After independence, there was a need for agricultural practices to be redefined so as to feed the ever-growing population of India and reduce imports. For the same, a team of experts sponsored by the Ford Foundation was invited by the Government of India to suggest ways and methods in the latter half of the Second Five Year Plan to improve farm production and productivity. In seven districts chosen from seven states during 1966-67, the Government launched an ambitious development plan, regarded as the Green Revolution in India. Green Revolution was a major event in the 1970s as it boosted agricultural productivity, almost doubling it via hybrid seeds along with mechanization and industrialization of traditional agricultural activities.
The Green Revolution in India began in 1965 under the leadership of Congress leader Lal Bahadur Shastri, which led to an increase in food grain production, particularly in Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh. This program was introduced as a package since it depended on regular and adequate irrigation, fertilizers, high yielding seed varieties, pesticides, and insecticides. High-yielding varieties of wheat and rust-resistant strains of wheat were the main milestones in this undertaking.
Need for The Revolution
During British rule, the Indian economic condition had been terrible due to exploitation. Thus, after Independence, the weakened country became vulnerable to frequent famines, low productivity and financial instability. In addition, the rapidly increasing population further led to the need to increase agricultural productivity.
Key Aspects of the Revolution
A major aspect of the revolution was in the form of developments particularly in wheat, rice, and maize forms. The foundation is a modern science-based capacity to change the climate so as to establish better conditions for crops and livestock than nature itself can give such as dealing with the dryness, low soil fertility, invasion by pests, and weeds, threats to livestock and many more. It even looked into the energy requirements if more of it is needed to till the land, mechanize and use fossil fuels. The yield increase in the farming systems of the industrialized countries over the last 150 years can be interpreted as the implementation of this paradigm. The green revolution of the 1970s was focused squarely on this, where the improved rice and wheat varieties could benefit from the use of natural inputs that offered good growing conditions. An important part of this transition was the development of socio-economic fostering conditions that opened up for the use of these products and established opportunities to sell the produce.
However, its overall impact remains debatable, as it has been appreciated as well as criticized too by many on various factors. Let us look into the various socio-economic impacts
The Green Revolution brought great economic prosperity in its early years. However, this economic prosperity was limited to certain regions such as Punjab, Haryana, and parts of western Uttar Pradesh. The revolution was hence limited to certain parts of India. The reason for the same is the intensive demand for resources required in these modern technologies. Therefore, states which could easily suffice the increased requirement of irrigation systems and other resources were the only ones to benefit from it. This led to regional economic and infrastructural disparities resulting in fast economic development in certain parts while some states show slow agricultural production throughout.
Unequal Distribution of Wealth
The supply and demand mechanisms before the Green Revolution were worrisome as it dealt with two famines in a span of two years which further reduced the supply drastically. Also, the Indian population has been relatively very high which accounted for high demand but very low supply. With the green revolution, the supply took a major increase which reduced agricultural imports. This was due to the new hybrid variety of seeds which could produce more harvest per acre of land. However, this was beneficial for large agronomists who could easily afford these seeds and other mechanization systems along with insecticides and pesticides and soil nutrient requirements.
Small farmers were not able to finance the various seeds and fertilizers and failed to provide the required irrigation levels leading to crop failure or less than optimum produce. Since supply had increased rapidly, the price of crops fell per acre which was beneficial for the large farmers as the quantity sold increased relatively more than the decline in prices. The sufferers were the small farmers who didn’t even have the stock to supply and even the existing prices fell which reduced their incomes.
Moreover, loans were taken for the same but with declining incomes, they fell into a debt trap. This has been significantly responsible for high suicide rates among farmers.
Following the above-mentioned point, it also led to income inequalities, hence widening the gap between the poor and the rich. With income disparities widening, it gave birth to other socio-economic disparities that led to the over-exploitation of the poor
“If the green revolution is regarded as a package consisting of HYV and fertilizers, its contribution to employment has been substantial. Also, tube wells seem to have contributed significantly to the employment of labor….” “The net employment of tractor-use may turn out to be negative when tractorisation of farms is complete. A harvest combine would displace labor on a large scale while its land-augmenting effect would be negligible.”
Billings and Singh, in their studies on the state of Punjab, have found that the use of irrigation increases the demand for labor whereas the use of tractors or wheat reapers reduces the demand for the same.
However, due to inadequate data, it is difficult to assess and analyze the impact of biological-technological innovations on farm labor.
Environmental Harm & Corresponding Consequences
Ecological balance is equally important which was hampered by the introduction of new technologies and methodologies. Loss of soil fertility, erosion of soil, soil toxicity, depleting water resources, pollution, and salinity of underground water, increased occurrence of humanity as well as livestock diseases and global warming are some of the negative impacts of the Green Revolution. Various scientific studies and surveys conducted on fertilizer and pesticide residues over the last 45 years indicate the presence of nitrates, organochlorines, organophosphates, synthetic pyrethroids, and carbamates at a higher level than the permissible limit in milk, dairy products, water, fodder, livestock feeds and other food products.
Moreover, the overuse of urea, a nitrogen-rich fertilizer, has significantly contributed to global warming. These systematic damages could lead to irreversible consequences to the life of people who are benefited just once if timely, adequate, and sustainable measures are not taken up to mitigate the harm done by the Green Revolution. With the implementation of the green revolution policy in the early 1960s, it was hoped that the pattern of rising food grain production would continue. But sharp variations in the production of food grains were observed in later years, causing insecurities for both farmers and consumers.
Nonetheless, it’s not hidden how environmental harm impacts the economic well being of a country in the long run. It might seem productive and lucrative in the short-run however but with its deep-rooted consequences such as acid rain that pose harm to agriculture by altering the acidity of the soil, reduce productivity, and eventually affect overall output. Similarly, other factors too have long term impacts on the economic well being such as added stress on water resources and agricultural production leading to a lack of raw materials for the manufacturing sector.
To conclude, consumers can be considered as the greatest beneficiaries of the Green Revolution. Real prices of the essentials such as rice and wheat reduced significantly in the markets. Food prices throughout Asia declined to owe to the high yielding, cost-reducing technologies built around improved seed-fertilizer-weed control components. This helps to tackle the rising poverty levels since reduced prices benefit the poor more than the rich as a relatively larger portion of income is spent on food by the underprivileged and poor. Also, the rural incomes were seen to improve but for the large farmers only whereas the small and marginalized farmers suffered. The productivity also improved but just for those who were privileged enough to have access to money as well as natural resources. It has also been reported that with the construction of tube-wells, flour mills, and threshers, the drudgery of women had been significantly reduced. Moreover, in many studies, it has been reported that gender-based bias further deepened with the development of the revolution.