Reviving Indian Agriculture
It may sound strange, but despite being known as an agrarian economy, India has had no agriculture policy in place since Independence. In the seven decades since acquiring freedom, the country has only managed to prepare a draft farm policy during the NDA regime in the beginning of the present century. In the absence of a policy, no concrete measure to develop agriculture has ever been undertaken in the country. The apathy has allowed the farm sector to contribute no more than four per cent of the GDP, although more than 50 per cent of the country’s workforce is engaged in farming. On the contrary, the United States of America (USA) reviews its agriculture policy every five years, while the European Union (EU) does the review every decade and the recommendations made by the review committee is made mandatory for member states to follow to ensure uniform development of agriculture in the continent. But for reasons best known to our policy makers, India never tried to follow the path shown by more developed nations, though imitating the western countries, India has formulated policies for all other economic sectors. Considering the fact that agriculture is the backbone of our economy, emphasis was provided to irrigation in the country during the first five-year plan after independence. Several dams were built to judiciously use water resources. First Prime Minister of the country Jawaharlal Nehru termed these establishments as the temples of modern India. Quite strangely, instead of pursuing the initiative, the focus suddenly changed from the second five-year plan onwards. Replacing agriculture, the industrial sector took precedence and steel plants and other manufacturing units began coming up in the country. This is why even in 2015-16, more than half of food grain producing land in the country was without irrigation facilities. In the absence of modern technology and irrigation, India can produce 2.7 tons wheat per hectare, while Australia produces 8.8 tons per hectare. Even Ireland produces more paddy per hectare than India.
As agriculture is being denied its rightful place in the Indian economy, investments in this sector too has dried up alarmingly. In the fifties, agriculture used to attract nearly 20 per cent of the total investments in the country; but it has now come down to merely six per cent in recent years. In absence of adequate capital, no notable development has taken place in the agriculture sector for a long time, which has affected the productivity of the farming sector tremendously. This is why agriculture is not considered a lucrative profession anymore and members of the farming community are looking for alternative avenues for livelihood. But India will never be able to prosper by neglecting agriculture. This is why the downslide in agriculture should be prevented at all costs. To bring the ailing Indian farm sector on the path to recovery, all stakeholders should join hands and draw a blueprint to allow agriculture to contribute its might in making the Indian economy stronger and its many farming citizens more financially secure.