Technological and Institutional Reforms in Agriculture

In the earlier chapter attention has been drawn towards the significant role played by social and economic factors in determining the type and method of agriculture as well as farm produce in any given area. Methods of farming with modem tools, machines and mechanical devices represent
great technological advances in developed countries. Technological advances by themselves do little to enhance production and productivity unless accompanied by reforms. Reforms mean to make the farmers and workers more responsive to these technological advances. Otherwise it
will make application of science and technology very difficult. For example, India has the world’s highest cattle population. It accounts for about 15 per cent of world’s cattle. Until very recently India produced negligible amounts of milk and meat. India did not lack in scientific and technical know-how to make the best use of this cattle wealth. Simply
there did not exist proper support services to take the technical know-how to farmers and organise them into a productive force. It was only when a cooperative society in Gujarat took the lead, followed by Punjab and some other states that milk production increased substantially. Without institutional reforms specially in a country like India where almost 50 per cent of population continues to be illiterate, science and technology can do little to achieve practical results. Some of the major steps taken towards technological and institutional reforms in agriculture since independence include the following:

INSTITUTIONAL REFORMS

(1) Abolition of Zamindari : Zamindari and Jasinian which promoted absentee landlordism and led to exploitation of tenants and rural indebtedness was abolished in 1954. It was done after the Agrarian Reforms Committee went into — all aspects of this and recommended its
abolition in 1949. Since agriculture is a state subject all states made legislations to abolish Zamindari system. Consequently the tenants became the owners of the land.
(2) Landholding ceiling : The wealthy landlords even after abolition
continued to own large plots of land most of which remained unproductive. The Government later brought forward the Land Ceiling Act under which even cultivators were not allowed to own land beyond certain limits. These limits varied from state to state.
(3) Consolidation of landholdings: The landholding pattern has led to fragmentation of landholdings. After independence the state governments took steps to consolidate small and uneconomic units into larger viable holdings at one place. This helped introduce mechanization, irrigation and even improve farming practices. Consolidation of holdings also occurred by promoting cooperative movement. Nearly 60 million hectares of land have been consolidated so far.
(4) Credit Reforms : One of the chief causes of backwardness of Indian agriculture has been rural indebtedness. The peasants were exploited by the landlords and moneylenders for centuries. Realizing that credit is critical component of any agricultural reform the government has taken several steps to ensure flow of funds for agricultural development while at the same time discouraging farmers from misusing the funds. Some important measures taken include the following:
(i) Rural development has been delinked from agricultural development. This is to help agricultural develop its own base.
(ii) Need for credit for agricultural purposes has been brought under institutional programmes and schemes. Besides concessional lending by banks and cooperative credit societies, financial assistance is provided to farmers for specific projects like mechanization purchase of tractors, implements, seeds, fertilizers and schemes aimed at raising farm productivity.
(iii) Support price for agricultural produce under several schemes as well as purchase agencies like Food Corporation of India.
(iv) Investment Promotion Schemes (IPS) have also been put into operation so that funds are not directed towards non-productive purposes.
(v) Capital formation or creation of capital assets in the form of agricultural implements, power and irrigation is now being given greater consideration. The subsidies on foods and fertilizers and mere provision of support prices have created certain imbalances. Subsidies specially discourage investments. These also result in inefficient use oi agricultural resources. Therefore, attention is instead to be focused on cheaper credit and creations of marketing and storage facilities. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) linked reforms are also likely to have greater impact on attracting private investment in agriculture and making cheaper credit available to farmers.
(5) Protection of Plant Varieties : The Plant Varieties Protection and Farmers Rights is a World Trade Organisation (WTO) linked institutional reform. The legislation presently under consideration of the Central Government has far reaching consequences for Indian agriculture. The World Trade Organisation founded in 1995 absorbed the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATE). It also covers trade in agricultural goods. It treats innovative farmers on same lines as authors of books or creators of inventions. WTO therefore, helps member nations in recognizing Farmers Rights. India is also a member of WTO. It has ratified the Trade Related Intellectual Property Right (TRIPS); Agreement of the WTO. The Department of Agriculture and Cooperation has therefore drawn up a legislation which is under the consideration of Joint Parliamentary Committee of the Parliament. Once; this legislation comes in to force, which it is bound to, Indian farmers while enjoying Intellectual Property Rights will have to compete in to international market. It is on,this account that many farmers especially landlords are opposed to WTO agreements. They can also export farm products. The Indian farmers will also contribute to World Food Reserve as well as the National Food Security Programme. This will ensure trading in agricultural food crops like other commodities and farmers can expect better prices. It is also bound to promote agricultural research and make agriculture more productive. Like other businesses Indian farmers can also seek technology of crop production from other countries and enter into technology partnership agreements. it may be mentioned that when a top international consultant was assigned the task of demonstrating use of fertilizers to Indian farmers he ended up learning making organic manure from Indian farmers. While the scientist received his fee from the government he got free of cost know how for organic manure from Indian farmers and back home he got the patent for a particular brand c organic manure registered in his name. The W.T.O. agreement is expected to end this sort of exploitation of Indian farmers.

TECHNOLOGICAL REFORMS

a) Irrigation Development: Under the five year plans extension of irrigation facilities has received great emphasis. Therefore, involvement of farmers is very essential. The potential created of all forms of irrigation has risen from 12.90 million hectares in 1951 to about 60 million in 1999-2000 and potential utilized has also shown corresponding increase from 12.90 to about 55 million hectares suggesting more than 95% utilization. For the first time sprinkler arid drip irrigation has also been promoted through cultivation of oilseeds and horticultural development. This step has been taken to conserve water.

b) Certified and Quality Seeds Distribution: Seed is critical and basic input for attaining agricultural production and productivity The Government of India has taken several steps for distribution of quality and certified seeds to farmers. The seeds are also standardized from time to time. Some of the seeds called High Yielding Varieties (HYV) have been included under technology mission for distribution among farmers. The target for distribution of such seeds was fixed at 110 lakh quintals during 2001-02. Panchayats Cooperative Societies, Central and State Seeds Corporations are actively engaged in this work. Certain legislative measures have also been undertaken in this respect.

c) Other Agricultural Inputs : These technology inputs include fertilizers, manures, insecticides and pesticides. Indian farmers have not yet established a sound soil-fertilizer-insecticide relationship with respect to crops. Even in small countries like Netherlands where family farms are extensively cultivated soil tests are periodically carried and agricultural inputs are used in required quantities. Most Indian farmers take for granted that the soils need nitrogen and phosphate fertilizers. Though they are key inputs for increasing agricultural production, not all soils always need just nitrogen and phosphate fertilizers. The consumption of chemical fertilizers has risen to about 17 million tonnes in 2001. The government had so far been supplying fertilizers to farmers at subsidized prices as well as under price control measures. In 2001 some of the fertilizers were allowed to be sold in open market. The Government of India has also formulated a ‘Balanced and Integrated use of Fertilisers’ Policy. It has also started orientation courses in certain selected districts and conduct training for fertilizer dealer.