Agriculture has always been the most crucial sector of the Indian economy. As of today, this sector alone provides employment to over 60% of the Indian population and over 70% of the rural households depend on it. However, before independence, the agriculture scenario in India was a bit different as our economy was 95% dependent on agriculture and the revenues generated from it. Agriculture, despite being a primary source of income for a major population, faced a decline during that time. It would be fair to say that Indians did not reap profits or even make a decent living from agriculture under British rule. Later on, after independence, with the evolution of agriculture, India transformed itself from a food-scarce to a food-surplus nation.
One of the major reasons causing a multifold increase in agricultural production i.e. from 135 million tons in 1950-51 to over 1300 million tons in 2021-22 is the adoption of technological innovations. During this particular time period, the production of food grains increased by 6 times, horticultural crops by 11 times, eggs by 53 times, and milk by 10 times, thus making a great impact on the national food and nutritional security of India. Today, we are the largest producer of milk, pulses, and jute and the second largest producer of rice, wheat, cotton, fruits, and vegetables in the world. We are also leading in the production of spices, poultry, fish, livestock, and plantation crops.
In this article, we’ll understand the evolution of agriculture since independence, give a glimpse of how agriculture was done before our freedom from the Britishers, different types of revolutions that took place in India, and much more.
A glimpse of Pre-Independence Agriculture
It has been verified in the ancient literature that Indian agriculture began as early as 11,000 BP with the domestication of animals and cultivation of plants. Agriculture has a fair share of mentions in the age-old Bhagavad Gita, Rig Veda, and Atharv Veda. In ancient India, farmers used to follow auspicious days for plowing, sowing, reaping, and harvesting crops as they believed it is linked with religious customs.
The British brought about the commercialization of the Indian agricultural sector. This coincided with the Industrial Revolution and very soon India was reduced to supplying raw materials and food grains to the colonizers. Simultaneously, Indians were also required to import manufactured goods from Britain. Cash crops like cotton, jute, tea, tobacco, indigo replaced many of the food crops and led to famines. Indian agri trade as we know it got its start during this time. However, it was largely unorganised, unequal, and led to inequalities of income. It also had a devastating affect on the self-sufficiency of the the Indian agrarian society.
During the first half of the 20th century (1901 to 1947), agriculture was hugely dependent on India’s climate conditions. Unfavourable monsoons, especially southwest monsoons caused droughts and crop failures. These droughts in consecutive years led to famines in the country. Apart from climate, the agriculture sector was also affected by the pressure of population, low productivity, and extreme institutional rigidities. All these factors resulted in Indian agriculture reaching near stagnation during the British period.
Post Independence- First 50 years of Indian Agriculture
At the time of Independence, India inherited stagnant agriculture. That is why an immediate post-independence action for the Indian government was to initiate a growth process in agriculture. The first three five-year plans made by the government were focused on growth with some institutional changes such as removing the intermediaries in agriculture like zamindars and jagirdars.
In the mid-sixties, high-yielding varieties of cereals were introduced and public investment in agriculture (especially in irrigation) started. The public sector played a significant role in promoting agriculture research and education. During that time only, large investments were made so as to develop a great research system with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the State Agricultural Universities (SAUs). Apart from this, an extensive network was designed to provide incentives to the farmers.
The next few years were dedicated to improving the infrastructure, increasing the use of fertilizers, improving varieties of seeds and machinery, and supply of credit. There has also been a surge in the use of modern inputs which resulted in higher production of crops. As a result, in the post-independence period, a growth rate of around 2.7% per annum was achieved as compared to the negligible growth rate of 0.3% in the first half of the century. Also, more production of commercial crops like cotton, sugarcane, oilseeds, etc., was recorded in the same period.
Different types of revolutions in agriculture
In the mid-1960s, India witnessed the Green Revolution, which is one of the momentous milestones in the history of Indian agriculture. The green revolution in agriculture helped us in increasing the production of food grains and further resulted in the introduction of high-yield varieties from different parts of the world. This revolution also led to the increased use of fertilizers and generated new income and employment for the farming community. Subsequent decades witnessed the red revolution, yellow revolution, golden revolution, pink revolution, etc., in the country thus making a visible impact on the national food security.
Post Independence – The early 2000s!
The last two decades have been important for the evolution of agriculture. It is remarkable in terms of introducing new policies and reforms, adopting digital technologies, and investing in the agriculture sector. There has been a rise in institutional credit in this period. Many effective schemes like National Horticulture Mission (NHM) and Bringing Green Revolution in Eastern India (BREI) have been introduced to achieve record production. A centrally sponsored scheme, National Food Security Mission (NFSM), was launched and has met an overwhelming success. The scheme has helped achieve the targeted additional production of rice, wheat, and pulses.
In 2014-15, National Crop Insurance Programme (NCIP) and a Weather Based Crop Insurance Scheme (WBCIS) were launched. While NCIP aimed at ensuring food security and crop diversification, WBCIS helped in minimizing the financial loss of the farmers due to crop damages resulting from adverse weather conditions. In 2016, a pan-India electronic trading portal, eNAM was also launched to create a unified national market for agricultural commodities. This platform promotes integrated markets, and real-time price discovery and also helps in removing the information gap between buyers and suppliers. Click here to read about Bijak’s integration with eNAM. Alongside eNAM, other digital initiatives like E-sagu (provides expert advice to farmers to increase productivity), Community Radio (provides the latest information on weather, farming, etc.), and Digital Green (provides agricultural information using online videos) were also launched by the Indian government.
2017 was the year when farmers in Indore Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) adopted a cashless payment policy and started using alternative modes of payment like RTGS and cheques. In 2018, Agriculture Export Policy was framed to support agriculture export-oriented production and better price realization. The policy lifted all the restrictions on processed and organic foods to contribute to the government’s efforts to double farmers’ income. 2020 witnessed changes in agricultural policy and financial support were provided by the government through investments that aim to reduce the adversity caused by COVID 19.
Also, a couple of years back, many agri-trading digital apps came into the picture for digitizing agri value chains and helping traders get all the support they need for expanding their business. Bijak is the most trusted agri-trading app in India that acts as a one-stop e-marketplace for agri-traders including commodity suppliers, mandi aadathis, and other institutional buyers. Bijak allows pan-India trade and solves real-life trading problems of its users including counterparty discovery, timely payments, business exposure, etc.
Union Budget 2020-21 has recognized agriculture as one of the key drivers of the economy. In this budget, Krishi Udaan scheme was announced to facilitate the movement of agri-produce by air. A viability gap funding was promised for setting up warehouses at the block level. Also, Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthan Mahabhiyan scheme was expanded to help 20 lakh farmers in setting up stand-alone solar pumps.
At last, we would like to add that despite newer challenges coming along the way, Agriculture has never stopped growing. It has shown us impressive progress during the past 75 years of India’s independence and will continue to do so. It has been proven time and again that when all the sectors failed, agriculture came as a savior for India. Its performance during the COVID-19 situation is the best testimony.
We hope this article will give you proper insights into the evolution of Indian agriculture since independence and will answer all the questions you have regarding the subject. We also hope that you will enjoy reading this article. Tell us your favourite takeaway in the comment section below. Also, stay tuned for more such detailed articles in the future. Like, share, and follow the Bijak blog for regular weekly updates. Bijak is India’s most trusted agri-trading platform that acts as a meeting point for farmers, Buyers (commission agents), and Suppliers to trade in over 150 commodities. You can download the Bijak app from Google Playstore and Apple App Store.