Background Punjab, whose geographical area is 1.53 per cent of India, contributed nearly 50 per cent in respect of wheat and rice to the Central Pool of food grains.
General belief regarding Indian agricultural system Small farmers and fragmented land holdings are often cited as the main problem affecting India’s agricultural growth.
National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) report Brighter side of the report and Worrying part.
Why are high investments by Punjab farmers not bearing fruit? Bulk of private investment in Punjab’s agriculture is to extract groundwater for crops like rice.
Main Reason for this problem Guaranteed Minimum Support Price procurements have prevented the state’s farmers from moving into high value agriculture.
How over-cultivation of rice is a chief culprit in the groundwater depletion crisis Traditionally, rice production has been led to the flooding of rice fields so that the crop grows in standing water throughout much of the growing season.
Environmental Problems associated with this The use of insecticides, pesticides, and herbicides and increasing level of methane gas due to pond-irrigation is polluting the state.
- India experienced heavy shortage of food grains during the World War II, and this shortage continued even after Independence.
- To overcome this problem, the development of agriculture was given a priority while drafting the First Five Year Plan, and its results were quite positive and visible.
- But this problem again came to the fore when priority was given to industry instead of agriculture during the Second Five Year Plan; and was further aggravated during 1960s drought.
- After two successive years of savage drought, India desperately needed American wheat under the US Public Law 480 on rupee payment — and at relatively low prices because the country had no foreign exchange to buy food in the world market.
- The country had to pay a heavy price for this act of the Central Government.
- To solve this problem, the Indian Government during the 1960s decided to initiate the New Agricultural Strategy (NAS) after lengthy deliberations over the success of NAS in various parts of the country. It was decided to introduce NAS in Punjab first keeping in view its hardworking farmers, agricultural labourers and rural small artisans.
- Due to the success of NAS in Punjab, there was phenomenal increase in wheat production and the Centre heaved a sigh of relief to be freed from importing food grains from abroad.
- Due to this success and the increasing demand for food grains in India, the Centre encouraged paddy cultivation upon Punjab through the policy of minimum support prices.
- Since 1970, only Punjab, whose geographical area is 1.53 per cent of India, contributed nearly 50 per cent in respect of wheat and rice to the Central Pool of food grains.
- Punjab solved the problem of importing food grains from abroad, but the Government policies regarding agriculture have created numerous problems for farmers, agricultural labourers and rural small artisans of Punjab.
General belief regarding Indian agricultural system
- Small farmers and fragmented land holdings are often cited as the main problem affecting India’s agricultural growth.
- It is because lower incomes will limit the ability of such farmers to make significant investments and also make them and more vulnerable to price or weather related shocks.
- Punjab – the poster boy of India’s green revolution – which has larger than average farm size and relatively well-off farmers than can be found in the rest of the country is often cited as a benchmark to prove this point.
- But a deeper analysis raises questions on this line of thought.
National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO)report
Brighter side of the report
- Punjab’s farmers are the most well off in comparison to their peers in rest of the country. The report which is based on a survey conducted during 2012-13, gives estimates of monthly incomes for agricultural households.
- (NSSO defined an agricultural household as one in which at least one member was self-employed in agriculture (even if part-time) and which produced at least Rs 3,000 worth of agricultural produce in a year.
- These figures when divided by average household size for states give a per-person estimate of agricultural incomes.)
- Punjab’s farmers have the highest relative share in income, consumption and investment in the country. Relative share in income has been calculated by dividing the percentage share of a state in total agricultural income by its percentage share in number of agricultural households. The same holds for consumption and investment.
- (A value greater than one would mean that put together, the state’s agricultural households have a greater than proportionate share in agricultural incomes)
- Punjab has been witnessing an increase in share of large sized holdings, contrary to what can be seen elsewhere in the country. Thus it can be argued that large farmers are indeed good for boosting farm incomes.
- Despite being home to the richest and most investment oriented farmers in the country, Punjab’s agricultural growth has fallen behind the national average.
- The top five states (Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Telangana) in terms of agricultural growth rates in 2012-13 were among the poorest in terms of agricultural incomes. Although, part of the high growth rate in these states might be due to a lower base, 3 out of these 5 states also have a higher relative share in investment, which suggests some degree of dynamism in their farm economies.
Why are high investments by Punjab farmers not bearing fruit?
- Bulk of private investment in Punjab’s agriculture is to extract groundwater for crops like rice.
- Rich farmers are to blame the most for the sustainability crisis facing Punjab’s agriculture.
- Because of enough money they have, both the number of operational tube wells and average depth is much higher for tube wells of large farmers, especially in villages facing depletion problems. Whereas limited funds prevent small farmers from overexploiting ground water.
Main Reason for this problem
- Guaranteed Minimum Support Price procurements have prevented the state’s farmers from moving into high value agriculture after their initial success during the green revolution.
- While some large farmers have diversified, they also grow rice and wheat as the low risk crop.
- Over exploitation of ground water and damage to soil health as a result of growing crops such as rice is contributing towards making agriculture unsustainable in the state.
How over-cultivation of rice is a chief culprit in the groundwater depletion crisis
- While not a traditional crop in semi-arid Punjab, since the 1960s the combination of new bore well technologies and government policies subsidizing both the price of rice and free electricity for farmers has turned the state into a major exporter of the crop.
- Traditionally, rice production has been led to the flooding of rice fields so that the crop grows in standing water throughout much of the growing season.
- Due to the need of excess water for paddy among the kharif crops, the level of ground water in three-fourth parts of Punjab has taken a serious turn as the water level is continuously going down. In these areas mono-block motors do not work and farmers had to use submersible motors with heavy expenditure. Due to the water level going down, these motors had to be re-fixed with more deep bores after some time. As a result, the marginal and small farmers are pushed into debt and sometime they had to sell some part of their already small land holding.
Environmental Problems associated with this
- Traditionally farmers of Punjab manually harvested and ploughed the fields. The left over crop residues mixed with soil provided nutrients for the next crop a month later. Mechanized harvesting, adopted since the late 1980s – to save time and increase the farmers’ profits – changed all that. Now machines cut the harvest and the stalks are burned to quickly ready the fields for the next planting. The burning leads to manifold increase in air pollution levels during the harvesting season. The soil fertility is also lost due to the burning of essential nutrients.
- The use of insecticides, pesticides, and herbicides and increasing level of methane gas due to pond-irrigation is polluting the state, and the people of Punjab have to pay a heavy price in the shape of various dangerous diseases and other health related problems.
- Punjab’s live-stock is also badly affected due to environmental problems.
- Reckless manufacturing and use of insecticides, pesticides, and herbicides must be controlled to avoid environmental pollution. There is a need to go for organic farming.
- The agriculture planning must be done keeping in view the climate conditions of the region/area, and only such crops be sown which suit the climate of that area.
- By practicing above suggestions, it will be possible to make crop-diversification a success in Punjab, and a greater success for the nation.