Economics India

Monday, January 23, 2006

Swaminathan on Indian Agriculture

Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar is concerned that India could not be internationally competitive in the field of agriculture without sufficient investments! He said "the demand for foodgrains would go up in the next five to seven years and to meet this demand, the country would need a second Green Revolution". Food security essential for national security.

True, but how do we get to the Second Green Revolution? Mr M. S. Swaminathan, father of the first Green Revolution recently observed that the Second Green Revolution was not possible unless the prevailing neglect of the farm sector was halted and cutting edge technologies were taken to farmers.

Okay, but why farmers should adopt cutting edge technologies if there are no financial incentives to do so; access to quality inputs is not assured; and markets are distorted by government policies and regulations?

Indian agriculture's problems are one way or other contributed by faulty government policies and programs, perpetuated for decades in the so-called interests of farmers, largely guided by socialist ideologies that have since failed in former Soviet Union including Russia as well as in China.

China rejuvenated its agriculture by gradually introducing principles of market economy, which became an engine of growth during 1980s, the first decade of China's recent economic miracle and continues to be so. Russia is on her way to do so as many other FSU countries.

Indian Government must reform its agricultural policies on a priority basis to allow market forces to play their role, within the framework of a social safety net, and promote public-private partnerships to assure a better deal to the farm sector -- promoting flow of new investments and cutting edge techologies.

This blog knows that all this is easy to say but difficult to achieve in the prevailing political economy of India, where failed socialist ideologies are still rampant and misused. A classic example of this is the opposition by some political parties to Mr. Pawar's recent proposal to reduce food subsidies to largely urban population that is above the poverty line and use this money to increase investments in agriculture?

Wake Up India, Wake Up --to face this challenge!!


  • Yes, without agricultural innovations it is not possible to achieve quantum agricultural growth. I agree with Dr. Swaminathan fully. However, I do not agree with the idea that the financial incentives are the key determinants of agricultural innovations. There is something beyond that, something exogenous, something that comes from outside and also inside. The First Green Revolution did not really originate in India. It was exogenously taken and then the Indian Scientists worked on it and expanded its reach. That was done at a very low cost and without any serious allocation of subsidies. Anyone who has lived in Punjab or at IRRI or CYMMYT in those days or in Japan knows what I am talking. I do not want to say much at this stage but one should revisit the history of the First Green Revolution. One should go out and see what is happening in remote places of the world. One should go to the countries like the southern part of Brazil and see how biotechnolgy has been successfully integrated with other farm innovations such as "no-till" agricultural by both small holders and rich farmers. India needs to think fresh, means there needs to be first revolution in thinking. India can do that. Research is the key to success but the scientists need to be free. They should not be dependent on the government subsidies or on the foreign funding but they should have different type of research atmosphere. Not really based on publishing one paper in foreign journals and going for a Ph. D. outside India. But the incentives need to be much bigger, something that Jawahralal Nehru knew about, something that Mahatma Gandhi too knew about. Something that did exist in India when the first IIT was established or the first agricultural research station was established.

    Dr. Deshpande you have now opened an important area of discussion and I hope that you will receive important comments.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:49 PM  

  • Thanks to to the learned Anonymous for comments. These comments are indeed relevant and important. Yes, it will interesting to recapitulate experience with and lessons of the first Green revolution before the country goes into the Second. On this note, we are currently looking into the status of bio-tech applications to agriculture in India and assess what is the emerging strategy for the future in collaboration with experts in this area. The effort will be to identify potential for public private partnerships, national and international in bio-tech investments in horticulture, livestock, fisheries, and agroforestry. Much work is already underway in India on wheat and rice though not much progress seems to have been made in research on rainfed crops such as jowar and bajra.

    By Blogger Ramesh G. Deshpande, at 2:43 AM  

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