In India, before the Green Revolution (which accelerated the production of wheat and paddy), in the late 1950s and early 1960s, agriculture was unable to support the country’s growing population and had to endure serious improvisations in order to achieve a self-sufficient agricultural system. So came the technological advancements, in the framework of the Green Revolution, which improvised irrigation facilities, introduced seeds of high yielding varieties (HYV) to transform agriculture to what we know today. Such reforms are necessary to correct certain flaws in the system, which are unavoidable, and are necessary for the constant maintenance of the functionality of the systems.
Agriculture in India is unique, not only in terms of natural topography and climate, but also in the landscape of land distribution. The average land ownership of an Indian farmer is just over one hectare (Agriculture Census 2015-16), whereas in the United States, the average farmland is 440 hectares. These meager land holdings hamper the productivity of farmers, as much of the crop produced is used for essential subsistence, limiting the overall profit of farmers. Thus, any agricultural reform primarily targets this group of smallholder / marginalized farmers who are generally struggling to make a living.
Fight against underemployment
Disguised underemployment / unemployment in agriculture is another major problem that exists in India and has effects on economic growth. It is simply a phenomenon where the number of people employed in a particular task exceeds what is needed, resulting in low economic output per person. In such a case, total production is not affected by the removal of “those extra employees”. This phenomenon exists mainly in the primary sector, and is a result of the lack of employment opportunities in rural India (the hub of agricultural activities), and also due to the seasonal nature of agriculture. To reduce underemployment in India, we can plan to provide similar seasonal work to the people and move their occupation to other sectors. Simply, we need to introduce laws similar to Mahatma Gandhi’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), introduced in 2005, which aims to provide guaranteed work for 100 days in rural areas. In other words, it provides employment for underemployed people. MGNREGA not only helps underemployed young people to earn a reasonable wage (average daily wage in the States: 233.3 rupees, but it also creates an opportunity to view the Indian population as an asset, rather than a liability. Policies also provide a basis for underemployed young people to learn about other professions, and discover their true potential in terms of economic growth.
In order to prevent further exploitation of our labor force, additional policies focused on providing permanent employment to the rural population of India need to be put in place. Due to underemployment, the growth rate of agriculture in India is also lower (the growth rate barely reaches 4.5%, over a decade observation period), given the amount of labor “engaged” in it. Therefore, it can be implied that underemployment is a loophole in the Indian economy, and its elimination will be crucial for the primary sector to reach greater heights.
Unlike the situation in India in the 1960s, India is self-sufficient in terms of food availability and productivity, so a Green Revolution 2.0 will not only focus on eliminating underemployment, but will also aim to work for better economic results.
Policies to reform
The new set of solutions may include the development of the current agricultural marketing system and create a thriving and diverse market for other crops except the major cash crops. In this way, we can definitely impact more farmers and give them an additional choice to get into these crops as well. In addition, the establishment of cooperatives in rural India is also necessary for farmers to prosper more, as cheap credit can help them invest in advanced tools, resulting in increased production. For example, a well-developed irrigation system can exclude farmers’ dependence on rainfall and help them grow more crops in a single agricultural year.
Another policy, the MSP, introduced in the 1960s to prevent the economic exploitation of farmers, needs to be reformed. Government intervention as an intermediary client ensured that the prices of agricultural crops were balanced, and the MSP ensured that farmers received sufficient profit from their harvest. The philosophy of this policy is very appropriate, but what now needs to be worked on is the implementation of such policies. For example, a survey conducted by the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) in 2013 found that only about 22% of farmers were aware of the MSP provided for the Rabi and Kharif campaign crops, suggesting a huge margin for improvement. improvement in the implementation of the policy. While this percentage may have increased over time, educating more agricultural practitioners about the laws is critical in order to receive a meaningful response.
Like Mr. MS Swaminathan, who is credited with launching the Green Revolution in the 1960s, we need more ambitious scientists to eliminate underemployment and other existing problems in the world. agriculture in India.
Amit Kapoor is President of the Institute for Competitiveness of India and Visiting Fellow at Stanford University. Praveen Senthil is a general researcher at the Institute for Competitiveness.