Agriculture in India and its silent features

Photo by Parij Photography

India is pre-eminently an agricultural country. About 70 % of the working force of India drives its livelihood by practicing agriculture. It plays a vital role in the economy of India. Till 1971, about 80 % of the Indian population lived in rural areas and depended directly or indirectly on agriculture. It contributed 45 percent of Gross Domestic Production (GDP) at that time. However, now the importance of agriculture in India has greatly reduced due to the rapid development in other sectors like mining, manufacturing, transport, and trade. Urbanization is one of the contributing factors to the reduced popularity of agriculture. It is often said that India has an agrarian economy. But statistics tell a different story, today agriculture and allied sectors contribute nearly 25 % of GDP, while about 65-70 % of the population is dependent on agriculture for their livelihood, and it still forms the hub of India's economy.

Agriculture provides raw materials to many key industries, like sugarcane, cotton, jute, and oil seeds. Despite record foodgrain production during the course of the past few years, the share of agriculture and allied sectors to India's gross domestic product (GDP) has declined by more than 4.5% between 2004-05 and 2010-11. The agriculture & Allied sectors which used to contribute 19 percent of GDP in 2004-05 have come down to 14 percent in 2011-12 at 2004-05 prices, according to government data. This decline is on account of comparatively higher growth in GDP of non-agriculture sectors, official sources said. But the capital investment in the agriculture sector has shown improvement, As per official figures, Gross Capital Formation (GCF) investment in the agriculture sector (at 2004-05 prices) has increased from Rs 69,148 crore in 2004-05 to Rs 1,30,907 crore in 2010-11. Foodgrain production has also shown an increase from 217.28 million tonnes in 2006-07 to 257.44 million tonnes in 2011-12, it said.  So despite all the odds Indian agriculture is developing, but the other sectors have shown more development than agriculture.

India provides many favorable features for the development of agriculture. The huge northern plain of India, which is considered one of the most fertile lands in the world, has rich soils, a high percentage of cultivable land, and wide climatic variety, which facilitates the growth of a wide variety of crops, adequate aggregate rainfall due to monsoon combined with sufficient temperature, ample sunshine and long growing season provides a solid base to agriculture in India.

Rapid growth in the agriculture sector is credited to the advancement in technology. New types of equipment like tractors, harvesters, threshers, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, etc have contributed a lot to the development of agriculture in India. The sudden boom in the production of food grain in 1967-68 (25 % higher than that of 1966-67 ) was possible due to the Green Revolution. Moreover, income generated in the agriculture sector creates a ready market for various manufactured goods. Thus agriculture acts as a supplier of raw materials to industries and as a consumer of industrial products. It is evident that the prosperity of the industrial sector largely depends upon agricultural prosperity. In fact, the prosperity of the entire nation depends upon the prosperity of the agriculture sector of the country, and that is particularly true in the case of India.

Indian agriculture has its own peculiarities. Some of the features of Indian agriculture are mentioned as follows:-  

The pressure of the population on Agriculture

The more the population, the more will be demand for food. India is the second most populated country in the world and it is increasing at a rapid pace and exerting heavy pressure on agriculture. Agriculture has to provide employment to a large section of the workforce and has to feed the teeming millions.

Importance of the Animals

The animal force has always played a significant role in agricultural occupations like ploughing, irrigation, threshing, and transport of agricultural products. However, the advancement in agriculture technologies has significantly reduced the importance of animals but still, the role of animals in Indian agriculture can not be ignored.

Dependent upon Monsoon

Indian agriculture is mainly dependent upon the monsoon which is uncertain, unreliable, and irregular.  In spite of all the development in the irrigation system since independence, only one-third of the cropped area is provided by perennial irrigation, and the remaining two third of the cropped area has to bear the brunt of the vagaries of the monsoon.

Subsistence type of farming

Most parts of India have subsistence agriculture. The farmer owns a small piece of land, grows crops in it with the help of his family members, and consumes almost the entire farm produce with little left with them to sell in the market. This type of agriculture has been practiced in India for the last several decades and still prevails in spite of the large-scale changes in agriculture practices after independence.

Variety in the crops 

Variety is the soul of India. Varieties in its relief, climate, and soil composition produce the variety in the crops. Both temperate and tropical crops are successfully grown in India. Very few countries in the world have a variety of crops comparable to that of India.

The predominance of food crops

Since Indian agriculture has to feed a large population, the production of food crops is the first priority of farmers almost everywhere in the country. More than two third of the total cropped area is devoted to the cultivation of food crops. However, with the change in the cropping pattern, the relative share of food crops came down from 76.7 % in 1950-51 to 58.8 % in 2002-03.

Seasonal pattern

India has three major crop seasons:-

Kharif season starts with the onset of the monsoon and continues till the beginning of the winter. Major crops of this season are rice, maize, jowar, bajra, cotton, sesamum,  groundnut, and pulses such as moong and urad.
Rabi season starts at the beginning of the winter and continues till the end of the winter or the beginning of the summer. Major crops of this season are wheat, barley, jowar, gram, and oil seeds such as linseed, rape, and mustard.
Zaid is the summer cropping season in which crops like rice, maize, groundnut, vegetables, and fruits are grown.
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