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Water and Agricultural Transformation in India

An argument for twin propositions is presented in this two-part paper: (i) that solving India’s water problem requires a paradigm shift in agriculture (Part I), and (ii) that the crisis in Indian agriculture cannot be resolved without a paradigm shift in water management and governance (Part II). The second part describes the paradigm shift needed in water, which includes rejuvenation of catchment areas of rivers, a shift towards participatory approaches to water management, focus on green water and protective irrigation, and widespread adoption of water-saving seeds and technologies, while building transdisciplinarity and overcoming hydro-schizophrenia in water governance.

Water and Agricultural Transformation in India

An argument for twin propositions is presented in this two-part paper: (i) that solving India’s water problem requires a paradigm shift in agriculture (Part I), and (ii) that the crisis in Indian agriculture cannot be resolved without a paradigm shift in water management and governance (Part II). If farming takes up 90% of India’s water and just three water-intensive crops continue to use 80% of agricultural water, the basic water needs of millions of people, for drinking water or protective irrigation, cannot be met. This first part argues that the paradigm shift in agriculture requires a shift in cropping patterns suited to each agroecological region, a movement from monoculture to polycultural crop biodiversity, a decisive move towards agroecological farming, and greater emphasis on soil rejuvenation.

Labour Partnership, Sharecropping and Tribal Migration

This paper discusses the distinct form of sharecropping arrangement known in Gujarat as bhagiya mazdoori involving migrant tribal households. The main purpose is to understand this institution in terms of its specific features as practised in north Gujarat positioned as it is in a changing agrarian system. The livelihood condition of the tribal sharecroppers in the source villages and their work and living conditions in the farms at the destination locations are the core themes of the discussion. The paper delineates relevant policy measures to prevent perpetuation of exploitative arrangements that bhagiya system represents.

Of Half-moon Nights and Peasant Tragedy

By reading rural distress and peasant suicide in Punjabi literature produced in the realist mode, this paper conducts the economic analysis of the fictional small peasant—an atomised entity divorced from his land, which is now simply a means of production in a capitalist agrarian market. It reads the production of Gurdial Singh’s award-winning novel Adh Chanani Raat (1972) as prophesising the long-term adversities concomitant with the productive excesses of the green revolution in Punjab. The novel argues for a model of heroism rooted in Punjabi social tradition and collective history, which struggles against this alienating influence of capitalist economic forces to find succour in an older way of life. Therefore, this paper attempts to study Gurdial Singh’s reworking of peasant consciousness as a “narrative of oppression” where the small farmer is a heroic figure because of his resilience in the face of inevitable tragedy.

A New Class Alliance in the Indian Countryside?

Processes of socio-economic differentiation alter balances of power. This article explores the possibility that the current wave of farmers’ protests partly reflects a resetting of class alliances in the Indian countryside centred on small farmers and farmer-labourers who now account for over 85% of farming households. It does so by returning to the new farmers’ movement mobilisations of the 1980s and 1990s, and comparing three key relations between then and now: relations between farmers and the state, between farmers and large capital, and relations within the countryside between larger and smaller farmers and landless labourers. Smaller farmers, it is argued, are now more likely to ally with farmer-labourers and the landless, who are in turn less dependent on larger farmers than they used to be because of the growth of non-agricultural wage labour. The neo-liberal Indian state’s pro-corporate farm bills mean that contradictions within the countryside are for now overshadowed by external contradictions. And if implemented, they will accelerate processes of socio-economic differentiation in ways that make a new centre of political gravity in the Indian countryside more likely.

Indebtedness among Farmers in Punjab

While debt among farmers is no longer considered undesirable, ever-mounting debt and reduced repayment capacity surely are. The existing literature has found a deep connection between indebtedness and suicides among farmers and perceived it as a reflection of growing agrarian distress. Based on the findings of a primary survey conducted in Punjab, we try to assess the debt position of Punjab’s farmers, and present the magnitude and burden of debt, highlighting the farmers’ debt repaying capacity. The source and purpose of credit are discussed in detail and the factors affecting indebtedness have also been explored.

Scale Neutrality in Indian Agriculture

Marginal and small farm sizes constitute more than 85% of the operational holdings in India. Several concerns regarding the sustainability, efficiency, access to formal sources of credit and the scale neutrality of such credit plague the smallholders. This study finds that the smallholders are efficient but the returns to them are woefully low, which threatens their sustainability. Further, the smallholders have to rely more on non-institutional sources for their credit requirement and often with a greater interest burden. In addition, the credit provided by formal sources is not scale-neutral. This posits a difficulty for policy praxis, which must urgently address these issues plaguing the smallholders.

Farm Size and Productivity Debate in Indian Agriculture

This paper shows the statistical validity of the farm size and crop productivity relationship after five decades of the advent of the green revolution. The results indicate that the inverse effect of farm size on productivity is visible at an aggregate level, but the relationship varies across...

India’s Green Revolution and Beyond

The widely accepted “success” of India’s green revolution in making the country self-sufficient in foodgrains has made it the model for all agrarian futures envisioned in the country. This article argues that this vision of the future is based on a selective understanding of India’s agrarian past as backward and needing redemption. There is inadequate evidence to support the claim that India was food-insecure in the 1960s. Moreover, evidence suggests that India’s food and nutritional insecurities today are the aftermath of the green revolution strategy promoted since the 1960s. This article is a small contribution towards comprehensively outlining that past so that we can begin to imagine a new vision for India’s agrarian future.

Rethinking Agricultural Revolutions

Rethinking Revolutions: Soyabean, Choupals, and the Changing Countryside in Central India by Richa Kumar, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2016; pp xiii + 398; ₹875.

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