66 years on, agriculture still India’s backbone

Agriculture forms 75% of India's GDP | Photo: Nayan Das
Agriculture forms 75% of India’s GDP | Photo: Nayan Das

It is going to be 66 years since Jawaharlal Nehru on the eve of 14th August 1947 spoke his golden words, “At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.”  So it soon will be 66 years since India woke up.

Every year on Independence Day there are certain number of stories which are always run by media houses, like, “Independence day- just another holiday”, “Is India really Independent?” etc. We also constantly debate over the fact that India has not grown. There is more corruption, more illiteracy, more poverty; it’s a very long list as you know. But what about how much India has grown? What about how India has become one developing nation from an under-developed nation?

The fact that India’s literacy has more than doubled from 30% to 74%, according to the Census of 2011, is completely ignored by all of us. After the implementation and continuous practice of Green Revolution principles, India has become a self sufficient nation in terms of food. No one talk about how Indian agriculture has developed and evolved since independence.

India is known to be an agrarian based society. Our agricultural sector is the backbone of India’s economy.  With its allies like fisheries and forestry the agricultural sector is the single largest contributor to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country by contributing almost as much as one-third of the total GDP.

About 70% of the country’s population live in rural area according to the census of 2011 and most of them are dependent on agriculture for their livelihood. Every farmer toils for at least 10-12 hours tilling and working on a field. Gorango, a farmer in Bhogaram, Orissa, works for almost half the day. He used to work on the land owned by a rich family in the neighboring village, but today he owns a piece of  land all by himself. He works of himself and earns for himself. This is the case of lots of farmers in India.

One of the best things that happened to the Indian agrarian society was the initiative and implementation of the Green Revolution in 1966-67. Prior to the 1960’s India used to rely on imports and food aid to sustain its livelihood. After severe droughts in 1965 and 1966, India decided to change its agricultural policies. The green revolution was a boom in the country. It gave birth to the bread and basket state of India, i.e. Punjab.

According to the Food and Agricultural organization of the United Nations (in 2009), India is the largest producer of a number of crops like jute, milk, select fresh meat etc. and also the second largest producer of wheat and rice. According to Agricultural Development in India since Independence: A Study on Progress, Performance, and Determinants by, Amarnath Tripathi and A.R. Prasad, in India barren and uncultivated land has fallen from 37484 thousand hectares to 17709 thousand hectares since 1950-51 to 2000-2001. The amount of net sown area has increased by 18.44% since 1950-1951.

Still think India has not developed at all? At least the backbone of the country’s economy has. India is going to be 66 years in a few days. We are developing, if not in the speed, but in our minds, we are. By the latest census, India is a country with 1.24 billion people. For a number like this, development takes time and patience.  So this year let us go into this New Year of Independence with what John F. Kennedy said, “Ask not, what your country can do for you. Ask what, you can do for your country.