Saturday, March 24, 2007


the following material is reproduced from the Organic Farming Sourcebook, OIB


(Source: John P. Lewis, India’s Political Economy, pp. 113-115 (1995). Available from OIB. (HB) Rs. 495/-).

John P. Lewis includes in his new book a copy of the letter he wrote (see alongside) to the US administration on how they got the Indian government to implement the green revolution without consulting the Cabinet….

“The outcome is all the healthier because our specific role in the exercise has been closely held; indeed, most of the Indian cabinets are not fully aware of it.”

The Administration has a right to feel proud of the progress of its India policy since I last wrote you a month ago about the problems of aid resumption. The US has helped engineer what could be a breakthrough for Indian agricultural expansion:

  1. The new near-term and longer –term agricultural programme that Subramaniam, with Shastri’s support, pressed through the Cabinet and announced in Parliament the week of December 5 has, more solid content and promise than any comparable programme since Independence. It is more radical in its emphasis on

* fertilizer imports.

* enlistment of foreign private investment in fertilizer, pesticide, and seed production, and

* resort to the free market, especially for fertilizer distribution, than anyone could safely have forecast even two months ago.

b. Certainly the timing and probably the content of the new programme owe much to US pressure- both our recent generalized pressure on behalf of agricultural self-reliance and the specific negotiations that reached high gear in the Freeman – Subramaniam Rome talks.

c. The outcome is all the healthier because our specific role in the exercise has been closely held; indeed, most of the Indian cabinets are not fully aware of it.

d. The timing as well as the substance of the President’s December 9 announcement of the 1.5 million tones of wheat and the $50 million fertilizer loan and admirably met the internal Indian political need for a forthcoming US gesture before the Johnson-Shastri talks-especially since the ‘gesture’, instead of being cosmetic, was so plainly responsive to urgent practical needs.

e. Our concern over the near-term food emergency has been emphatic, conspicuous; is appreciated, is helping intensify India’s own preparations for the emergency. (WE shall of necessity be so heavily engaged in this quarter in he next few months that we must take particular pains not to lose sight of the longer-term possibilities and issues that mainly concern us.)

f. The agriculture and food momentum established earlier in the month was reinforced during Subramaniam’s Washington talks.

g. In some ways the most auspicious development of all has been the Indian Government’s reaction to our performance conditioning of the $50 million fertilizer loan:

* The assurances we asked were all sensible, all economic, all in the Indian’s own interest; and we emphasize (i) the directness of our (Pl480-connected) concern over the adequacy of the Indian agricultural effort and (ii) the fact that this new style of AID lending is being adopted worldwide, not just for the subcontinent.

* Nevertheless list of conditions was a yard long and of a kind which would have made the Indians bridle a few months ago.

* Not only did the Government of India give all the requested assurances, including its determination to recruit foreign private investment in about 1 million tones (nitrogen equivalent) of new fertilizer production capacity during the next six months; it gave the assurances briskly and cheerfully, agreeing readily to periodic reviews of progress. Moreover, this streamlised negotiation was conducted, not with Subramaniam’s Food and Agricultural Ministry, but with T.T. Krishnamachari’s Finance Ministry.

* Obviously, the negotiation was facilitated by the fact that the Indians had just adopted most of our conditions on their own the week before. But the very fact that they had done this and then immediately observed the way good self-help pays of should speed the acceptance o similarly conditioned assistance in the future.

Cultural Production Team of the Ford Foundation recommended the intensive approach anew’, (ibid, p.149). And with the visible failure in the Second Plan to get the food to the market in spite of increasing production, a new Intensive Agricultural District Programme (IADP) was launched in the closing years of the Second Plan. The expressed objective o the programme was to concentrate resources and efforts in specially endowed areas. All along, it was made sure that only areas with adequate production potential in terms of assured water and infrastructural facilities be chosen, and that emphasis be directed towards profitability at the farm level.

The ostensible argument in favor o these ‘intensive’ approaches was that resources spread thin over a large area are lost leaving no appreciable effect on production that only a package of practices involving concentrated doses of resources could be technologically effective; and that increased production achieved in these areas with improved practices would have a ‘demonstration’ effect in other areas. The latter argument obviously had no weight – there were just not sufficient resources to spread such ‘intensive’ practices elsewhere-especially in areas which were to begin with not well-endowed’. As for the other argument of technological efficacy of an intensive package the fact is that there were no agricultural technologies in use that could absorb and respond to intensive doses of resources.

Therefore it is not surprising that the efforts of Indian planners to achieve increased production through ‘improved’ practices in areas which did have access to facilities like supply of water and manure, should prove abortive. In fact, the attempt was a complete failure. According to NCAR (Vol.I, p.411) rice yields in the twelve rice districts and wheat yields in the four wheat districts under the IADP, averaged only 13.3 quintals and 13.5 quintals per hectare compared to the pre-package average of 12.4 and 10.2 quintals. AS against these marginal increases in yields, the added costs of the recommended packages were equivalent to 10 quintals of wheat on the average, and 10 to 12.4 quintals paddy for most o the districts. The efficiency of the package for other crops was even worse.

Thus, the intensive package approach to agricultural development being tried out in India since the fifties had really nothing to do with technological efficacy. The policy in fact only expressed a political wish for a technology that would respond to these measures- a technology that would allow the concentration of resources and production in a few compact already surplus areas. The policy was asking for a technology that would achieve technologically what was achieved by the Britishers politically through the landlords – namely, responsiveness of agriculture to the needs of the industry and the market in preference to the life-needs of the cultivators.

In other words, the development sought for in he agricultural sector was not one that would primarily meet the needs of the rural population, but one that would provide resources and capital needed for the industrialization taking place in the urban centers. What was needed was to break the independence of the rural sector and bring it into increasing dependence on the urban sector; make it enter into increasing exchange relations with the latter- the terms of exchange being manipulated to be so unequal as to enable the urban sector to extract the maximum possible surplus from the rural sector. Thus, the need was for a certain technology to be introduced into the agricultural sector that would bring about such a transformation. No such technology was available at the time the intensive approach policy was being formulated and implemented.

By mid-sixties, however, such a technology became available in the form of new ‘miracle seeds’ that had proved successful in Mexico. These seeds were genetically selected to absorb huge doses of chemical fertilizers. Since these seeds had not evolved under natural conditions, they were susceptible to a number of pests and pathogens ad needed to be grown under the protective cover of pesticides. The new seeds also required new sophisticate practices for irrigation, tillage etc. This was just the ideal technology to fit the bill. It would make the policy of concentration of resources economically and technologically viable. At the same time it would make the agriculture critically dependent on industrial inputs like chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and make the cultivator dependent upon the urban expert for the knowledge of the correct agricultural practices, thus removing the “dangerous tendency” of self-sufficiency in the agriculture sector for good.

This technology, being so expensive could not possibly be extended over the a hole country. But that did not matter. All that was required was to make the surplus areas a little more surplus, so that the urban-industrial sector would be assured of its requirements. However there was a snag. Acceptance of this technology would involve import of large amounts of fertilizer and pesticides, for India did not produce these. In the initial stages even seeds would have to be imported.

Providentially, there was a widespread failure of monsoon in 1965 and 1966 in India, as well as over the rest of South Asia and South East Asia. This failure led to the spectre of a major famine – foreign experts predicted doom, some of them suggesting the possibility of one million starvation deaths in Bihar alone (NCAR, Vol.I, p.27; Speech of the Chairman, NCAR, Shri C Subramaniam). This situation removed all hesitation about accepting the new seeds even if it involved massive imports. THE ever helpful attitude f the Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation further encouraged the acceptance of the new technology. And in 1966-67 the New strategy of Agricultural Development, with the programme of introducing the new technology, mainly in the areas covered by IADP and IAAP was launched. Similar programmes were adopted in all o South and South East Asia at around the same time. THE programme was declared an immediate success. This success is what came to be known as the Green Revolution.

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