Punjab Agriculture Sector Statistics


The Green Revolution

In this section an attempt has been made to understand why the Green Revolution was so successful in Punjab, to scrutinise its results and contrast it with the present agrarian crisis.

India has gone from a food-deficit to a food- surplus country largely because of the agricultural transformation of Punjab. The economic transformation of rural Punjab is basically a story of agricultural transformation. During the 1960s a fundamental change occurred in the institutional and economic infrastructure due to massive public investment. There was irrigation and power development, agricultural research and extension services, and the strengthening of the co-operative credit structure. Already, consolidation of holdings and the predominance of owner farmers had created crucial pre-requisites for the Green revolution.

Punjab led the country�s Green Revolution of the 1960s and earned for itself the distinction of becoming India�s �bread basket�. The Green Revolution introduced a new technology of production in agriculture. The technology consisted of a package of inputs, such as, high-yielding varieties of seeds, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides, weedicides, machines like tractors, threshers, pumpsets/motors, combine harvesters/ reapers and others. The proper usage of these inputs required an assured irrigation system, a peasantry with the will and capacity to adopt the new technology and a government willing to lend its support and investment. All these conditions were present in Punjab.

In fact, before the Green Revolution, Punjab had experienced certain developments that set the stage for its rapid spread. Before Independence, Punjab�s agriculture had been dominated by peasant proprietors (Singh, 1989). The rapid settlement of land claims after the partition of the state, and the completion of the consolidation of land holdings by the end of the 1950s created a favourable man-land ratio.  The fragmentation of land holdings seen in other states of India was thus taken care of. This encouraged peasant proprietors to invest in land improvement and adopt new technologies, as their holdings had become economically viable. Land reform measures also encouraged several land owners to reclaim their land from tenants for self-cultivation (Gill, 2001). Punjab was also a major beneficiary of British investment in irrigation works and development of canal colonies where peasants from the east and central Punjab were resettled. In the post-Independence period, canal irrigation was further development by the state. By 1960-61 the net sown area irrigated in Punjab had gone up to 54 percent.

During the British period, agriculture in Punjab, particularly in the canal colonies was largely commercialised. The peasants who migrated to Indian Punjab from western Punjab in 1947-48 during Partition were experienced in and geared towards commercial agricultural production. Thus, even before the availability of the Green Revolution technology, Punjab was showing signs of rapid agricultural development. Between 1953-55 to 1963-65, the index of agricultural production of all crops experiences a growth rate of 4 percent compared to 2.2 percent at the all India level (Singh, 2001). These conditions in Punjab were accompanied by an official policy of strengthening and promoting agricultural research and extension. The College of Agricultural at Ludhiana was converted into the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) in 1962. PAU was put in charge of agricultural research and education in the state and played an active role. It is renowned for its work on high yielding varieties of seeds and technical innovations like fertiliser drills and threshers.

Simultaneously, the government invested massively in rural development, ranging from irrigation works, drainage of rain water, reclamation of land to solve the problem of land salinity. To promote investment at the farm level, arrangements were made for credit on long and short term crop loans through land mortgage, banks and a network of cooperative credit societies.

High-yielding dwarf varieties of wheat from the International Centre for Maize and Wheat Improvement (CIMMYT) Mexico, were introduced leading to bumper crops. The availability of assured irrigation for fertile lands provided a conducive environment that enabled a dynamic peasantry to accept innovations in seed technology. Several farmers already possessed the immediate capacity (supported by the government) to make the necessary investments in the new technology. These initial innovators were immediately imitated by other farmers, irrespective of the size of their holdings, when they observed the sudden jumps in per hectare yield.

The impact was dramatic. Between 1965-66 and 1970-71 the per hectare yield of wheat doubled, from 1104 kg per hectare in 1965-66 to 2238 kg in 1970-71. Following the success of the new technology in wheat in the mid -1970s, a breakthrough was achieved in dwarf high-yielding varieties of paddy. After wheat, paddy provided a major push to agricultural prosperity in the state. By the mid -1980s, except for the southern parts of Punjab, the state began to follow a� wheat-paddy rotation� pattern in cultivation, and, as a consequence Punjab became the food bowl of the country. It became the largest contributor to the central pool of procurement of food grains both for food security, as well as for running the public distribution system of food grains. With the minimum support price for wheat and paddy combined with the procurement system of the union government, crop production was greatly supported.

The Green Revolution has been the backbone of Punjab�s development. It increased cropping intensity from 126 percent in 1960-62 to 185 percent in 1996-97, and the net sown area as a percentage of the geographical area rose from 75 to 85 during this period. The number of tractors rose from 10,646 in 1962-65 to 234,006 in 1990-93 and pumps sets from 45,900 to 721,220. Fertilizer (NPK) consumption increased from 30,060 tonnes in 1962-65 to 1212,570 tonnes in 1990-93. Consumption of chemical inputs also increased.

An important social affect of the Green Revolution was the destruction of the old jajmani system and its replacement by a contractual relationship. This severaly affected the fortunes of service castes and artisans and resulted in unemployment and underemployment. Many were driven to poverty.

Another social change was the disappearance of caste rigidities and the emergence of the middle and rich peasants as the dominant peasantry in the state. A significant feature of the agrarian society in Punjab is the numerical preponderance of Jat Sikhs in rural areas. Scheduled Castes form what is called the agricultural proletariat or labour force.

The Green Revolution also brought changes in lifestyle. Aspirations increased � there was demand for better education for children, better housing and better consumer goods. The traditional �joint family� system was gradually replaced by the �nuclear family�.

Politics also changed. There was a gradual shift of power from the urban elite to the rural elite. The Jat Sikhs became the dominant political group and as a result, development of agriculture became the top priority of every successive government. Supply of agricultural inputs at cheaper rates became a core demand. In order to relieve farmers from money lenders, co-operative societies and commercial banks were established in large numbers to provide agricultural credit to the farming community. As agricultural became modernised, electricity for agricultural purpose was required at cheap rates for long hours. Similarly, fertilizers and pesticides were also required to be supplied at cheap rates. Thus, successive governments responded by granting subsidies.

The impact of the Green Revolution differed through the regions of Punjab. The Doaba region saw a sizeable immigration of Sikhs to England, United States and Canada. Money remittances from overseas communities were used by the Jat Sikh farmers in the Doaba to improve their houses, increase lands and to buy machines. Recruitment in the army has always been an important adjunct to the agricultural economy. However, the trend of supplementing agricultural income from other sources was unevenly spread through the different regions. The Doaba region was foremost in this trend, followed by Majha and, only a part of the Malwa region, like the districts of Ludhiana and Patiala. One area where the impact of the Green Revolution was least felt was the so-called Kandi region (the area of the Himalayan foothills). Until today, the Kandi belt continues to remain relatively backward socially and economically.

The Green Revolution technology worked very well until the beginning of the 1980s.  But subsequently agricultural began to show signs of fatigue. Productivity slowed and stagnation set in. PAU estimates show that on an average the Punjab farmer achieved 75 percent of the achievable potential yields of rice and wheat with the currently available technology (PAU, 1998).

As union and state government support to agricultural has declined, the present cropping pattern and production system seems to be economically unsustainable. Additionally, the Green Revolution technology has put great pressure on the ecological system, leading to a fall in the level of the ground water table, and soil depletion. Thus, the initial prosperity that the peasantry achieved is at this time diminishing at a very rapid rate. Punjab now requires new technology to make the present crops more profitable, as well as ecologically sustainable.

A case study on the impact of the Green Revolution on rural Punjab by Abbi and Singh prepared in 1997: 

Some of the major changes found in this study that may have taken place in a period of 30 years falling between 1965 and 1995 are highlighted as follows:

The increase in agriculture productivity was reflected in the increase in capital investment.  More and more pucca houses were constructed and roads were paved.  The village presently has a middle school, a rural dispensary, telephone service, pucca roads, a co-operative bank, a milk collection post, police post and a focal point.

The social gap between the higher and the lower castes became negligible in this period.  A major change in the caste hierarchy was visible in both public ceremonial functions and interpersonal relations, strengthening the cross-caste alliance.  The cross-caste similarity of lifestyles, helped to promote egalitarian social interaction.

Many agricultural labourers migrated from UP and Bihar and this led to a change of occupation for the local labourer from agriculture to other occupations like masonry, construction work, driving, plumbing etc. 

Sources: B.L. Abbi and Singh. �Post-Green Revolution Rural Punjab: A Profile of Economic and Socio-Culture Change (1965-1995)�.

 Source: Human Development Report 2004, Punjab