Chapter 1

Indian Agriculture Icon

January 31, 2022

The economic development of a country depends on the collective labour of different social groups.

This is why division of labour gradually evolves out of the domestic economy.

The value of the labour of all groups, including industrial labourers, peasants, carpenters, blacksmiths, goldsmiths, potters, physicians and clerks, is equal in the collective development of the economy.

The Economy of Ancient India

In ancient India, a form of elastic economy supported the collective economy.

In the Vedic Age, India’s economic system evolved through social classes (varńa):

  • shúdras
  • kśatriyas
  • vipras
  • vaeshyas

These remained content with specific economic activities of their choice.

  • One particular class engaged itself in farming, while other classes undertook different occupations.
  • People did not rush towards agricultural work as is happening today.

This class system (varńáshrama) was hereditary, creating socio-economic balance.

In that age, agriculture reached a high degree of expertise and efficiency.

Kings used to be directly involved with the different aspects of agriculture such as:

  • planting multiple crops according to the different seasons
  • large-scale and small-scale agriculture
  • the use of manure
  • the application of insecticides
  • irrigation systems through rivers and canals
  • dairy farming.

The state had the duty to confiscate land from landlords who kept land unutilized, and transfer it to those who could properly utilize it for agriculture.

The value of land was determined by its productivity.

The state used to fix the price of agricultural produce. This prevented the business class from exploiting farmers.

The Impact of the British

India’s economic balance was lost after the British arrived, mainly because of 2 reasons.

  1. The British government was totally indifferent to the development of indigenous industry and agriculture

The British did not even realize the necessity of planning for this type of development.

Instead, it introduced a new system of education which mainly produced a class of clerks which was utilized by the British government to consolidate its administrative power.

Many people gave up their hereditary occupations and sought posts in the British administration. This seriously damaged the agricultural system.

  1. The gradual collapse of indigenous industrial enterprises

The cloth imports from the Manchester cotton mills reduced the demand for hand-woven cloth.

The supply of aluminium utensils also destroyed India’s pottery industry.

The factories established by the British severely affected indigenous industries because they used the latest technology.

Consequently, people gave up their traditional occupations and crowded the agricultural sector for a livelihood.

This problem was compounded by growth in the population, which led to the subdivision and fragmentation of agricultural land. This in turn resulted in decreased production. Food was imported from outside India to feed the population. During the Second World War the importation of food was stopped, causing a severe shortage of food in the country.

To overcome the great famine that struck Bengal in 1943, the Wavell administration introduced a rationing system. Wavell also tried to alleviate the famine by restricting the movement of food from one province to another. But these measures did not solve the problem – rather most people became trapped in the food rationing system.

Post-Independence India

Even after the departure of the British in 1947, about 145,000 people were included in the rationing system. This resulted in the gradual increase of black marketeering, profiteering and other corrupt practices.

The central government suddenly abolished the food rationing system to solve the problem of corruption. This precipitous step caused food prices to skyrocket. This caused the food rationing system to be reintroduced.

The Indian leaders tried to solve this food problem by calling for a “grow more food” campaign. But it failed because the system of agriculture was not changed to increase output.

The government increased the area of arable land, and not the productivity of the existing land.

There was no planning to:

  • determine whether or not the new land was suitable for agriculture
  • build the proper irrigation facilities to improve productivity.

But above all, in the democratic system, bureaucrats had ample scope to neglect their responsibilities.

Due to defective administration, much agricultural potential was wasted.

Consequently, dishonest traders conspired to make the agricultural sector ineffective. They perpetuated the food problem to satisfy their own selfish interests.

So from all points of view the agricultural system in India is extremely weak.

A developed economy must fundamentally have 30-35% of the people working in agriculture.

  • The rest should be employed in industry or other sectors of the economy.

Excessive pressure on agriculture is not a sign of a healthy economy. At present, about 75% of the Indian population is dependent on agriculture for its livelihood.

This is a very dangerous situation for the Indian economy. Those who are engaged in agriculture remain unemployed most of the year and this is an enormous waste of human labour.

Differences Between India and China

Recently, a particular group of politicians raised the slogan of “agricultural revolution” to solve the problem. They wanted to solve India’s agricultural problems by following the example of China.

However, there are vast differences between the agricultural problems confronted by India and those confronted by China. The problems of India can never be solved by following the policies of China.

China’s problem is its huge population which cannot be fed despite considerable agricultural progress.

  • It does not even have enough land to accommodate its huge population which is continually increasing.

In the industrial sphere, China has already exhausted most of its natural resources.

It hopes to preserve its remaining scant resources for industrial development, thus preventing a dark future.

China has 3 main economic problems:

  1. China must feed its increasing population through agricultural development

  2. The percentage of the population employed in agriculture is too high

  3. Employment must be provided to the non-agricultural sector of the economy through industrial expansion.

None of these problems could be solved immediately. This is why China under Mao grabbed land from neighbouring states.

  • The recent Chinese attacks in Tibet, India, and the Soviet Union were motivated by an insatiable hunger for land.(1)

The agricultural problems in India are of a different nature.

There is ample scope for agricultural development and industrial revolution in India.

India suffers economic hardships today because its economic potential has not been properly harnessed.

There are two fundamental economic issues in India. First, the agricultural potentiality of the country must be developed by reducing the percentage of the population working in agriculture. Secondly, the excessively high percentage of the population dependent on agriculture must be reduced by developing industries.

Infusing in people the sentiment of grabbing land from other countries will not solve India’s agricultural problems. The only solution is to increase productivity within the country.

Those who raised the slogan, “China’s agrarian revolution shows the way for India” are labouring under the illusion of defective thinking.