[Burning Issue] Green Revolution in India

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  • Richard Bradly in 1940 called India a “begging bowl” due to its heavy import dependence of food grains from the USA.
  • The Green Revolution was an endeavor initiated by Norman Borlaug in the 1960s. He is known as the ‘Father of Green Revolution’ in world.
  • It led to him winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his work in developing High Yielding Varieties (HYVs) of wheat.
  • Green Revolution refers to the multiple growths in crop production in 3rd world countries based on the use of modern inputs, technologies, HYVs, farm mechanization, and irrigation facilities.

Green Revolution in India

  • In India, the Green Revolution was mainly led by M.S. Swaminathan.
  • In 1961, M.S. Swaminathan invited Norman who suggested a revolution like what has happened in Mexico, Japan, etc in Indian agriculture. 
  • Green Revolution was introduced with the Intensive Agriculture District Program (IADP) on an experimental basis in 7 districtin India.
  • In 1965-66 the HYV program was started which is the starting point of the Green Revolution in India.
  • The Green Revolution, spreading over the period from 1967-68 to 1977-78, changed India’s status from a food-deficient country to one of the world’s leading agricultural nations.
  • The Green Revolution resulted in a great increase in production of food grains (especially wheat and rice) due to the introduction into developing countries of new, high-yielding variety seeds, beginning in the mid-20th century.
Green Revolution in India


  • The history of Green Revolution is drawn back to the 1940s when the USA established a scientific operation to help the development of agricultural technology in Mexico. HYVs were at the focus of the novel technology.
  • Dr. Norman Borlaug, the Norway-born, U.S-based agricultural scientist was the innovator of ‘miracle seeds’ (HVY) of dwarf varieties of wheat.
  • In 1943, India suffered from the world’s worst recorded food crisis; the Bengal Famine, which led to the death of approximately 4 million people in eastern India due to hunger.
  • Even after independence in 1947, until 1967 the government largely concentrated on expanding the farming areas. But the population was growing at a much faster rate than food production.
  • This called for an immediate and drastic action to increase yield. The action came in the form of the Green Revolution.
  • The Green Revolution in India begun in the late 1960s. Green Revolution was functional in the period from 1967 to 1978 basically in parts of Punjab and Haryana.
  • At this stage, the Green Revolution was concern only with Wheat & Rice. Dr. M S Swaminathan from India led the Green Revolution as the Project.
  • In contrast, the agricultural growth in the 1980s (the second wave of the Green Revolution) involved almost all the crops including rice and covered the whole country.

What are the Objectives of Green Revolution?

  1. Short Term: The revolution was launched to address India’s hunger crisis during the second Five Year Plan.
  2. Long Term: The long term objectives included overall agriculture modernization based on rural development, industrial development; infrastructure, raw material etc.
  3. Employment: To provide employment to both agricultural and industrial workers.
  4. Scientific Studies: Producing stronger plants which could withstand extreme climates and diseases.
  5. Globalization of the Agricultural World: By spreading technology to non-industrialized nations and setting up many corporations in major agricultural areas.

Basic Elements of the Green Revolution

  • High Yielding Varieties (HYVs): These are the genetically modified seed which can yield 2 to 3 times more than normal crop.
    • They are dwarf variety with dense canopy and needs grater amount of water, use of chemical fertilizer, protection from pest and weeds as it very tender and fragile.
    • It also requires on farm activities like soil preparation. It has short generation period and leads to greater production in short period of time.
  • Irrigation facilities: The net irrigated area in 1960 was only 30 million hectare and it was a daunting task to extend irrigation to rest of India.
  • Credit Requirements: Green Revolution required a good network of rural credit and micro financing for supporting the needs of farmers.
  • Commercialization of agriculture: Introduction of Minimum Support Prices for crops gave farmers extra reason to grow more crops.
  • Farm Mechanization: It was required for increasing the crop production.
  • Command Area Development Program (CADP): CADP was introduced in 1974. It consisted of two methods:
    • On farm development activities: It includes construction of agricultural channels, ploughing, leveling, budding etc.
    • Off farm development activities: It includes construction of roads, rural connectivity, marketing, transportation communication etc.
  • Use of chemical fertilizer: Indian soil is deficient in Nitrogen so NPK fertilizers were used with standard ratio of 4:2:1 but the actual ratio used was 3:8:1.
  • Use of insecticide, Pesticide, weedicide
  • Rural electrification: It was the precondition for increasing farm mechanization practices.
  • Land holding and land reforms: Land holding refers to consolidation of land and land reforms involves various steps such as abolition of intermediaries, abolition of Zamindari, tenancy reforms etc.
  • Important Crops in the Revolution:
    • Main crops were Wheat, Rice, Jowar, Bajra and Maize.
    • Non-food grains were excluded from the ambit of the new strategy.
    • Wheat remained the mainstay of the Green Revolution for years.

Phases of Green Revolution

(1) Phase I (1965-66 to 1980)

  • India was in ardent need of immediate food supply and self sufficiency in food grain production. Wheat revolution was successful in various 3rd world countries like Mexico, Egypt, etc.
  • This phase was not only crop specific but also region specific because –
    1. The agriculture infrastructure was well developed in Punjab while Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh took advantage of its vicinity where irrigation facility could be easily extended.
    2. This region was free from natural hazards.
  • This phase stared with IADP and IAAP program on experimental basis but main initiative was the HYV program during the Annual Plan of 1965-66.
  • In 1974 with Command Area Development Program, Green Revolution was reemphasized.
  • The food production in 1950-51 was merely 25 MT and it was 33 MT in 1965-66. In 1980 it jumped to 100 MT which was three times increase in a span of 10 years.
  • It was more centralized towards wheat production which was increased by 2.5 times in 5 years. This was termed as Green Revolution.
  • This provided India with self sufficiency in food grain production and the incidences of malnutrition, famine, poverty, starvation were mitigated. India was successful in coming out of the Begging Bowl image.
Phase to Dominated by extensive agriculture. Reforms in the form of land grant and land reforms. Phase to Productivity enhancement measures through green revolution technologies. Phase till now. Attempted liberalization of agriculture.

(2) Phase II (1980-1991)

  • During the 6th and 7th plan, wet agriculture (mainly rice) was targeted.
  • During the first phase, rice production was increase merely 1.5 times. The regions having rainfall more than 100 cm like West Bengal, Bihar, Eastern Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Coastal plains were targeted.
  • It met with partial success and Krishna-Godavari delta and Cauvery basin yielded the coveted results. West Bengal and Bihar also showed increased productivity.
  • The full potential of productivity in rice was however not realized due to institutional factors like land reforms, tenancy etc.
  • The traditional outlook of farmers was also a major limiting factor in the success of Second phase of Green revolution.

(3) Third Phase (1991-2003)

  • During the 8th and 9th plan, dry land agriculture was targeted and HYV was introduced in cotton, oilseeds, pulses, millets etc. This met with partial success.
  • Integrated Watershed Management Programme was initiated to improve the conditions in sub- humid and semi-arid regions of India.
  • However, it was not very successful except in the Narmada – Tapi doab and the Tungbhadra basin and also the Bhima – Krishna basin.
  • After the end of 9th plan, there was a paradigm shift in approach of the govt policies. 
  • The ecological repercussion in the green revolution areas led to relatively new concept of balanced Agriculture growth based on agricultural ecology, conversation method and sustainable development (10th plan).
  • The entire agricultural sector was targeted and it is known as the Rainbow Revolution.
  • The process of Rainbow Revolution had affiliated in 1980’s with Yellow revolution (oilseeds), Blue Revolution, White Revolution (milk earlier in 1970’s), Brown Revolution (fertilizers) and Silver revolution (poultry).
  • In the 11th plan, the idea has been further elevated to sustainable agriculture with balanced growth referred to as inclusive growth.
Allocation of the harvested area under cereal production

Advantages of Green Revolution

  • Tremendous Increase in Crop Produce: It resulted in a grain output of 131 million tonnes in the year 1978-79 and established India as one of the world’s biggest agricultural producers.
  • Reduced Import of Food-Grains: India became self-sufficient in food-grains and had sufficient stock in the central pool, even, at times, India was in a position to export food-grains.
    • The per capita net availability of food-grains has also increased.
  • Benefits to the Farmers: The introduction of the Green Revolution helped the farmers in raising their level of income.
    • Farmers ploughed back their surplus income for improving agricultural productivity.
    • The big farmers were particularly benefited by this revolution by investing large amounts of money in various inputs like HYV seeds, fertilizers, machines, etc. It also promoted capitalist farming.
    • Green Revolution gave rise to capitalistic farming practices in India.
    • Surplus was generated in agriculture which led to its commercialization.
  • Industrial Growth: The Revolution brought about large scale farm mechanization which created demand for different types of machines like tractors, harvesters, threshers, combines, diesel engines, electric motors, pumping sets, etc.
    • Besides, demand for chemical fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides, weedicides, etc. also increased considerably.
    • Several agricultural products were also used as raw materials in various industries known as agro based industries.
    • Development of agro-processing industries, food-processing industries led to industrialization of tier – II/III towns. It led to higher rate of urbanization.
  • Rural Employment: There was an appreciable increase in the demand for labour force due to multiple cropping and use of fertilizers.
    • The Green Revolution created plenty of jobs not only for agricultural workers but also industrial workers by creating related facilities such as factories and hydroelectric power stations.
    • Green Revolution led to the removal of hunger and famine.
    • Green Revolution led to the development of rural infrastructure which was a pre condition to Green Revolution.

Repercussions of Green Revolution

  • Focus on limited food-grains: Although all food-grains including wheat, rice, jowar, bajra and maize have gained from the revolution, other crops such as coarse cereals, pulses and oilseeds were left out of the ambit of the revolution.
    • Major commercial crops like cotton, jute, tea and sugarcane were also left almost untouched by the Green Revolution.
  • Limited Coverage of HYVP: High Yielding Variety Programme (HYVP) was restricted to only five crops: Wheat, Rice, Jowar, Bajra and Maize.
  • Economic Repercussions
    • Inter – personal disparity emerged which led to differences between people due to difference in earning at different places.
    • Inter – regional disparity emerged due to difference in crop production e.g. West UP vs. East UP.
    • Inter – state disparity emerged, for e.g. in 1960 Punjab and Bihar, both states contributed same in terms of crop production but due to Green Revolution there became a huge gap in crop production between the two states by 1990.
    • Due to increase in informal credit services labors and cultivators got into the vicious cycle of debt – trap.
  • Excessive Usage of Chemicals: The Green Revolution resulted in a large-scale use of pesticides and synthetic nitrogen fertilisers for improved irrigation projects and crop varieties.
    • However, little or no efforts were made to educate farmers about the high risk associated with the intensive use of pesticides.
    • This causes more harm than good to crops and also becomes a cause for environment and soil pollution.
  • Increased Water Consumption: The crops introduced during the green revolution were water-intensive crops.
  • Impacts on Soil and Crop Production: Repeated crop cycle in order to ensure increased crop production depleted the soil’s nutrients.
    • To meet the needs of new kinds of seeds, farmers increased fertilizer usage.
    • The pH level of the soil increased due to the usage of these alkaline chemicals.
    • Toxic chemicals in the soil destroyed beneficial pathogens, which further led to the decline in the yield.
  • Social Repercussions:
    • Increased rural landlessness, smaller marginal farmers were rendered landless and became agricultural labourers which led to rural handicapness and health hazards.
    • Greater unemployment due to mechanisation.
    • Patriarchy was strengthened, female discrimination, female foeticide, dowry increased.
  • Health Hazards: The large-scale use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides such as Phosphamidon, Methomyl, Phorate, Triazophos and Monocrotophos resulted in resulted in a number of critical health illnesses including cancer, renal failure, stillborn babies and birth defects.


  • Green Revolution was directed towards food sufficiency for the country. The goal has been achieved. Thus it requires sustainable agricultural pattern.
  • Also, much wider area could be brought under the Green Revolution and instead of Green Revolution it can be transformed into evergreen Revolution.
  • It represented the successful adaptation and transfer of the same scientific revolution in agriculture that the industrial countries had already appropriated for themselves.
  • However, lesser heed was paid to factors other than ensuring food security such as environment, the poor farmers and their education about the know-how of such chemicals.
  • As a way forward, the policymakers must target the poor more precisely to ensure that they receive greater direct benefits from new technologies and those technologies will also need to be more environmentally sustainable.

Try this question for mains:

Q.  In spite of having several achievements, the green revolution has several defects. Examine

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