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ECONOMIC HISTORY OF AGRICULTURE IN MODERN INDIA
Vinod Anand | 11 Oct 2013

ECONOMIC HISTORY OF AGRICULTURE IN MODERN INDIA Vinod Anand India has been one of the pioneer countries in the area of development planning. It has almost gone through about six-decade of planning and has almost completed ten “five-year plans” and a few “annual plans” in between, and the eleventh plan( 2007-12) is on the anvil. The experience of development planning in India and best be judged initially in terms of outlays and targets, and then in terms of the resulting growth-wise performance, and finally in terms of the overtime changes that have taken place in certain crucial economic and social indicators that ultimately effect the quality of life of majority of the people. The final performance of the economy is, therefore, linked both with economic growth and development. In order to assess the country’s performance and progress towards economic development, we must supplement, if not supplant, the growth rate of GNP by other more microeconomic measures. It is not enough to measure progress merely in terms of GNP, it is imperative to look at the structural changes too by assessing the distributional effects of economic growth in the economy on the basis of behaviour pattern, as shown by certain crucial economic and social indicators that effect a larger section of the society, and through which the benefits of growth are supposed to get distributed amongst the majority of the people. There are many such indicators, and there are a few specific bases (like the aspirations of the people) to underline such indicators, but the following indicators seem to be more important: Agricultural Production Food grain Production Industrial Production Electricity Generation Wholesale Prices Consumer Prices Imports Exports Per Capital Availability of certain important articles of consumption Population: Birth Rate, Death Rate, life Expectancy at Birth Education: Literacy rate Health and family Welfare The present Paper briefly looks just at the decade-wise and year-wise (up to 1996-97) performance of agricultural production, and also the profile of food grain production, and its fall-outs on the various economic and social policies of the Government. AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION Agricultural production includes both food grains (essentially, rice and wheat), and non-food grains (essentially, oilseeds, and sugarcane), the former contributing approximately two-thirds of the total agricultural production. On the basis of the time series data, as computed from Economic Surveys of the Economic Division of the Ministry of Finance for the years 1987-88 and 1997-98, it is seen that agricultural production shows an upward trend through out both in terms of decades and individual years. As compared to 1950-51, the rise has been 221 per cent by the end of the fourth decade (1990-91), and about 280 per cent by the year 1996-97. However, the percentage changes over the previous periods vary. The highest percentage of 48.9 occurred by the end of the first decade, and then it fell down to 24.9 by the end of the second decade, and further fell down to 18.9 by the end of the third decade, but by the end of the fourth decade it improved and touched a high of 45.3, In fact, the years 1982-83, 1984-85, and 1986-87 were the worst years (due to poor monsoons and the resulting drought conditions) during the decade of eighties in terms of overall agricultural production. The decade of nineties also does not show much improvement as compared to the earlier decades. Talking in terms of years within the decade of nineties, the year 1991-92 was the worst when the production declined by 2 per cent over the previous year. Another bad year was 1995-96 when the percentage change was again negative. In terms of percentage changes the best year was 1996-97 when it touched a high of 9.3 percentage. FOOD GRAIN PRODUCTION Food grain production is a part of agricultural production; it shows the same upward rising trend through out as the agricultural production, both in terms of decades and individual years. It is seen that as compared to 1950-51, the rise here has been consistently more than that of the agricultural production. The same is true of percentage changes. The period after 1966 (i.e., after the Third Plan) witnessed a substantial increase in food grain production, basically because of the New Agricultural Strategy that focused on modern inputs (especially fertilizers, improved seeds, credit, marketing etc.) for intensively increasing food crop production of wheat, rice, jowar, bajra, and maize in selected regions. This strategy brought about a revolution in agriculture that is also termed as Green Revolution. It is basically because of this strategy that food grain production increased substantially after the Third plan. Within the decade of nineties, the trend was, however, reverted, when in 1991-92 and then in 1995-96, food grain production declined respectively by 4.5 per cent and 5.8 per cent over the previous years. This brief review of agricultural production underlines the fact that agricultural performance, apart from other factors, is still, to a large extent, controlled by the vagaries of nature, though human effort, supported by State policies, has quite often played a positive role in boosting agricultural production. Although India is one of the largest food producers in the world, and it has a potential to produce even more, there is a need to focus on post harvest losses which amount to about 65 million tonnes every year, and which is more than the total consumption in the UK. The coffers of the Food Corporation of India all over are always over packed with food grains which, instead of reaching the poor, eventually get wasted. There is, thus, a need of evolving better post harvest technologies and food processing of food items to avoid such losses to a great extent Talking in terms of the 2000-2001, it is seen that there has been a reasonably good overall performance in the agricultural sector. In fact, it has recorded a high growth in 2000-2001 as compared to 1999-2000, but within the sector the scenario varies from crop to crop. Whereas, the production of rice and coarse cereals has declined, production of pulses has registered a positive growth. Amongst the commercial crops, oilseeds have registered a negative growth, while production of cotton and sugarcane has been highly satisfactory. However, this satisfactory growth in the agricultural sector (including mining and quarrying) has been let down by the decline in manufacturing sector from 6.8 per cent in 1999-2000 to 6.4 per cent in 2000-2001. The scenario has almost been the same even now. THE FINAL WORD There is enough evidence to show that the worst sufferers in the agricultural sector are the small and marginal farmers that contribute immensely to the agricultural production without receiving any benefit both as producers and consumers. The economic and social provisions for them are almost negligible in all respects, and the benefits of growth, no matter what they are, never “trickle-down” to them. It is, therefore, suggested that the concerned government authorities focus their attention on this vital issue, and come out with an effective agricultural policy in this respect so that the lot of the proletariat is ameliorated. *** .  The fifth decade of the nineties is represented by the period 1990-91 to 1996-97.     PAGE  PAGE 1