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The Green Revolution in India

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The Green Revolution in India was an effort to increase agricultural production in India via a package of industrial agriculture technologies, such as hybrid seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, and irrigation. This was part of a larger, international effort dubbed the Green Revolution. It was funded by the U.S. and Indian governments and the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations.

"The Rockefeller Foundation's promotion of scientific research and scientific education was a key to developing entirely new methods of agriculture, particularly in plant breeding, and these new methods were the basis of the green revolution. The Ford Foundation's strategic analysis of Indian agriculture and its instigation of new organizational structures for agricultural assistance were critical for launching the green revolution. The United States government funds, in contrast, tended to be spent on the bulk infrastructure of high-yielding agriculture, for example, construction of tube wells and provision of training for many extension agents."[1]

Background

Roots of India's Food Problem

While under British rule, India switched from being a net food exporter to being a net food importer in 1919.[2] India's food problems were perhaps most severely exemplified by the Great Bengal Famine of 1943, in which an estimated 1.5 to 3 million people died in the modern state of West Bengal in India and modern-day Bangladesh.[3] Famine in India was rare prior to British rule, but common during the British occupation of India.[4]

At the time of independence, 1947, British India was partitioned into modern day India and Pakistan, with great consequences to India's food supply. Punjab, India's wheat growing center, was split between the two nations, with most of the irrigated cropland going to Pakistan. Pakistan also received the majority of India's agricultural research and education facilities, including the Agricultural College and Research Institute at Lyallpur.[5] Whereas western Punjab previously supplied the rest of India with wheat, now India would need foreign exchange in order to purchase it from Pakistan.

Problems grew when, in 1949, Britain devalued its currency against the dollar and India followed suit. Pakistan did not devalue its currency, making it more expensive for India to purchase food from Pakistan than before.[6]

Agricultural Efforts Prior to the Green Revolution

Beginning in 1942, the British began using the slogan Grow More Food, and the government of India formally announced a Grow More Food campaign that summer. "Major activities under GMF were encouragement to replace cash crops with food crops; to use more irrigation, better seeds, and manures; and to expand the arable land base."[7] The Grow More Food campaign, which lasted until 1951, was somewhat successful in increasing food production, but not at all successful in eliminating or even decreasing the need for food imports.

Agrarian Reform

Jawaharlal Nehru and his supporters "wanted a genuine redistribution of wealth in the rural areas."[8] Making this a reality was politically very difficult. Reformers wanted to abolish the existence of "zamindars," tax collectors under the British and the Moguls before them. The British gave zamindars ownership over the land where they collected taxes from the people who lived and farmed there. "As titled land owners, they were free to extract as much revenue from their tenants as they could so long as they paid their dues to higher authorities."[9] While land reform was complex as each state had different rules governing land ownership, by 1951 India was on its way to abolishing zamindars. In its first five-year plan, in 1951, India announced its goals of land reform and paving the way to a more just, equitable society. However, the resistance to agrarian reform meant that land redistribution was more or less abandoned in the second five year plan (1956-61), which preserved the rights of large landholders.[10]

Etawah District

In 1948, the state government of Uttar Pradesh launched a "planned improvement of all aspects of village life" in Etawah District.[11] The project was run by Albert Mayer (a city planner and a friend of Prime Minister Nehru) and Horace C. Holmes (an agricultural extension specialist) under the direction of D.P. Singh. "The program promoted better seeds, green manure, and other practices and reported increased yields of 15 to 30 percent. The Etawah project was probably the single most important model for all subsequent development work in India, an Nehru took a personal interest in Holmes's work." The Ford Foundation was not yet working in India at this time, and when Ford Foundation president Paul G. Hoffman visited India in 1951, he toured Etawah.[12]

Community Development program

In 1952, India began a community development program. It was administered by the Community Projects Administration (led by S.K. Dey) within the Planning Commission.[13] V.T. Krishnamachari, the Vice Chairman of the Planning Commission noted that the program was intended to improve all aspects of rural life and was based upon the notion that "all aspects of rural life are interrelated." He also noted that the intent was for "the motive force for improvement [to] come from the people themselves" with the state only supplying supplies, services, and credit, and for "the cooperative principle" to be applied to solve "all problems of rural life."[14] Krishnamachari called for the "application of scientific methods in agriculture, including horticulture, animal husbandry, fisheries, etc."

In 1951, Prime Minister Nehru invited Ford Foundation president Paul G. Hoffman to begin a program in India. Ford began by sending Douglas Ensminger as a representative. "Ensminger's first projects in India were connected to community development and thus were aimed at increased food grain production through social reform with secondary attention paid to the spread fo existing technologies but only minor interest in new technology."[15]

Agriculture and Industrialization at Independence

At the time of independence, many in India, including in the government, favored industrialization. The fates of the cities and the countryside, the industrial workers and the farmers, were inextricably linked:

"What India reluctantly discovered in the course of the 1950s was that forming na industrial sector placed potentially stifling demands on the rural economy. Essentially, if industrialization was to occur, the wealth of the countryside had to finance most of industrial development."[16]
"In the years immediately following independence, central government planners and many policies favored the extraction of capital and resources from the rural areas in favor of industrial development in the cities of India. Although all countries that have developed have used this strategy of capital extraction, in the Indian context the policies created a situation that discouraged domestic production of food for about twenty years, perhaps more, following independence."[17]

The government of India imported food, often very cheaply, to keep the food supply abundant and food prices low. Thus, farmers had little incentive to increase production or to invest in costly farm technologies when they could expect little in return by selling their crops.

After the passage of P.L. 480 in the U.S. in 1956, American grain imports to India increased. India imported so much American grain (which it paid for in rupees) that at one point the United States controlled "as much as one-third of the money supply in India."[18] The downward pressure on prices impacted Indian farmers:[19]

"In fact, prices were so low that Indian domestic production stagnated. Indian farmers simply could not compete against grain sold at a loss by the American government, so they stopped trying and Indian production failed to rise fast enough to meet increasing domestic demand."

Perhaps the commitment to industrialize in the cities without a simultaneous effort to industrialize India's farms stemmed from the hesitance of Prime Minister Nehru:[20]

"Nehru [the Indian Prime Minister] distinguished between the science needed to run modern industry and the science needed to run high-yielding agriculture; he was more of an enthusiast for the former and a reluctant, ambivalent supporter of the latter. Nehru's distress at the imperatives of agricultural science was deeply rooted in his perception of the Indian countryside and a Ghandian philosophy of frugal self-sufficiency as the path to dignity for the Indian peasant."

India-U.S. Relations in the Cold War

During the 1940's and 1950's, India imported food from the United States as a means of staving off famine and keeping food abundant and cheap in its cities. However, by summer 1949, the United States saw its role in providing food and agricultural aid to India in the context of the Cold War. By that time, the USSR had the atomic bomb and China was on the brink of becoming Communist. The US used food and agricultural aid with the hopes of preventing hunger, unrest, and Communism in India.[21] Until at least 1961, the Indian government based its policies upon "a bedrock of steady and usually low-cost American food grain imports."[22] During this time, industrial agricultural methods and hybrid seeds promoted in the Green Revolution did not yet make a major impact on Indian agriculture.

India Joins the Green Revolution

Formation of the Intensive Agricultural District Program (IADP)

While India had previously tried to increase food production by emphasizing social reform, in 1959, a team assembled by Douglas Ensminger of the Ford Foundation, led by Sherman Johnson of the USDA, completed a report entitled India's Food Crisis and the Steps to Meet It. It was "a milestone that shifted India's agrarian strategy from one based on social reform... to one based on new technology, to be adopted by the growers and landowners most prepared to adopt the new practices."[23]

The team "urged the identification of farmers who had access to enough land and a secure water supply. To these growers, India was urged to deliver improved seeds, fertilizers, better irrigation equipment, credit, technical advice, and a guaranteed price that would be sufficient to provide an incentive in production. With state assistance, these growers were to unleash the productive might of capitalism to increase India's agricultural yields."[24]

The report was presented to Nehru, making the case that if India did not change its agricultural system drastically, by 1970 it would need more food than it could make up for with imports. The Indian government asked the Ford Foundation to provide a specific plan for implementing the report's recommendations. A second group, also assembled by Ensminger and led by Johnson, did so. They "prepared a ten-point program that promoted the "package" approach to increasing India's agricultural yields. On a trial basis of seven districts, India would attempt to marshal all of the inputs, to be made available to capable farmers, needed for intensive high-yielding practices. Use of improved seeds, fertilizer, irrigation, and pesticides was indispensible. Also needed were adequate credit facilities, technical advice, and a guaranteed price that would provide the grower an incentive to take the risk of trying new technology. This report was the foundation for the Intensive Agricultural District Program (IADP), the organizational framework for the green revolution."[25]

The Green Revolution Begins

The first several years of the IADP did not amount to much in terms of industrialization of Indian agriculture. The Nehru government endorsed the IADP program but it was not until after Nehru's death in 1964 and the near-simultaneous introduction of Norman Borlaug's hybrid wheat seeds that brought about the true commitment and adoption of the Green Revolution in India.

In 1964, Lal Bahadur Shastri became Prime Minister and apointed C. Subramaniam as Minister of Food and Agriculture. Together, Shastri and Subramaniam worked to encourage an increase in food grain production via increased government support of agricultural production. To do this, they took the recommendation of the Foodgrains Prices Committee that the government should offer incentive prices for grain that are higher than procurement and market prices. Additionally, Subramaniam favored building up government reserves of grain by purchasing it on the open market at incentive prices.[26] With these policies in place, the price of wheat increased by 33 percent between 1964 and November 1965. By 1967, Indian grain production increased steadily.

In August 1965, Subramaniam publishes a plan, "Agricultural Production in the Fourth Five Year Plan: Strategy and Programme," that truly marks the Indian government's commitment to the Green Revolution.[27]

Wheat Breeding in India

Efforts at wheat breeding in India were led by M.S. Swaminathan at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute in New Delhi. In 1959, he got in touch with Norman Borlaug and arranged for Borlaug to travel to India.[28] Borlaug visited in 1963, and, following his trip, shipped several hundred kilograms of Mexican wheat varieties to India.[29] In March 1964, India asked Borlaug for 20 tons each of two varieties, which would be used for 1000 acres of demonstration plots at Indian research institutions.[30]

1964 brought political changes in India, resulting in increased government support for "scientific agriculture," including hybrid wheat. According to John H. Perkins:[31]

"As Minister of Food and Agriculture Subramaniam moved to embrace fully the promise of the high-yielding varieties of wheat, he was simultaneously rejecting the entire basis of India's development plans as they had been developed by Nehru and the Planning Commission since 1947. It is likely that only the near-calamitous political conditions in 1964 and 1965 permitted [Prime Minister] Shastri and Subramaniam to promote a policy that was so accepting of the new wheats at IARI. Possible outbreak of famine, eruption of political violence over shortages of food, and stern pressure from the World Bank all combined by August 1965 to complete the transition in the central government to a full embrace of the technology needed to get higher agricultural production."

Following a brief war with Pakistan in the summer of 1965 and the announcement of new U.S. policies on food aid to India, India asked the Rockefeller Foundation for a large amount of Mexican wheat seeds, to be planted in the fall of 1966. Rockefeller, under President J. George Harrar, offered $100,000 for the purchase of wheat seeds.[32] In public statements, both Shastri and Subramaniam linked national security to India's ability to produce more food via Green Revolution technologies. Subramaniam said: "Our men of science are called upon to provide the ideas and leadership for bringing into the fields and techniques which will effect a breakthrough in our agriculture and sustain its dynamic growth... Agriculture in this country should be regarded as a management problem and not merely a way of life, and I am sure, the productivity approach is going to help us in maximizing output."[33][34]

In 1966, an Indian team led by S.P. Kohli of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute went to Mexico to select and purchase wheat seeds. Their purchase of 18,000 tons of the variety Lerma Rojo 64 was shipped from Sonora, Mexico on July 18, 1966, arriving in the Indian state of Gujarat by mid-September. This was enough seed to plant an estimated 1 million acres at a time when India had 33 million acres planted in wheat, with 10 million of them having irrigation.[35]

Green Revolution varieties of wheat covered 504,000 hectares in India in 1966-67 and grew nearly 20 times to 10 million hectares by 1972-73.[36] For more information, see the article on Wheat Breeding in the Green Revolution

Criticism

"Reporters and scholars who studied India's Green Revolution also found that it altered rural economies against the interests of peasant farmers, making them poorer rather than more prosperous."[37][38][39]

In 1970, Indian Prime Minister Indira Ghandi was quoted in the New York Times saying, "unless the Green Revolution is also accompanied by a revolution based on social justice, the Green Revolution may not remain green."[40]

Resources and articles

Related Sourcewatch articles

References

  1. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, New York, 1997, p. 154.
  2. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 158
  3. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 159
  4. Jill Richardson, How the British Empire Starved Millions of Indians - And Why It Is Still Important Today, La Vida Locavore, November 25, 2009, Accessed April 23, 2011.
  5. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 162
  6. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 165
  7. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 160
  8. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 166
  9. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 166-67
  10. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, New York, 1997, p. 175-76.
  11. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, New York, 1997, p. 176.
  12. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, New York, 1997, p. 176-177.
  13. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 176
  14. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 177
  15. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 179
  16. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 171
  17. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 163
  18. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 175
  19. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 168
  20. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, New York, 1997, p. 155.
  21. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 173-74
  22. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 175
  23. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 181
  24. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 181
  25. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 182
  26. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 184
  27. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 185
  28. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 234-5.
  29. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 235-36.
  30. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 237.
  31. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 240
  32. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 243
  33. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 243
  34. C. Subramaniam, Message, Indian Farming 15, no 7 (1965): 2.
  35. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 244-45
  36. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 245
  37. Joseph Cotter, Troubled Harvest: Agronomy and Revolution in Mexico, 1880-2002, Westport, Connecticut: Praeger Publishers, 2003, p. 258.
  38. "Green Revolution Transforming Indian Farming, but It Has a Long Way to Go," New York Times, May 28, 1969.
  39. "The Ironies of India's Green Revolution," Foreign Affairs 48, 4 (July 1970): 758-68.
  40. "The Green Revolution Has Sharply Increased Grain Yields but May Cause Problems," New York Times, October 22, 1970.

External Resources

Books

  • Mark Dowie, American Foundations: An Investigative History, 2001, The MIT Press.
  • John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997.
  • Lester R. Brown, Seeds of Change: The Green Revolution and Development in the 1970's, 1970, Praeger Publishers, New York.
  • E.C. Stakman, Richard Bradfield, and Paul C. Mangelsdorf, Campaigns Against Hunger, 1967, The Belknap Press, Cambridge, MA.

External Articles

Criticism