Rightly quoted:

“India lives in villages and agriculture is the soul of Indian economy”-Mahatma Gandhi

“Most of the world’s poor people earn their living from agriculture, so if we knew the economics of agriculture, we would know much of the economics of being poor”– Theodore Schultz, Nobel Laureate.

History of Indian Agriculture:

The history of Indian agriculture  dates back to Indus valley civilisation and in some parts of southern India, it was found to be practised even before the Harappan civilisation. India’s economy under the British colonial rule remained fundamentally agrarian, about 85 percent of the country’s population lived mostly in villages and derived livelihood directly or indirectly from agriculture. Despite this fact, the agricultural sector experienced a lot of stagnation and frequent deterioration. The stagnation was caused due to various systems of land settlement introduced by the British government like Zamindari system, a form of revenue settlement, which was actually responsible for stagnation. Commercialisation of agriculture done by Britishers also affected the large part of society. It could not help farmers in improving their economic condition.


All economies were agrarian before they were industrialised, only its period varied. As land remained the means of livelihood for the larger section of society in an agrarian economy, the successful completion of agrarian reforms benefited the maximum number of people thereby improving their economic conditions.

“Land is not merely soil, it is a fountain of energy flowing through a circuit of soils, plants and animals.” – Aldo Leopold

In simple terms, land reforms mean equitable redistribution of land with the aim of increasing productivity and decreasing poverty. It refers to the redistribution of land from the few who have to the many who are landless or own far too little.

The Pre-British Scenario

Traditionally, in India before the coming of the British, private ownership of land was an unfamiliar idea. The land was generally owned by the village community collectively. A proper land revenue system was initiated by Todar Mal during the reign of Akbar. Under this system, the land was measured, classified and the rent was fixed accordingly. When the leash of power went into the hands of the British, a sea-change was seen in the pattern of ownership of land in India.

Land ownership patterns under the British rule:- 

Zamindari system; Ryotwari system; Mahalwari system;

which resulted into –

  • Extreme peasant indebtedness due to sky-high tax rates.
  • Creation of a class of a rich few who mostly exploited the poor peasant.
  • Peasants lived in constant fear of eviction.
  • Poverty was entrenched into the farmer class.

The important land reforms introduced after independence in our country are:

  • Abolition of Zamindari system
  • Accepting the fundamental principle that lands belonged to those who do the tilling
  • Enacting Land Ceiling Act
  • Encouraging Bhoodan and Sarvodaya movements, and
  • Devising suitable rational basis for obtaining land revenue. The proposal ‘land belonging to the tiller’ was meant to redistribute rural income to the advantage of those who work in the fields and to the disadvantage of those who do not.

Bhoodan Movement:

With the disappointing progress of legislative land reform, Acharya Vinoba Bhave’s Bhoodan (land-gift) movement offered a promising way forward. The focus was on improving the position of the landless. Assuming that there were 50 million landless peasants in India, Vinobaji set himself the task of collecting land-gifts of 50 million acres so that one acre could be given to each landless peasant. He called upon the landowners to give to the Bhoodan movement one-sixth of their holdings. However, the movement soon slowed down. It was found that much of the land donated was rocky, barren or otherwise agriculturally poor or was under dispute in litigation. 


The term green revolution was first used by William Gaud and Norman Borlaug is the Father of the Green Revolution. 

In the year 1965, the government of India launched the Green Revolution with the help of a geneticist, now known as the father of the Green revolution (India) M.S. Swaminathan. The movement of green revolution was a great success and changed the country’s status from a food-deficient economy to one of the world’s leading agricultural nations. It started in 1967 and lasted till 1978.

M S Swaminathan, the father of Green Revolution in India.

The Green Revolution within India led to an increase in agricultural production, especially in Haryana, Punjab, and Uttar Pradesh. Major milestones in this undertaking were the development of a high-yielding variety of seeds of wheat and rust-resistant strains of wheat.

The Green Revolution in India refers to the process of increasing agricultural production and ensure food sufficiency in order to reduce India’s dependence on foreign aid. The process of Green Revolution included incorporating modern tools and techniques to increase the food production. 

The need for the step was felt after the country had to import wheat mainly from the U.S which affected the economic policies of the India. 

Two wars, one with China (1962) and another with Pak (1965) and successive drought in years 1965– 1966, led to fall in agriculture output massively.

Despite very credible growth of agriculture output during 1949 to 65 of 3% per annum India had been facing food shortages since the mid 1950’s because of various reasons.

 The population growth rates after independence; steady rise in per capita income;huge outlays towards planned industrialisation put long term pressures on Indian agriculture.

Self reliance and food self sufficiency became top priority objectives of Indian leadership during mid 1960’s. 

In rural areas, it increases the gap between rich and poor. It led to the rise of rich farmers movements which got a better deal for their produce and input subsidies. Food items remained out of the reach of the poor. It resulted in the migration of labour from Bihar to Punjab. It also resulted in inflation and led to the destruction of traditional knowledge. The green revolution was not considered as the sustainable approach to increasing food production.

Present scenario-

Today, India ranks second worldwide in farm output. Agriculture plays a vital role in India’s economy. Over 58 percent of the rural households depend on agriculture as their principal means of livelihood.

The share of agriculture and allied sectors in the Gross Value Added (GVA) of the country at current prices has declined from 18.2 per cent in 2014-15 to 16.5 per cent in 2019-20.

India is among the top three global producers of many crops, including wheat, rice, pulses, cotton, peanuts, fruits and vegetables. Worldwide, as of 2011, India had the largest herds of buffalo and cattle, is the largest producer of milk and has one of the largest and fastest growing poultry industries.

  • Horticulture crops occupy 10% of gross cropped area, Animal husbandry output constitutes about 32% of country’s agriculture output. 
  • India is second highest producer of fruits and vegetables.
  • India is also the largest producer, consumer and exporter of spices and spice products.
  • 1st rank in agricultural productions –, Mango, Banana, jute, cardamom, buffalo milk
  • 2nd rank  agricultural productions- -in cow milk, rice, ,potato, tomato, cashew apple,tea. 

India’s vast relief, varying climate and soil conditions produce Salient features of Indian Agriculture :-

  • Subsistence type
  • Dependent on unreliable monsoon: Only 40% of Indian farms are provided with irrigation facilities. Remaining 60% farms are dependent directly upon monsoon. This is the reason why it is said Indian agriculture is a gamble in the monsoon.
  • a variety of crops.
  • Predominance of food crops
  • Poor electricity, storage, water and marketing
  • Inadequate agricultural research
  • Biggest employment provider: From the livelihood point of view, still 50% of Indians depend on the agriculture sector.
  • High exports and high imports: India is among 15 leading exporters of agricultural products in the world. As per the international trade statistics, India’s agricultural export contributes 10% of export earnings of the country. India’s agricultural imports constitute a 1.2% share of world trade in agriculture.
  • Low growth rate
  • Low productivity

It Has three main cropping seasons

  1. Kharif
  2. Rabi
  3. Zaid


Cropping season from July to October during the south west or summer monsoon.

Rice, Cotton, Maize, Bajra, Arhar, Soybean, Groundnut, Jute etc are grown in this season.


Cropping season from October to March during the north east retreating monsoon.

Wheat, Barley, Oats, Mustard etc are major crops grown in this season.

Zaid: –

Cropping season between March and June.

Watermelon, Rice is grown in this season.


Problems in the Indian Agriculture are divided into 2  stages-

  1.    Production Stage 
  2.    Post Production Stage

1) Production Stage-

  •  Productivity level is very low- The productivity levels primarily determine the income of the farmers. However, the per unit area productivity of Indian agriculture is much lower than other major crop producing countries.
  • Inadequate irrigation facility- Overly relied on monsoon and resulting into unpredictability (gamble in the monsoon). Out of the gross sown area of 192 million ha, rainfed agriculture contributes to 60 percent of the gross cropped area and 45 percent of the total agricultural output.
  • Old methods of cultivation due to illiteracy and unawareness.
  • Small and marginal land holdings.
  • Poor quality of seeds or import burden of HYV seeds.
  • Lack of proper use of manure and fertilizer due to unawareness.
  • Reluctant to use modern scientific methods of cultivation.
  • Excessive pressure on land.
  • Due to overpopulation resulting into decreasing land productivity due to overuse.
  • Budgeting allocation going towards subsidies rather than investment in the sector- -. The problem is that more than 85 percent of this budgeted allocation is directed towards food and fertiliser subsidies. 

2. Post Production Sector:-

  • Lack of basic infra like roads makes it difficult for farm produce to reach the market.
  • Lack of awareness about market and ‘market regulations’ makes farmer more vulnerable to middlemen which take most of the profit.
  • Lack of warehousing facilities results into large post production losses. Farmers are forced to sell the produce even at lower prices.


Some of the recent major government initiatives in the sector are as follows:

  • In September,2019, Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi launched the National Animal Disease Control Programme (NADCP), expected to eradicate foot and mouth disease (FMD) and brucellosis in livestock.
  • In May 2019, NABARD announced an investment of Rs 700 crore (US$ 100 million) venture capital fund for equity investments in agriculture and rural-focused start-ups
  • Under Budget 2019-20, Pradhan Mantri Samman Nidhi Yojana was introduced under which a minimum fixed pension of Rs 3000 (US$ 42.92) to be provided to the eligible small and marginal farmers, subject to certain exclusion clauses, on attaining the age of 60 years.
  • E-NAM-scheme aims to create a unified agriculture marketing portal for online trading of agricultural produce. To enhance transparency in the transactions, price discovery and farmers reach to large number of markets and buyers , the government has launched a scheme called E-NAM( National Agricultural Marketing ).
  • Launch of Pradhan Mantri Kisan Maan Dhan Yojana (PM-KMY)–                            PM-KMY inaugurated by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi on 12th September, 2019 provides for payment of minimum pension of Rs.3000/- per month to the eligible small and marginal farmers on attaining the age of 60 years.  It is a voluntary and contributory pension scheme, with entry age of 18 to 40 years. The monthly contribution by farmer ranges between Rs.55 to 200.  Central Government will contribute an equal amount in the pension scheme.
  • Launch of Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN)                                PM-KISAN Scheme inaugurated by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi on 24th February, 2019 which provides for the transfer of an amount of Rs. 6000/- per year in three equal instalments each of Rs. 2000/- directly into the bank account of beneficiary farmer families. The Scheme initially covered only small and marginal farmer families with land holding upto 2 hectares as beneficiaries, subject to certain exclusion criteria for higher income status. The Government later extended the scheme with effect from 1st April 2019 to all farmer families irrespective of land holding size, subject to applicable exclusions. 
  • Minimum Support Prices (MSPs) for Kharif  2019-20 season and Rabi Crops of 2019-20 increased
  • The Government of India has come out with the Transport and Marketing Assistance (TMA) scheme to provide financial assistance for transport and marketing of agriculture products in order to boost agriculture exports.
  • The Agriculture Export Policy, 2018 was approved by Government of India in December 2018. The new policy aims to increase India’s agricultural exports to US$ 60 billion by 2022 and US$ 100 billion in the next few years with a stable trade policy regime.
  • In September 2018, the Government of India announced Rs 15,053 crore (US$ 2.25 billion) procurement policy named ‘Pradhan Mantri Annadata Aay SanraksHan Abhiyan’ (PM-AASHA), under which states can decide the compensation scheme and can also partner with private agencies to ensure fair prices for farmers in the country.
  • In September 2018, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) approved a Rs 5,500 crore (US$ 820.41 million) assistance package for the sugar industry in India.
  • The Government of India is going to provide Rs 2,000 crore (US$ 306.29 million) for computerisation of Primary Agricultural Credit Society (PACS) to ensure cooperatives are benefitted through digital technology.
  • With an aim to boost innovation and entrepreneurship in agriculture, the Government of India is introducing a new AGRI-UDAAN programme to mentor start-ups and to enable them to connect with potential investors.
  • The Government of India has launched the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY) with an investment of Rs 50,000 crore (US$ 7.7 billion) aimed at development of irrigation sources for providing a permanent solution from drought. 
  • THE PER DROP MORE CROP– component of PRADHAN MANTRI KRISHI SINCHAI YOJANA is implemented with the objective of enhancing water use efficiency.
  • The Government of India plans to triple the capacity of food processing sector in India from the current 10 per cent of agriculture produce and has also committed Rs 6,000 crore (US$ 936.38 billion) as investments for mega food parks in the country, as a part of the Scheme for Agro-Marine Processing and Development of Agro-Processing Clusters (SAMPADA).
  • The Government of India has allowed 100 per cent FDI in marketing of food products and in food product e-commerce under the automatic route.
  • Soil health card scheme
  • Rythu Bandhu of Telangana                                                                              Government of Telangana has come up with a new concept of providing Investment Support at the rate of ` 4,000 per acre per season to all the farmers (Pattadars) in the State towards purchase of various inputs like seeds, fertilizers etc., as initial investment before the crop season.

Way forward:- 

India is expected to achieve the ambitious goal of doubling farm income by 2022. Doubling farmer’s income will require addressing issues such as access to credit, insurance coverage, and investments in agriculture.  India has relatively lower farm mechanisation which needs to be addressed.  Further, the food processing sector requires more focussed attention as it can play an important role in reducing post-harvest losses and aid the creation of an additional market for farm outputs.Furthermore, the growing use of genetically modified crops will likely improve the yield for Indian farmers.