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Agricultural Problems in India

This article talks about the agricultural problems in India. It discusses the origin of problems of Indian agriculture from British times and the course of their exaggeration in free India. What were the steps taken by government of India and the extent up to which these problems got resolved? What can be done further to tackle problems of Indian agriculture?

Importance of Agriculture for India

Origin of Agricultural Problems in India

Current Agricultural Problems in India

Government Efforts to solve Problems of Indian Agriculture

Way Forward

Importance of Agriculture for India

Since long, India has remained an agriculture based economy. At present, Agriculture is one of the key sectors of Indian economy. More than 50% of working population is engaged in this sector. It contributes 15% to the GDP of the country. Therefore, any issue in agriculture is essential to be resolved otherwise it can impact the national income and employment of many Indians. Apart from contribution to national income, agriculture is crucially significant for food security and supporter of industry by supplying raw materials.


Origin of Agricultural Problems in India

Agricultural problems in India were not present before arrival of British. India was rich due to its natural resources. Its vast agricultural fields used to produce variety of crops which not only were sufficient for own needs of population but were also exported to other countries. The problems were seeded in agriculture by British administration. The land of country was seen as a rich source of revenue by British officials. In order to garner maximum revenue from land, they started making different systems for collection of land revenue like Zamindari system, Ryotwari system, Mahalwari system. These systems proved exploitative for farmers and ultimately reduced them to landless labour. They neither themselves made any investments in this sector nor incentivized peasants or landlords for it.

Current Agricultural Problems in India

In post independence period, new agricultural problems in India were added on. Some of them were the result of government efforts for rectification and other were the outcome of low investment in agriculture. Let us discuss the agricultural problems in India, which are making it difficult to compete with the world

Low Automation

In Indian agriculture, mechanization or automation involved is mere 40%. On the other hand, automation in agriculture is 95% each of USA and Western Europe. Human labour involved in these developed countries is 2-3% while in India it is 45%. Out of total agricultural labour in India, 8-9% faces disguised unemployment.

Monsoon Dependence

Indian agriculture on 53% cultivable land is dependent on monsoon which is erratic in itself. Rainfall in India is restricted to four months only from July to September. Poor monsoon results in deficit of water and causes drought. On the other hand, good monsoon though boosts the yield but fall in prices. In both cases, lose accrues to farmers.

Traditional Method of Irrigation

About 70mn Ha of Indian agricultural land has potential to undergo micro irrigation but only 10mn Ha is actually under micro irrigation while remaining 60nm Ha is under traditional irrigation system. Traditional method is flood irrigation which is the most inefficient method and cause water wastage.

No Fixed Revenue to Farmers

The agricultural sector has fluctuating market prices and is exposed to risk of market volatility. Though government supports farmers through MSP (Minimum Support Price) but only few farmers are able to sell their produce at MSP. According to NITI Aayog report, this number is only 6%. Majority of farmers sell their produce at market price in local markets.

Land Fragmentation

In free India, government pledged to reform land for redistribution. In this attempt, a ceiling was imposed for maximum limit of land possessed by a family. In order to evade this, landholders started dividing their families so as not to lose their land to government. This resulted in fragmentation of land. Average size of landholding was 2Ha in 1970 -1971 which has reduced to 1Ha in 2015-2016. The fragmented land pieces cannot harness economy of scale as they could do before division.

Lack of Credit

According to latest agricultural census, more than 85% farmers of India are small and marginal farmers. They need credit for maintaining their agricultural expenses. Though government gives credit to farmers through banks and cooperatives, but the advantage is taken by well off farmers. Small and marginal farmers, who are real needy, take most of the credit from moneylenders at exorbitant high interest rates. The number of such informal credit seekers is 63% of small & marginal farmers. The reason is that they do not have any collateral to access formal credit.


The integration of India with global markets since economic reforms of 1991, made it difficult for farmers to compete with global markets. Due to above problems, Indian agricultural sector is under stress and farmers are committing suicides.

Government Efforts to solve Problems of Indian Agriculture

The steps taken by government to resolve the problems of Indian agriculture mainly focused on land reforms.  These are discussed below:

Abolition of intermediaries

The revenue collectors or Zamindars were seen as exploitators of farmers. Government of independent India tried to abolish these intermediaries and it succeeded also. But the benefits accrued to only occupancy tenants who were less in number. Subtenants and sharecroppers were not benefitted. Now occupancy tenants replaced zamindars and started exploiting subtenants and sharecroppers.

Tenancy Reforms

In this direction, GoI undertook few efforts. It tried to give ownership rights to tenants and security of their tenure. Another significant effort was to regulate the tenancy. These efforts could not be implemented successfully. Only two states, Kerala and West Bengal performed well and only 4% area was subjected to these reforms in seven states. The problem was lack of identification of subtenants, sharecroppers because landowners were not allowing them to go to village official for their registration.

Ceiling on Landholding

As mentioned earlier, government tried to impose a ceiling on landowners to possess maximum size of landholding so that excess land can be distributed to the landless. In this effort, government failed because landowners found loopholes to evade and made fake transfers in name of relatives. Due to maximum limit of land with a family, joint families started breaking. Thus, this effort was not just unsuccessful but it brought social issues with it also.

Consolidation of Landholding

In order to harness economy of scale, government started a scheme to consolidate small landholdings in to a larger one. In this scheme, one piece of land was to be exchanged with another piece of land of same size. In Punjab & Haryana, scheme was successful as it was necessary for green revolution. Since Indian farmers have emotional sentiments with land, they were reluctant to give their land. Thus, land consolidation was not a success in states like UP, Bihar, Himachal, J&K, and Karnataka. Moreover, farmers were doubtful about the productivity of piece of land which was to be received in exchange.

Cooperative Farming

To avoid loss of ownership, voluntary pooling of land was tried for its consolidation. It got implemented in only 0.2-0.3% area. Cooperative farming is one of the best solutions for solving the problems of Indian agriculture.

Green Revolution

This was a breakthrough in the history of Indian agricultural system. Through mechanization, fertilizer, herbicides and pesticides, high yielding variety of seeds were grown in Indian farms. The output of wheat and rice increased tremendously which made India better in terms of food security. Though it was a big success, but it brought with it a number of issues like environmental problems, lowering of ground water table, reduced land productivity which further enhanced problems of Indian agriculture.

Way Forward

Several steps have been taken by the authorities at different times but the problems of Indian agriculture have also changed with time. Ultimately, it impacts innocent farmers. There are several dimensions in which efforts are required to be made for betterment of Indian farming. Direct benefit transfer to the account of small and marginal farmers may reduce rate of farmers’ suicide. One step in this direction is PM KISAN scheme. Informal credit to farmers needs to be regulated say by registration of moneylenders and fixing interest rate they can charge. Infrastructure for agriculture is a key requirement like warehouses, other storage facilities for refrigeration of perishable products. Regulation of market prices, efficient export policies for agricultural commodities, implementation of MS Swaminathan recommendations, empowerment of Farmer Producer Organizations are suitable steps.

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