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July 01, 2007
Organiser Home
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July 01, 2007

Page: 29/42

Home > 2007 Issues > July 01, 2007

A critical view on Indian farming
G.S. Bhalla: Indian Agriculture Since Independence, National Book Trust, 348 pp, Rs 90.00

WRITTEN by a Professor Emeritus at the Centre for the Study of Regional Development, JNU, this book reviews the performance of the agricultural sector in India since Independence.

On the eve of Independence, the agricultural sector was the predominant sector of the Indian economy, both in terms of its contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP) and in providing employment to the country?s labour force. Thus the fortune of a large majority of people was linked to the agricultural performance, which in turn was dependent on the monsoons. To reduce this dependence, a reliable irrigation infrastructure was built. The British undertook large-scale development of canal irrigation in 1920s and by the year 1947, India had a large network of irrigation canals with 17 per cent of the net sown area under canal, tank or well irrigation.

Indian agriculture, which experienced a very low growth rate during the first half of the 20th century before Independence, recorded a significant acceleration in growth and productivity after Independence. The main factors responsible for agricultural growth were implementation of land reforms, large planned investments in irrigation and other rural infrastructure development and investments in the development of agricultural science research and technology and extensive services and introduction of a positive price policy in the mid 60s.

Over the years, with rising population and increasing urbanisation and industrialisation, the stress on land and water resources increased. Regional variations in cropping patterns and in the levels of growth of agriculture depended on climate and irrigation in the area. By and by this gave rise to self-cultivation. In addition, the failure of land ceiling limitations resulted in extreme inter-personal inequality in the countryside. Here the author, through facts and figures, presents the limitations in the present pattern of growth due to large inter-personal variations in agricultural productivity and growth and large-scale poverty among the landless, marginal and small farms. Another limitation has been the tendency for input use efficiency to decline over time.

The book begins by discussing the natural resources of India, its climate, soil, irrigation source and land use and emphasises the fact that with rising population, the stress on land use and water resources, there is hardly any scope for increase in the net sown area. Hence major efforts are required to increase the forest area from the current 22.6 per cent of geographical area to the desired level of 33.3 per cent.

The study, meant essentially for students of economics and policy makers in India, undertakes a critical review of Indian agriculture, examines the relative performances of agriculture during the plan period and post-plan period while underlying the main causes of deceleration in agriculture in the post-reform period and making policy suggestions for regeneration of agriculture in India.

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