a) Green Revolution
By the middle of the 1960s the scenario with regard to food production was very grim. The country was incurring enormous expenditure on importing food. Land reforms had made no impact on agricultural production. The government therefore turned to technological alternatives to develop agriculture. High Yielding Variety (HYV) of seeds of wheat and rice was adopted in 1965 in select areas well endowed with irrigation.
Unlike traditional agriculture, cultivation of HYV seeds required a lot of water and use of tractors, chemical fertilizers and pesticides. T he success of the initial experimental projects led to the large-scale adoption of HYV seeds across the country. This is generally referred to as the Green Revolution. This also created an enormous demand for chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and these industries grew as well. Finally, within twenty years, India achieved self-sufficiency in food production. Total rice production increased from 35 million tonnes in 1960–61 to 104 million tonnes in 2011–12.
The increase in wheat production was even more impressive, from 11 million tonnes to 94 milliontonnes during the same period. Productivity also increased. A large reserve stock of food grain was built up by the government through buying the surplus food grain from the farmers and storing this in warehouses of the Food Corporation of India (FCI). The stored food grains were made available under the Public Distribution System (PDS) and to ensure food security for the people.
Another positive feature was been the sustained increase in the production of milk and eggs. Due to this, the food basket of all income groups became more diversified. While the Green Revolution has been very successful in terms of increasing food production in India, it has also had some negative outcomes. First of all, it increased the disparities between the well-endowed and the less well-endowed regions. Over the decades, there has been a tendency among farmers to use chemical fertilizers and pesticides in excessive quantities resulting in environmental problems. T here is now a move to go back to organic farming in many parts of the country. The lesson to be learnt is that development comes at a certain cost.
(b) Rural Development Programmes
By the 1970s, the levels of poverty had not declined in spite of overall development of industry and agriculture. The assumption that development would solve the problem of poverty was not realized, and nearly half the population was found to be living below the poverty line. (The poverty line was defined as the level of expenditure required to purchase food grains to supply the recommended calorie level to sustain a person.)
Though the percentage of the persons below the poverty line did not increase, as the population grew, the number of persons living below the poverty line kept increasing. Poverty prevailed both in rural and urban areas. But since nearly three-fourths of the population lived in rural areas, rural poverty was a much more critical problem requiring immediate attention. Poverty levels were also much higher among specific social groups (Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes), classes (small and marginal farmers, landless labourers) and in resource poor regions without irrigation and with poor soil, etc.
A whole range of rural development programmes were introduced by the government to tackle rural poverty. These included Community Development Programmes, reviving local institutions like Panchayati Raj, and targeted programmes aimed at specific groups such as small and marginal farmers. T he thrust was on proving additional sources of income to the rural households to augment their earnings from agriculture. Two major programmes are explained in greater detail below.
(c) Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP), 1980–1999
In 1980 a consolidated rural development programme called Integrated Rural Development Programme was introduced. The purpose was to provide rural households with assets which would improve their economic position, so that they would be able to come out of poverty. These could be improvements to the land, supply of cows or goats for dairying or help to set up small shops or other trade-related businesses. Introduced in all the 5011 blocks in the country, the target was to provide assistance to 600 families in each block over five years (1980–1985), which would reach a total of 15 million families.
The capital cost of the assets provided was covered by subsidies (divided equally between the Centre and the states) and loans. T he subsidy varied according to the economic situation of the family receiving assistance. For small farmers, the subsidy component was 25%, 33.3% for marginal farmers and agricultural labourers, and 50% for tribal households. Banks were to give loans to the selected households to cover the balance of the cost of the asset. About 53.5 million households were covered under the programme till 1999.
Dairy animals accounted for 50% of the assets, non-farm activities for 25% and minor irrigation works for about 15%. The functioning and the effects of IRDP were assessed by many economists as well as government bodies. These studies raised many questions about the end result. One obvious drawback was that many non-poor households were also selected as beneficiaries in the programme. Secondly, the average investment per household was not sufficient to generate additional income of about Rs.2000 per month for each household.
Third, there was a question as to how many households retained the assets that had been provided, especially dairy animals. Last, and most importantly, how many households were able to move above the poverty line permanently? In general, about 18per cent of the beneficiaries were able to cross the poverty line. There were considerable variations across different regions on all these issues. The ultimate conclusion was that the programme did not really deliver on the benefits that were intended. T he programme was restructured in 1999 as a programme to promote self-employment of the rural poor.