati rice complies the parameters of 19 countries including the U.S and Middle-East countries.
The domestic and international trends indicate that the processed and packaged food industry will continue to expand. Some time ago, it was pegged at 3% but in 2020, it will touch 25%. If we observe the immense possibilities of this industry, we can say that though it is in its initial phase but it is providing jobs to 18 to 20% of the total workforce. An estimate says that on every Rs. 1000 crore investment in this industry, it provides employment opportunities to 54000 people. In its present status, India’s food industry is one of the biggest industries of the world by production, consumption and expansion parameters. The contributions of the leaders of the Congress Party are immense as far as the growth of this industry is concerned. They identified its capabilities, provided the right direction and encouraged it hugely. This industry succeeded in securing its own place in domestic and international market. The visionary leadership of the Congress Party made India
self-reliant in food grain production. Farming became machine-oriented and modern. To make policies regarding storage, export and distribution of food grains was also the need of the hour. When agricultural production increased, a network of hoarders and black-marketeers also begun to expand. To strengthen the foodgrains-management and to save interests of farmers and common people the Congress government established Food Corporation of India (FCI) under third Five-Year Plan. The core aims of this corporation were to store food grains maintaining its quality, to do distribution among people and to give food security to people. Between 1964 and 1970, FCI was working mainly among urban people but after the Green Revolution it expanded and reached rural people also. After 1985, FCI tried and succeeded to reach among tribals. This is the result of the policies adopted by the Congress Party that today there are more than 5 lakh PDS Shops for providing food grains at government fixed rates. In this sense, it is the biggest scheme of the world.
The Prime Ministers of the Congress Party also encouraged other agri-activities in which dairy and poultry sectors are important. The reasons behind this initiative areincreasing demand of dairy and poultry products; immense possibilities of their expansion; increase in growth rate of agriculture; rise in national Income and creation of jobs on a large scale. The average growth rate of agriculture has been at 2.3% whereas the growth rate for dairy and poultry sector has remained 5 to 6%. Due to better growth rate in subsidiary sectors, agriculture has been able to achieve 4% growth rate. Animal husbandry’s share in agriculture’s GDP is 28%. The figures show that only the dairy sector’s contribution to country’s GDP is 15%. At present, India is at the top in milk production, third in egg production and fifth in chicken production. This become possible due to farmer supportive polices. The central as well as the state government of the Congress Party hugely encouraged the dairy sector in India.
During the first Five Year Plan, the government in 1951 started a scheme called ‘Village Programme”. Under this scheme 713 blocks each with 1000 milch animals were established. This scheme benefitted 8% of the whole population. Likewise, in the third Five-Year Plan. “Intensive Cattle Development Scheme” was started. Under every project of this scheme, attention was paid to 1 lakh cows and buffaloes with regard to their bringing up and upkeep. At the end of third Five-Year Plan, about 27 lakh farmers benefitted from this scheme. There were 30 projects under ICDS scheme. The number increased to 63 in 1973 and 114 in 1979. Several schemes were launched between 1960 and 1980 which helped in increasing milk production. In 1965, National Dairy Development Board was established under the Society Registration Act. In 1987, the Congress government passed an Act in Parliament and constituted it as an independent body. Later NDDB implemented the dairy development in several phases which is known as “Operation Flood”.
The first phase of Operation Flood was from 1970 to 1981. In this phase, 13000 dairy co-operatives were formed and about 18 lakh milk producer farmers became members of these societies. During this phase, 24 lakh liters of milk was sold in the open market whereas 34 lakh liters of milk was changed into other dairy products. The second phase of Operation Flood was from 1981 to 1985. The number of co-operatives reached 34500 and 36 lakh farmers associated with them. In this phase, 50 lakh liters of milk was sold in the open market daily and other milk products were produced from 79 lakh liters of milk every day.
The Congress government observed that the policies adopted for dairy development had been hugely successful. The government encouraged this sector further. Its third phase was between 1985 and 1994. The number of Primary Dairy Cooperative Societies rose to 70000 and 93.14 lakh farmers became their members. These societies sold 26000 tons of balanced food and 24000 tons of bypass protein. The most significant achievements of this phase was that the demand of milk of the country was 100 lakh liters daily and the dairy sector was able to fulfill it with ease. In the same manner, the fourth phase of Operation Flood from 1996 to 2006 was encouraged immensely Export of dairy products was also encouraged. The policies of the Congress Party government changed the dairy sector into an organized one. It provided lakhs of jobs and GDP also increased. The Congress government also encouraged other sectors dependent on agriculture. It included fishery, goats, pigs and poultry. The poultry sector has remained a first growing sector. The centre and the state governments contributes on a large scale in invigorating poultry business. The Congress government provide the poultry sector the status of agriculture. It was kept outside the purview of Land Ceiling Act. National Poultry Development Board was established. Sensing huge possibilities in the poultry sector, the Congress government provided several facilities for its development. To encourage poultry export, concession in carriage fees for ships and planes were provided. For the infrastructure development of poultry export, long term loans were arranged at low rates. The government announced concessions in the import bills of machinery, equipment, medicines and vaccines required for the poultry sector. This is the result of the policies adopted by the Congress governments that the poultry sector has provided jobs to about 2 lakh people who are dependent for their livelihood on this sector. At present, about 55 billion eggs and 5 billion kg of chicken are produced in India. It is estimated that the contribution of the poultry sector in the total GDP of the country is worth Rs. 400 billion. The possibilities of development and expansion in the agrisector is present even today. The agriculture and farmer friendly policies of the Congress Party have provided it new heights. The figures clearly indicate that the Congress leadership has remained always ready for the development of agriculture and people doing petty politics can’t pose a question in this respect.