The following points highlight the eight main causes of low productivity in Indian agriculture. The causes are: 1. Overcrowding in Agriculture 2. Unhealthy Rural Atmosphere 3. Inadequate Non-Farm Services 4. Size of Holdings 5. Insecurity of Land Tenure 6. Investment Inadequacy 7. Poor Techniques of Production 8. Inadequate Irrigation Facilities.
Cause # 1. Overcrowding in Agriculture:
The real problem of Indian agriculture seems to be that there are too many people who depend on agriculture.
The natural increase in population—from about 35 crore in 1947 to 113 crore in 2007— over 3 times could not be absorbed in industries.
Moreover, dependence on agriculture increased due to the decline of handicrafts.
Over-crowding and the consequent pressure of population on land have led to subdivision and fragmentation of holdings, decline in the area of land per capita, disguised unemployment and almost zero marginal productivity of labour. The area of cultivated land per hectare between 1901 and 1991 declined from 0.43 hectare to 0.22 hectare.
Cause # 2. Unhealthy Rural Atmosphere:
The Indian farmers, generally speaking, are illiterate, ignorant, superstitious, and conservative and bound by old customs and institutions such as the caste system, and the joint family system. Superstition and belief in fate are the curse which keep the farmers totally satisfied with their primitive system of cultivation.
They are just happy if they manage to get two square meals a day. They have non-experimental outlook and are hardly motivated by considerations of economic progress.
Cause # 3. Inadequate Non-Farm Services:
Indian agriculture has suffered because of the inadequacy of such non-farm services as provision of irrigation, seed, finance, marketing, etc. Irrigation facilities in India are inadequate. Even after 60 years of planning, gross irrigated area as percentage of cropped area stands at 40.3 p.c. in 2003-04. This means 60 p.c. of the cropped area are rain-dependent.
If the current trends in irrigation expansion by less than 1 million hectare per annum persist, we are afraid that more than half of the cultivated land would remain un-irrigated even by 2012. Indian farmers are yet to learn intensively the use of improved seed-fertilisers.
Agricultural credit arrangements are inadequate. Institutional sources of credit are mostly directed to the rich farmers. Problems get multiplied once the question of marketing of agricultural produce becomes dominant. Marketing facilities are extremely inadequate.
Cause # 4. Size of Holdings:
The average size of holding in India is very low, less than 2 hectares or 5 acres. Not only agricultural holdings are small but they are fragmented too. So no scientific cultivation with improved implements, seeds, etc., is possible.
Cause # 5. Insecurity of Land Tenure:
A potent force behind low agricultural productivity has been the absence of proper incentives. The cultivator does not often own the land; he has no security of tenancy; and he may be turned out of his land at any time the landowner desires. So the landless worker has little, if any, desire to increase productivity.
It is true that through various land reform measures semi-feudal agrarian structure had been broken to provide a greater fillip to agricultural productivity. The land reform measures are yet to break the semi-feudal rural structure.
Landlordism in a different garb still prevails; eviction of tenants from land is still continuing. Rack-renting is not uncommon; ceiling laws have been violated. Thus, land reform measures not only failed to ensure social justice but also productivity of land could not be raised.
Cause # 6. Investment Inadequacy:
Low productivity in Indian agriculture may be attributed to low volume of governmental investment compared to the industrial sector. In the First Plan (1951-1956), investment in the agricultural sector stood at 31 p.c. It declined gradually to 19 p.c. by the Ninth Plan Period (1997- 2002).
Further, the possibility of resource mobilisation in the agricultural sector is rather bleak. Income generation in the form of land revenue and income tax is rather low. On the contrary, agricultural sector is largely subsidized. All these result in low volume of investment in the agricultural sector. In recent years, investment has declined to 1.3 p.c. of GDP. This is attributed to stagnation in public investment in the reform years.
Cause # 7. Poor Techniques of Production:
The Indian farmers have been using old and inefficient methods and techniques of production generation after generation. Increase in production is possible only if proper and adequate manures are used. But, in India, the use of both farmyard manure and chemical fertilisers is mostly inadequate compared to our needs.
The importance of good quality seeds to increase agricultural productivity hardly requires any emphasis. But, Indian farmers have been using seeds of very poor quality for decades.
With the launching of the New Agricultural Strategy in the mid-60s, the agricultural sector has witnessed a remarkable increase in production and productivity during the last three decades. Still then, it is inadequate compared to the country’s needs.
For instance, modern agricultural technology has had little spread effect among Indian farmers due to a variety of reasons. And, because of slower diffusion of knowledge of improved technology, its applicability is limited and, therefore, productivity differs from region to region. Some regions exhibit higher productivity compared to other states where new agricultural technology is used selectively.
Cause # 8. Inadequate Irrigation Facilities:
One of the proximate causes of the weaknesses of Indian agriculture has been that most of the farmers throughout the country have to depend upon rainfall and very few of them can enjoy the facilities of artificial irrigation. It is the inadequate spread of irrigation facilities that acts as the main barrier for the adoption of HYV seeds.
It is to be noted here that irrigated area in India generally tends to be used for rice and wheat cultivation while the other crops are grown mostly in rain-fed and un-irrigated condition. This demands spreading of irrigation facilities to all crops.
Even after about 60 years of planning, Indian agriculture is highly monsoon-dependent. Roughly 40 p.c. of the total agricultural land is irrigated. This amounts to saying that the Indian agriculture is deficient of investment, though agriculture is the backbone of the nation.
Such a step-motherly attitude towards agriculture, of course in a covert manner, has a deleterious effect on productivity and profitability. During the decade of reforms, the agricultural profitability has fallen by 14.2 p.c. Investment in this sector must be stepped up.
All these suggest that a proper long-term strategy for agricultural development had not been undertaken by the government. Truly speaking, a national agricultural policy had never been drawn up by the government. A national agricultural policy has just now been checked out, say after 58 years of planning.
In addition, another disturbing factor is the neglect of capital formation in agriculture. All these have an impact on agricultural production in the future years.
National Agricultural Policy (2000) and Tenth Plan have given higher priority on raising agricultural productivity to promote faster growth of the agricultural sector as well on promoting the growth of the rural non-farm sector.
A centrally sponsored scheme on National Food Security Mission set up in 2007 aims at increasing food grains production through area expansion and productivity enhancement; restoring soil fertility and productivity; etc.
After identifying the causes of low productivity, we may now suggest some remedies for the same. Prima facie, attempts are being made to find alternative employments for rural population and to change the occupational structure in such a way that less than 45 p.c. of people continue to depend on agriculture.
On the institutional front, the Government is trying to solve the problems of agriculture through land reforms. On the technological front, a modest beginning has been made in converting farmers to the use of improved implements, seeds, chemicals, manures, etc. Green revolution illustrates the point. Irrigation facilities are being increasingly made available.
Double cropping, better rotation of crops, fighting plant diseases and pests, etc. are given due emphasis. However, it may be noted that “productivity enhancing investment in agriculture, however, depends not only on the state of knowledge but also on conditions governing the adoption of technology; it depends on the land tenure system which determines how the agricultural produce is divided between owners of land and agricultural labour; on the terms of trade between agriculture and industry, which determine the relative cheapness of industrial inputs vis-a-vis agricultural produce; and on the level of demand of agricultural produce.”
It is only through an integrated measure of a policy/programme that the challenges facing Indian agriculture can be squarely met. The objectives of government policy should be to develop effective system and provide similar benefits to agriculture as does industry experience.
Unfortunately, one finds a declining trend of investment in the agricultural sector. In view of this, prognosis for the future will be of dubious nature.