By: Hari Sud
March 25, 2007
expressed here are author’s own and not of this website. Full disclaimer
is at the bottom.
400 million tons of food grain production as opposed to about 214 million
tons in 2006-07 is the target of “Second Green Revolution. It is unlikely
to happen to-morrow or next year, but it possibly may happen by 2020. To
achieve the forgoing amount of production a growth rate of 5 to 6% in
agricultural sector has to be maintained over next 15 years. Current
growth rate in this sector is stagnant or at best 2% (in last ten years).
The latter has depleted the country’s food stock and forced the government
to negotiate import of 5 million tons of wheat. With practically no more
land to farm and some depletion of the agricultural land, this miracle is
not easy to achieve. Science and technology has to play its big role. High
productive seeds, private sector involvement and expenditure on long
stalled irrigation schemes are key to achieving higher production.
Population growth in India is at the rate of 1.8 to 2.2% a year. With
rising population and slow rate of agricultural growth, situation is
likely to get alarming if not worst next in 5 to 8 years. Food
self-sufficiency of nineties will be a forgotten achievement. Shortages
will loom. Famines may not visit India, but shortages will visible shaken
the national confidence. To quote an old Chinese saying – When price of
rice goes far beyond what a common man can pay, heaven ordains a new
ruler. Agrarian distress is much more worst than industrial unrest. It has
already ejected an otherwise a finely run government of National
Democratic Alliance in 2004. Farmer suicides and other agrarian issues
prevented some state voters from voting for the NDA. Situation is no
different toady, except that timely rains this year have brightened the
prospect of the Rabi (wheat) crop. That does not mean that issue will not
be pushed to the forefront in the coming federal elections.
What is Required to Start the Second Green Revolution?
If the gains of “First Green Revolution” 1970-90 are to be strengthened,
then a Second Green Revolution is to be initiated. The First Green
Revolution was made possible with the availability of miracle wheat
variety, electricity at the farms and land reforms. The triumvirate of
Swaminathan, Venkatraman & Indira Gandhi, provided the leadership. With
its success, the begging bowl stereotype of India in the West was laid to
rest. Instead a new India, still poor but confidant, proving IR, BPO and
KPO service to the world was born. There was a 15 years respite from a bad
news on the agricultural front. A lot of food grains were exported. We in
the West, with Indian heritage, who still prefer Indian basmati and daals,
loved to purchase all things Indian. We still buy the same but are also
reading a few bad reports like depleted reserve food stocks etc. Wheat is
arriving from Australia. It has dampened the inflationary mood in the
country a bit. Luckily, the rains of February and March have helped. Need
to import the full 5 million tons of wheat shortfall may not be necessary.
The issue at hand is not today but what is likely to happen in next 10
years, if the agricultural production stayed sluggish.
Hence Government of India is back into square one i.e. what needs to be
done to trigger higher agricultural growth in India. We may wish to call
it the “Second Green Revolution”. But it is a high-end initiative with
both Federal and State governments are full participants.
It will also require:
1.Genetically modified (GM) seeds to double the per acreage production
2.Private sector to develop and market the usage of GM foods i.e.
efficient marketing of the ideas,
3.Linking of rivers as much as economically possible to bring surplus
water of one area to others i.e. linking of the rivers.
Not only that, a significant contribution is to be made by the farmers
themselves. They have to get out of the ancient mode of being peasant
farmers on small land holdings. They have to become businessmen, who trade
in agricultural products. Just like any other businessmen they have to
look for the most economical way to boost productivity and profits to
themselves. Splitting of land holding, after a father passes away, into
multiple children have depleted the economic viabilities of farms. Farm
economics have to be revisited and economic size of the farm
re-established. Continued dependency on government bailout during any
crisis has to be minimized. Lesser the government involved, more likely is
that controls and state trading in grains will be eliminated. It requires
farmers to become responsible businessmen.
Consumer has to grow up a bit also. “Genetically Modified Food” is here to
stay. It is the salvations of the rapidly increasing population.
Opposition to the GM food in India is wholly politically motivated. It has
to be ended in favor of adopting new techniques to boost productivity.
Forty years back, a similar political lobby opposed the introduction of
Mexican wheat variety in India. This in fact began the first green
revolution. Today, results of this wheat variety are wonderful. Now a
similar campaign to demonize GM food is under way. Believe it or not some
of these well-tried concepts are India’s ultimate salvation.
GM Food and India
GM food is new and its concept is not well understood, especially in
India. Communications are faulty. Everybody who wishes to oppose US in
more than one-way, have found a new way to continue his or her tirade
against the GM food. GM food is an American private innovation.
Governments had nothing to do with it. Private sector innovated it and
marketed it. Today a significant amount of daily-consumed foodstuff in
North America is GM food. In a nutshell GM is about improving the crop
(such as yield), pest resistance, herbicide tolerance etc. to name a few.
It will improve yield from the same fields by about 25% to 50%. It is
something every farmer would wish to have. It is something a consumer
would wish to have as pest free food gets to the dinner table. Shortages
would cease to exist.
There is definitely a health risk with GM food. Because it is a recent
innovation, its long term and very long-term impact on human body is not
well understood. But North American consumer is the best laboratory for
it. They have been consuming it for the last 15 years. If any untoward
issue surfaces, they will be the first to feel it. Crop area under GM food
production in last 10 years in US alone has increased 50 times. In India,
maize, oil seeds, fruits & vegetables, soybeans, wheat crop yields will
dramatically increase. Other beneficiaries will be cotton, potato, onion
Building on this success in US, President George Bush during his March
2005 visit, began a $100 million initiative - Indo-US Knowledge Initiative
in Agricultural Research and Education. Its precise intentions are to
begin the Second Green Revolution in India. Its details are not well
known. One reason for a bit of secrecy is the political sensitivities in
India. Without knowing the details and analyzing the benefits, people who
oppose it have called it as an Indian sell out to American corporate
interests. Even if a small (20%) land comes under GM cultivation in India,
it will add 30 to 60 million tons of additional food for the consumer. Not
only that, farmer on these parcels of lands will be lifted out of poverty.
This is just the beginning. Fifteen years hence, GM food may lead the way
to lift all the rural population out of poverty. Why Do We Wish that
Private Sector, instead of Government Manage the Second Green Revolution.
There are obvious reasons for wishing corporate participation in India’s
Second Green revolution. First, the above-mentioned triumvirate, which
guaranteed the success of the First Green Revolution, may be difficult to
form. Leadership issues and party politics will make any government
initiative difficult to succeed. Make up of governments in last 10 years
and 10 more years to come, has been and will be a hotchpotch of political
ideology. Hence, it will be harder to find a coherent policy for some time
to come. Second, efficient delivery of services will be the key to higher
agricultural output. Governments, especially the democratic governments,
are not geared for efficiency and effective delivery of any services.
Current food marketing and storage system all owned by the government (FCI)
is key example. Rough estimates indicate that anywhere from 20 to 30% of
the food is spoiled, before it hits the dinner table. Thirdly, US
multinationals (Wal-Mart & Monsanto) would prefer to deal with the private
sector than with government officials.
Private sector in India is very willing to enter this profitable sector. A
joint venture between Bharti Telco’s Milltal and E L Rothschild (a British
investment firm) is making foray into export of fresh fruits & vegetables.
It has leased 50,000 acres of land in Punjab and will grow vegetables for
export to Europe. It will also become a laboratory for new ideas. A $50
million investment initially, is expected to export $15 million worth of
produce in the current year rising rapidly in next three years as shipping
and storage issues are overcome. Reliance, which in last 15 years has
become an industrial giant, has plans to invest about $6 Billion in
agricultural retail sector. Their retail outlets will be linked to farms
in Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra and West Bengal. This has potential to
revolutionize handling and distribution of the food in the country. It
will also deliver better returns to the farmers. The forgoing is a US
model where corporate giants like Cargill run distribution and manage farm
output. The present government in India has to readjust its policy to let
the private sector play a role. The latter is most likely to succeed.
Success of ventures like this will persuade governments to give up its
complete control over food distribution in the country.
Linking of the Rivers to Transfer Surplus Water to deficient Areas
It is no longer a pipe dream, although there are a few un-surmountable
obstacles. East India (Brahamaputra valley) is surplus in water. This
water during July to October each year causes havoc. This could be
transferred to West and South. Similarly rainy season surplus water in the
Gangetic plains can reach the southern India and develop agriculture in
areas unknown before. But there are problems. Bangladesh would not permit
digging of any canal from Assam to Central India through its territory,
even though; it benefits them as much as it benefits India. Again, the
Gangetic plains are at lower elevation and 400 miles wide mountain ranges,
rising at places from 3,000 feet to 6,000 feet in central India’s
geography prevents any easier transfer of water. Hence, although
agriculture will benefit immensely with both these river link schemes,
solutions are not forthcoming in next 20 to 30 years. Bangladesh issue may
never reach solution. They would prefer to float in floodwater year after
year than to let India dig a canal through its territory. Hence water of
Brahamaputra may never reach central India. For north-south link of
rivers, technology may some day, make digging of tunnel-canal link easier.
That is a hope. A garland canal link traveling the contours of Indian
peninsula is possible. It has been previously suggested but has not gone
beyond the feasibility stage. It will circumvent the mountains in central
India but does not deliver water to the arid lands of south-central India,
where it is needed most. Moreover the garland canal is useless until it
gets a huge water supply from the Assam valley. Without loosing heart on
possible river links, India has to explore other possibilities. A scheme
to transfer Gangetic basin water westwards towards Haryana, Rajasthan and
Gujarat is a possibility. The latter scheme will be a great engineering
achievement. This, half the size of the original scheme, will increase the
land under cultivation by 15%. Impact on local economy of this water will
India has about 150 million hectares of land under cultivation. This is
down by about 10% from land under cultivation 20 years back. Urban
encroachment, unprofitable cultivation, water logging etc. are key reasons
of this reduction. Of the total land under cultivation, only 45 million
hectares are irrigated. This delivers about 55% of the total food output.
Rest of the 95 million hectares of land is rain fed or ground water
irrigated. This bulk of the land produces 45% of the total food
production. This latter is the area to concentrate most to boost food
output. Whereas progressive Indian farmers can experiment with GM food in
the irrigated lands, minor and major irrigation schemes have to play a
major role in boosting productivity in the un-irrigated areas. This is
where the state and federal governments have to play a bigger role.
Whether it is interlinking of the rivers or local irrigation schemes,
something more need to be done. Government initiatives are the key to the
success. Funding for the local schemes is to be readily made available.
Current Budget envisages a much higher level of funding for rural schemes.
This increase is partly an election year politics and partly to boost
funds for the rural areas which previously were not a top priority.
Whether this increased availability of funds will translate into start of
much delayed irrigation initiatives or not, time will tell. Usually any
government schemes requires 3 to 4 years of paper work before the first
shovel of dirt is thrown at site and another 4 years to complete. Any
initiatives taken now will bear fruit in about 6 to 8 years. This time
frame on new projects is an acceptable consequence of democracy. Projects,
which are already in progress or on which progress is slow, can be
expedited. Speedily appropriated funds can to expedite projects already in
the pipeline. This will fill-up the gap before newer and bigger projects
like river links become a reality.
The Second Green Revolution of boosting food-grain output in India to 400
million tons in next 15 years is need of the day. Its achieving is not
very difficult. Rather it is achievable if mindset on introducing newer
technology is changed. India has to whole-heartedly embrace the new
technology. Private sector is better suited to deliver results than
government managed schemes. Governments on the other hand can play a key
role in expediting irrigation schemes and managing water resources.
Send your views to author
Do you wish to reach our readers?
your guest column
Copyright and Disclaimer:
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and not of this
website. The author is solely responsible for the contents of this
article. This website does not represent or endorse the accuracy,
completeness or reliability of any opinion, statement, appeal, advice or
any other information in the article. Our readers are free to forward this
page URL to anyone. This column may NOT be transmitted or distributed by
others in any manner whatsoever (other than forwarding or web listing page
URL) without the prior permission from
us and the author.
Previous articles by:
Discord on Indo–US Nuclear Deal
2012 Must Be A Defining Year for India
India on Roll, but China West"s Darling
Crush Present Day Jihadi by Throttling Money..
Diamonds & Jewelry, India in the Lead
Perfect Storm – Last 2 years of Bush Preside..
WTO & India
India, China - Primary Manufacturers of Worl...
Next India-Pakistan War will be over...
Western media thrives on Indian poverty
N-Deal: Plan B if the Deal Fails
Vanishing Poverty and Slums in India
US Legislative Process: Indo-US N-Deal
N-deal: Economic, Political and Techno...
Clash of Two Aggressive Religions
All articles by: