GREEN REVOLUTION REVISITED : AN EXAMINATION OF THE TAMIL NADU DATA

In the Nov. 1982 issue of this bulletin (vol.2 No.2), we had published the article "Green Revolution: A Historical perspective" by J.K. Bajaj. This paper had analyzed the [impact of the Green Revolution on Indian Agriculture, compared it with the pre-Green Revolution strategy of agricultural development and also touched upon the question .of alternatives to the Green Revolution strategy for the development of Indian agriculture. Recently, a Tamil Journal, Marx/yam Inru * (Marxism, Today), carried an-article entitled "Green Revolution - A Neo-colonialist Exploitation" by Thozhan. This article has discussed the effects of Green Revolution, now at a regional level, with data for Tamil Nadu agriculture. In this note we are summarizing the essential findings of this article. The first section recapitulates the major conclusions of Bajai's article the second section summarizes the Tamil Nadu data from the above mentioned article.

I. Green Revolution: The Overall picture for the whole of India.

The post independence development of Indian agriculture can be divided into two phases—the pre-Green Revolution period and the Green Revolution period,

Pre-Green Revolution

At the time of attaining' independence, Indian agriculture was in a particularly bad phase. Bengal had passed through a major famine irrigation facilities were severely depleted with partition (less than 20% of the net sown area was irrigated); rural indebtedness was on the increase (it had doubled between 1929 and 1936) and the per capita food availability was rather low (417 g/day in 1946). The post independence, efforts to develop agriculture were directed in two areas—irrigation and land reforms. In the period 1947—48 to 1849-50 the net irrigated area increased from 18.9 MHz to 20.2 MHz—most of this increase was in the form of wells and minor irrigation works. Irrigation facilities kept on increasing steadily and during the period 1950-51 to'1968-69 irrigated area increased at the rate of 0.67 MHz/year. Land reforms were initiated in many states by 1950s. Abolition of the zamindari system, increased security of tenure to the cultivator, fixation of reasonable rents for tenants and land ceilings1 were some of the changes (although these may have been done half-heartedly and not always implemented fully). Indian agriculture responded well to these changes. During the 1950s the aggregate crop production increased faster than the population. The production of almost every crop showed an increase both in terms of area under crop and yield. By 1960-61 the average per capita availability of food was 460 g/day (as against 417 g/day in 1946).

A significant feature of this development was that the increase in food production was achieved over a wide production base and all the inputs to agriculture continued to be derived from the rural sector and essentially free of urban control. Hence in general the increased production was absorbed in the rural areas themselves and there was no increase in the food reaching the urban market economy. The N.C.A.R. (National Commission on Agriculture Report) noted that despite increased production there was a decline in market arrivals of food. By the end of the second plan period efforts were a foot to change this situation. The Intensive Agricultural Development Program (IADP) and later on the Intensive Agriculture Area Program (IAAP) were started. The key feature of these schemes was the concentration of resources in well endowed areas to increase production Thus the emphasis was shifted from making deficit areas self-sufficient, to increasing production in well endowed areas it is clear that the intention was to increase food production in such a manner that the marginal yield would flow into the urban market. The program however proved to be a failure, as the marginal increase in yields could not justify the increased inputs. For example, as per NCAR (Vol.1), out of 12 Rice and. 4 Wheat district's, the marginal increase in yields of rice and wheat was only 0.9 and 3.3 quintals/hectare respectively, whereas the added costs under the new scheme was equivalent in cost to 10 quintals of wheat hectare and 10 to 12.4 quintals of" rice/hectare. Trie 'efficiency' of the package for the other crops was even worse.

Green Revolution

By mid-sixties the Green' Revolution (GR) technology became available—which seemed capable of achieving what the IAAP and IADP had attempted but failed to do. The essential feature of the GR technology was the use of High Yielding Varieties (HYV) of seeds. These were cross breeds evolved which were selected for their capacity to accept huge doses of fertilizers and yield increased outputs. Since these -HYV were evolved under laboratory conditions, they did not possess the natural resistance to pests, and diseases etc., and thus required the use of large amounts of chemical pesticides to protect them. All the inputs of the GR technology—HYV seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, implements 1or mechanized farming and above all the "Knowledge of the production process", had to be imported from outside the village— from the urban industrial market and abroad. This achieved the purpose of linking the agricultural sector to the industry and making it responsive to its needs. The excess production now flowed into the market.

This technology is hailed at a great success by pointing to the ''miracle'' yields in some select areas. However the nature of the GR technology is brought out in its true colors when we examine the overall effect of adopting this strategy of agricultural development with the pre-GR period.

Table 1 (a) compares the compound rates of growth of some key agricultural parameters—production, area and yield for food grains and 111 crops of the pre-GR period with the first 10 years after GR. The year 1967-8 is taken as the dividing year. It is clear from the table that the rate of growth of agriculture has in fact declined after the GR for food grains and all crops. While the rate of growth of rice and pulses also shows a decline only the wheat production shows an increase.

TABLE I (a & b)


 
   All India

     (a)   
  Land Area Prod     Yield  
  49-50
to
64-65
67-68
to
77-78
Pre GR Post GR Pre GR Post GR
Food       1.34 0.38 2.98 2.40 1.61 1.53
Non Food   2.52 1.01 3.65 2.70 1.06 1.15
All Crops   1.60 0.55 3.20 2.50 1.60 1.40
Rice   1.26 0.74 3.37 2.21 2.09 1.46
Wheat   2.7 3.10 3.07 5.73 1.24 2.53
Pulses

           
  1.87 0.75 1.62 0.20 -0.24 -0.42    
Tamil Nadu

(b)
  50-51
to
64-65
66-67
to
77-78
Pre Post Pre Post
Food     1.22 -0.15 3.89 1.87 2.70 2.06
Non Food   0.80 0.72 4.88 5.98 2.32 2.58
All Crop's   1.00 0.10 3.83 1.93 2.47 1.81
Rice      0.75 0.18 5.74 2.29 1.83 1.80
Pulses   0.89 2.92 1.68 5.38 2.95 1.70
Sources :    J. K.Bajaj,PPST Bulletin Nov.1982
Thozhan :   Marxiam Inru, July 1984


It is (possible that this decline is sometimes attributed to the law of diminishing marginal productivity- i.e. it could be argued that the resources had begun to reach a saturation level in the pre-GR period. Table II has displayed the compound rate of growth of agricultural production, area and yield during the period 1951 to 1974, during the four plan periods. We can see that during the III plan period that immediately preceded GR the growth rate had reached an all - time high of < 2.7% p.a. (As against 1.4% and 1.8% during the previous plan periods). Hence the productivity was moving up and the decline in growth and productivity after GR is not; explainable by the law of diminishing marginal productivity.
TABLE II

Plan-wise Compound rates of growth


Plan period
Agri

Produ

Area Under

Crops

Yield

(%p.a.)

I  (1950-51   to 55-56)
4.1 2.6 1.4

II   (56 - 57 to 60-61)
3.1 1.3 1.8
III (61 - 62 to 64 - 65) 3.3 0.6 2.7
IV (69 - 70 to 73 - 74) 2.2 0.8  

Source:    J. K. Bajaj, PPST Bulletin Nov. 1982

The GR technology is energetically much less efficient than traditional technologies. If energy costs of all inputs are taken into account the traditional technologies are 50 - 250 times more efficient than the GR technologies. The new technology has also vastly increased our dependence on foreign inputs in many ways. Our expenditure on imports of agricultural inputs which used to be merely seven cores of rupees in 1950-51 increased to 201crores in 1973-74. After this there was a spurt in fertilizer prices and by 1974-75 the imports stood at 532.5crores.

The new agricultural practices are also known to have several undesirable effects on the environment and soil fertility. The new technology, has also led to crop-to-crop disparity and area to area disparity.

Tamil Nadu Data*

Table I (b) compares the rates of growth of land area, production and yield in T. Nadu for the years before and after GR. The dividing line here is taken to be 64-65. (The years 65-66, 69 and 75 being drought years, have been excluded from consideration), it can be seen that there is a decrease in the growth rate of food crops after the GR while there is a marginal increase in the yield of non-food crops. While the area under rice as well as production and yield of rice has decreased after GR the production of pulses has increased. But this is attributable mainly to increased land being used to cultivate pulses rather than improved technology since the yield has declined in the post GR period.

Again the decrease in growth rate in the post GR period is not attributable to saturation of resource use—these have been and still are on the rise. For example in 1950 the land under cultivation was only 45lakhs hectares, and it has increased steadily to 70lakh hectares today. Out of this 45 lakh hectares are still dry lands. Thus there is still plenty of possibility to "expand the resource base and production. In fact in a normal monsoon year T. N. utilizes merely one third of the total water.

This technology has rendered the farmer heavily dependent on urban inputs. Every year the' Coop-Banks in Tamil Nadu advance about Rs. 100crores as short-term loans, and 15-20crores as long-term loans; of this about 40% are HYV seeds, pesticides and fertilizers. Over the past 15 years Rs. 1,700 crores has been given as loans. The debt of the farming community is steadily on the increase. The loan arrears which stood at 139.7 crores in Dec. 1977 had increased to 420 crores by June 1981.

Similarly at a national level the GR technology has made us crucially dependent on foreign inputs. During the period 74-76 the World Bank (WB) advanced a-loan-.of 2622 crores of which 807 crores were spent on fertilizers alone! Even many of the fertilizer plants set up in India are dependent on foreign technical aid and follow WB "Guidelines" to regularize prices. The foreign inputs also lead
to steep increases in costs of inputs with increasing world market prices for oil. Urea which [sold at 680 Rs/ton in 1967 had increased to about 1000 Rs/ton by 1973. After 1974 when a lot of third world countries had taken to GR technology the price of urea doubled.

This article with the Tamil Nadu data reiterates the point that was highlighted in Bajaj's article, namely that the "miracle" of GR, if examined in an area of any reasonable size like a state is seen in its true colors—merely as a device that can make a [few pockets prosperous by depleting other areas of resources. Thus the most powerful claim made on behalf of this technology that it increases productivity—stands exposed. It ' is clear that any reasonable policy for the future of Indian agriculture would have much to learn from our traditional technologies which are not only more sound ecologically but are infect more meaningful as a way to increase production and productivity.


Author: Madras Group

Note:

* 'Marxian Ireful* Edited and published by K. Monoharan, 23/10 Mutbalamman Koil St., Madras - 600 033 (July-Aug. 1984 issue pp. 25-50).

* The sources mentioned in the Tamil article for this data are (a) Tamil Nadu • an Economic Appraisal 1971-1983 (Evalution and Applied Research Dept Govt, of Tamil Nadu) (b) State planning commission. Tamil Nadu 1982-3 (c) Agricultural census 1961.



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