The importance of agriculture to our economy can hardly be over-emphasized. It is the most important source of raw materials to feed our industries It provides employment to about 70 percent of our total labour force. It contributes more than 40 percent to our total national income. And it is one of the major foreign exchange earners for our economy. But unfortunately, it does not .appear to be as sound as it should have been.
The basic industry of India is agriculture. India is the greatest grower of sugarcane in the world and she stands second in the production of rice and tobacco. In cotton, only the U.S.A. can surpass her. She is second to none in the world in the production of groundnuts. She is the biggest producer of tea, except China. In jute and lac, she holds monopoly in the world. In the light of this, it is indeed sorrowfully surprising that India is faced with deficit in her food requirements. It requires a complete analysis of the situation.
A variety of factors, natural, technological, institutional, economic and social can be cited to explain the backwardness of our agriculture Nature is bounteous and gives us all, but it gives erratically and often snatches with one hand what it gives with the other. If monsoons are kind, fields look resplendent with bright green saplings but hailstorms lash there mercilessly or floods wash them away, and if we are fortunate enough to escape the wrath of all this, we are sure to be oppressed by locusts and other pest epidemics. The last three years saw severe drought conditions in the country especially in Gujarat and Rajasthan. Technological factors include primitive equipment, lack of irrigation facilities and inadequate availability of fertilizers. Institutional factors imply uneconomical size of holdings and defective land-tenurial system. Social and economic factors include the ignorance and superstitiousness of the farmers and their vulnerability on financial issues.
The problem of agriculture in India should be tackled on a scientific basis. The programme of intensive cultivation should be launched upon. We should raise the low yield of every crop by bringing into service all the knowledge and implements which the modern science has given us. The Indian farmer is conservative, orthodox and illiterate and is not readily willing to give up the age-old methods of cultivation which are out of date now. Her unprogressive outlook is the greatest hurdle in the way of improvement in agriculture. The National Government has to make a great change in the farmer's outlook before launching upon any scheme for agricultural development in India. It is the duty of the Government to supply better seeds and fertilizers. Farmers have to be trained in the use of scientific implements and chemical fertilizers, Cow dung and other animal droppings should be checked from being used as fuel.
Irrigation is a very important factor m Indian agriculture. The farmers should not be left any longer at the mercy of rains. India has big resources of water, but at present, the bulk of this water moves about in ferocious floods causing great damage to life and property. This water has to be utilized properly. New canals should be dug out and tube wells should be bored in such a number that Indian farmers may -get sufficient water for irrigation in time.
The total area under cultivation should be increased by means of reclamation. The fallow land should be brought under the plough and there, should be proper distribution of land. In spite of ceiling on land, some people in India have too much of land while some are still landless. Co-operative farming in our country is not possible at present. It may be adopted on a small scale or for the sake of experiment. If it has to prove useful, it should be adopted on a large scale. As a national scheme, it should be adopted at least for three decades. Within this time, Indian farmers will be mentally and technically intelligent enough to understand the advantages of cooperative farming. Cattle have been the greatest source of wealth in India. Unluckily, Indians are indifferent towards their bullocks who form the backbone of Indian agriculture. They are of poor quality. All the farmers of India can never be in a position to have tractors. They will have to depend on bullocks more or less. So, they should have healthy and good bullocks.
Improvement of our agricultural productivity calls for the fulfillment of three basic conditions. An economically viable technology should be easily available so that farmers can dispense with outmoded implements of agriculture. Next, they should find within easy approach cheap credit and an efficient network so that they can avail themselves of the technology available to them. Finally, land reform programme should be implemented more genuinely so that the benefits of an easily available technology can really percolate to the small farmer. There can be hardly any meaningful growth unless technology, cheap credit and land reforms coincide.
Social organizations should be set up to fight pest epidemics. Greater attention should be paid to the public storage system so that our agricultural produce can be satisfactorily preserved both qualitatively and quantitatively. If we need efficient technology to promote growth, we need equally efficient post-harvest technology to preserve what we have produced. Last of all, if this agricultural produce can be equitably distributed, it will ensure optimum utilization of our production.
Indian farmers lack in initiative. They require guidance, mechanization, better seeds and fertilizers, technical education to farmers, sufficient means of irrigation equal distribution of land and the introduction of scientific methods will certainly revolutionize Indian agriculture. We must try to make agriculture attractive and remunerative for modern youths. It is by then that Indian agriculture will be improved.