Electricity is a key element in modern day life. Right from powering industrial units and running irrigation pumps to charging your mobile phone – electricity does it all. Access to reliable and affordable energy increases the ease of living and generates employment. It powers the development of the country. It is a prerequisite to digital connectivity in rural India, thereby opening new vistas for the people hitherto unconnected to the outer world.

In the past four and a half year the Government has brought about a transformational change in the Power Sector.

The past four and a half years, have seen unprecedented pace of infrastructure creation in every segment – be it power generation, transmission or distribution. Regulatory framework is being reformed with a new Tariff Policy and amendments to the Electricity Act. In sum, the Indian power sector has undergone a paradigm change.

The first – the primary requirement was availability. Right since independence the country had to live with shortages. In the past four and a half years, we have add3ed more than one lakh megawatts of new generation capacity. Energy deficit has been brought down from 4.2 per cent to almost zero. India has become an exporter of electricity – exporting electricity to Nepal and Bangladesh.

In the past four years we have added almost one lakh circuit kilometers to the inter-state transmission capacity – connecting the entire nation to one grid. Now, for the first time we have One Nation- One Grid- the entire network operating on one frequency. Power can be transferred seamlessly fro one corner of the country to another. Power generated in Himachal Pradesh can be transmitted to Tamil Nadu and power generated in Assam can be transferred to Maharashtra or vice versa.

Our Government decided to connect every village where electricity had not reached. The Prime Minister announced from the ramparts of the Red Fort on 15th August, 2015 that every village which did not have access to electricity will be connected within a thousand days. The States reported that power had not reached in 18452 villages even seven decades after independence. We connected these villages in less than 1000 days. A major landmark to universal access to electricity was crossed when our country achieved 100 per cent village electrification on 28th April, 2018.

The challenges involved in completing this task were huge – these challenges had stood as a barrier to extending electricity to these villages for such a long period. Most of these villages were located in remote inaccessible areas with difficult terrain in hilly areas, forest areas, areas severely affected with LWE activities etc. and transportation of material/equipment and mobilization of manpower for execution of works required determination and perseverance. The difficulty level kept on increasing as the work progressed further. About 350 villages located in remote and difficult terrains in Arunachal Pradesh, J&K, Meghalaya and Manipur required head loading of materials and trekking up to 10 days. Materials in some villages of J&K and Arunachal Pradesh had to e transported by helicopter. In 2762 villages, extending grid network was not feasible due to remote and inaccessible locations, solar based standalone systems were provided. Enormous challenges were confronted in electrification of 7614 Left Wing Extremism affected villages in Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha.

To achieve this feat, extensive infrastructure was created under DDUGJY (as shown in Table – 1). Special focus as on feeder separation (rural households and agricultural) and strengthening of sub-transmission and distribution all levels in rural areas. Hundreds of thousand kilometers of new lines were laid and lakhs of distribution transformers were installed.

The electrification of these remaining villages has paved the path for their socio-economic growth. This program has also set an example of effective cooperative federalism wherein Union Government, State Governments, Distribution companies an administration synergized their efforts for common goal.

The next step was to light up every household. The Prime Minister launched the ‘Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana’ – Saubhagya in Sept. 2017 with the aim to achieve universal household electrification. Achievement of this within targeted timeline of 31st March 2019 is the challenge we have given to ourselves. As the name of the scheme itself suggests, it has inherent features of ‘Sahaj’ i.e. Simple / Easy / Effortless and ‘Har Ghar’ i.e. inclusive universal household electrification. A targeted program of such a scale has never been attempted in the world. The progress is again exemplary in terms of speed and innovation.

More than 2.50 crore households have already been electrified under Saubhagya? That is more than two South Africa put together… and India has electrified these many households in a record time of just 15 months. This pace and scale of transition is such as has not been witnessed anywhere in the world. At its peak, we were lighting up an average of a hundred thousand houses every day. The International Energy Agency called India’s electrification journey as one of the greatest success stories of the Year – 2018.

Hardly 4 lakh odd households are now remaining and within the next few weeks, every household of the country will have an electricity connection. No country has witnessed anything on such a scale in such a short span of time. The happiness on the face of the people when their houses are lighted up is something to be seen.

In addition to providing last mile connectivity in rural areas, the Government launched Integrated Power Development Scheme (IPDS0 with an aim to strengthen power infrastructure in urban areas. The focus areas of IPDS are-

  • Strengthening of sub-transmission and distribution network in the urban areas
  • Metering of distribution transformers / feeders/ consumers in the urban areas
  • IT enablement and automation of distribution sector

The infrastructure created under IPDS during the last four and a half years (Table 2) is equally important to ensure supply of adequate power with desired quality and reliability.

The huge addition in the consumer base at the rate of one lakh households per day, coupled with growth in the economy has meant that our electricity demand has been growing at the rate of more than 10 per cent in the past months.

Renewable Energy

While India needs to develop, it has to do so in a responsible way. We owe our future generations a green and clean planet. This is the reason India is in the process of changing its energy mix. To make our electricity clean and green, we have developed a roadmap to achieve 175 GW capacity in the renewable energy sector by 2022, which includes 100 GW of solar power and 60 GW of wind power. The overall installed capacity of Renewable Energy has been more than doubled in the last four and a half years – from 34,000 MW to 75,000 MW, solar capacity increased 8 times in last 4 years. Today, India stands at 5o position in the world in installed solar capacity, at 4th position in installed wind capacity and at 5o position in over all renewable energy (installed capacity). We are on the way to achieve our commitments.

Energy Efficiency

While we continue to increase our capacities for power generation, we recognize the need to explore avenues that promote energy efficiency. A number of innovative and visionary policy measures have been taken in this field. Household LED bulb distribution program UJALA and SLNP (Streetlight National Project) for replacing conventional streetlights with smart and energy efficient LED street lights have saved billions of unit electricity per year (Table -4).

In addition to these, Star Labeling program, Energy Conservation Building Code and energy efficiency measures through Perform, Achieve and Trade (PAT) are also important initiatives in the field of energy efficiency. The first cycle of the PAT for industry achieved savings of more than 8.6 million tonnes of oil equivalent which is almost 1.23 percent of primary energy supply of India. The second cycle is estimate to achieve even higher savings.

Way Forward

A new Tariff Policy is being finalized. It contains several consumer friendly provisions to ensure reliable and 24×7 supply of power. This policy makes it mandatory to provides reliable and 24×7 power supply for all from 1st April, 2019. If a power outage occurs without a valid reason (e.g. for scheduled maintenance or disruption due to natural calamity), the concerned power distribution company (DISCOM) well face penalties. This would effectively put an end to gratuitous load shedding by DISCOMs.

Another futuristic area we are working on is – Smart Electricity Meters. We have chalked out a strategy to replace al electricity meters in the country with Smart Meters within a period of 3 years. A beginning has already been made with the installation of over 50 thousands Smart Meters in MDMC area. This will revolutionize the power sector by way of reduced AT&C losses, better health of DISCOMs, incentivisation of energy conservation and ease of bill payments etc. Further, it will generate skilled employment for the youth.

Electrical vehicles (EVs) are another major emerging area we are focusing on. The Government has launched the National E–Mobility programme to promote electric vehicles in a big way. Creation of extensive charging infrastructure is a prerequisite for large scale adoption of EVs. The Ministry of Power is creating an enabling regulatory framework for rapid expansion of charging and storage infrastructure.

Our country jumped to 24th rank in 2018 on World Bank’s Ease of Getting Electricity in the world as against 111th rank in 2014. This is a quantum leap and shows the result oriented approach of the Government. Still we have more to do …. But our vision is clear and our determination is firm. We are committed to an energized India – a prosperous India.


The price support scheme in India came in the wake of two successive droughts of the mid-sixties and the significant food shortages faced by the country thereafter. The Foodgrain Prices Committee was appointed under the Chairmanship of L K Jha for the 1964-65 season to look into institutional issues. It recommended the establishment of the Agricultural Prices Commission in order to ease procurement of foodgrains for public distribution. It also recommended the provision of price support to farmers.

Background to MSP

During the late seventies, a need was again felt to look into the prevailing structure of the Agricultural Prices commission. To review its methodology, a committee under the Chairmanship of S R Sen was appointed in 1979. The committee suggested a number of modifications and recommended the improvement of the price policy.

Following this, the nomenclature as well as the focus of the Agricultural Prices Commission was changed. Subsequently it was renamed as Commission on Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) with changed terms of reference. A policy document was issued in 1986 under the title Agricultural Price Policy: A Long Term Perspective, officially confirming the redefinition of the objectives of the price policy (Ministry of Agriculture, 1980).

The price policy related concerns also featured prominently in the report of the High Level Committee on Long Term Grain Policy (Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, 2002). The committee discussed the question of minimum support prices (MSP) at length in the changed context. It reviewed the MSP scheme on its effectiveness, possible decentralization of price support, procurement as well as some alternatives.

The committee recommended that MSP should be continued, but some of the corrections maybe incorporated in its functioning. They included that the CACP–be made an empowered statutory body; to act directly on the basis of cost of production; to also indicate a system of imputing family labour cost; to recommend only one price for paddy for the country as a whole; to oversee that all the procurement agencies and public grain management institutions should be legally bound by the MSP policy; Central government should underwrite open purchase of grains under MSP; and Food Corporation of India (FCI) should be the buyer of last resort in cases where normal functioning of the market mechanism is inadequate to consume the produce.

Since 1986, the CACP has been functioning effectively and has been at the forefront in discussions on agricultural commodity prices. The CACP declares MSP twice a year in Kharif and Rabi seasons for selected crops, based on widespread survey on cost of cultivation, undertaken across the states in India.

The Union Government has recently announced a major hike in the MSP of fourteen kharif crops for 2018-19, unlike the previous years (Table 1). The prime objective of this increase in MSP is ensuring higher incomes to farmers. This was also a part of the commitments made in the Union Budget of 2018-19 to raise MSP to 150 per cent of the cost of production. This increase in MSP was quite substantial, ranging from 4 per cent for arhar and urad to 52 per cent for ragi. The scale of increase can be gauged from the fact that the median hike is about 25 per cent, while the median hike during the last four years was only 3 to 4 per cent!

However, more important than announcing the MSP is to ensure that farmers get the declared MSP. Because MSPs are straightjacketed and the input costs and the quality of output vary from state to state (Nirmal, 2018), farmers often cannot benefit from the price support and finally are left at the mercy of the traders.

The agricultural price policy has undergone many changes since mid-1965 and especially after the establishment of the Agricultural Prices Commission. However, all was not well in the agricultural price sector and the MSP scheme was not easily accessible. Many farmers could not take advantage of the scheme despite the falling prices and were aggrieved due to the shrinking income source. In the wake of this demand the main policy vehicle being contemplated by the government for operationalising the increase in MSP is the PM-AASHA, an acronym for Prime Minister’s Annadta Aay Samrakshan Abhiyaan.

It comprises three main components:

  • Price Support Scheme (PSS),
  • Price deficiency Payment Scheme (PDPS),
  • Pilot of Private Procurement and Stockist Scheme (PPPS).

This policy framework and the related challenges are discussed here.

Price Support Scheme (PSS)

Procurement of pulses, oilseeds and copra (coconut) is undertaken by National Agricultural (Imperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd. (NAFED) and FCI when market price falls below MSP. This is the most effective way of ensuring remunerative prices to farmers. However, our recent record of public procurement inspires little confidence (Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, 2018). Out of the twenty five commodities for which MSP is annually announced, only rice and wheat are procured on a continual basis; that too in a handful of states.

Even with such a limited coverage of procurement there are frequent build up of stocks, sometimes rising way above the buffer norms. Procurement, storage and distribution require large physical space and marketing infrastructure, which are incurring prohibitive fiscal costs. In this scenario, it seems unlikely that all commodities, for which MSP has been hiked, are likely to be procured. Therefore, some alternative options need to be explored for successful implementation of the scheme.

Price Deficiency Payment Scheme (PDPS)

The second option is the PDPS. Through this the farmer is free to sell his produce in the open market, but if the market price fall s below the MSP, the government steps in and makes a deficiency payment equaling the difference between MSP and the market price. Therefore, the system retains the incentive effects of the MSP.

The costs on account of procurement, storage and distribution are also avoided since there is no physical procurement. There is one problem though. For effective implementation of PDPS, it is necessary to maintain a complete record of all the transactions in the market–the quantity and price of each sale. Theoretically, farmers can sell anywhere from a village market to a local trader to a city wholesaler. Thus, it becomes practically impossible to collect such a huge volume of data for millions of farmers.

Under this model, it therefore becomes necessary to restrict the sales at some designated locations like a local Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Mandi, which largely restricts the utility of the scheme. The second challenge is that the deficiency payments will be different for different farmers. Since the payments are based on the difference between the MSP and the market price, these will be larger for farmers who sell at lower prices and vice-versa. This has two adverse effects–first, the farmer will have little or no incentive to look for best possible price in the market–what the economists call the ‘moral hazard problem’. The second is that the farmers may try to sell his inferior and even unmarketable produce through PDPS–what economists call ‘adverse selection problem’.

Also, since PDPS is a counter cyclical payment, i.e., the farmer gets a higher payment when market price is low and vice versa, farmers are insulated from the market fluctuations and the demand side is ignored. This results in the farmer not adjusting his supply in accordance with demand and may result in frequent instances of supply outstripping demand, leading to price crashes. This in turn will eventually lead to continual government intervention in the market, which is likely to escalate the fiscal costs enormously.

Madhya Pradesh (M P) implemented a variant of PDPS on a pilot basis, called the Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana (BBY), during the Kharif season of 2017-18. The evidence from MP confirms many of the problems discussed above. MP farmers have been found to sell soybeans of inferior quality through the BBY. This is the adverse selection problem alluded to above. Also, the realized market prices of urad (black gram) were ay below the MSP because of moral hazard problem. However, most of these problems are not insurmountable. At present, there is no incentive for farmers in MP to find best market price because of the assured MSP. In fact, there are perverse incentives to dispose inferior quality produce under BBY. Therefore, a differentiated MSP based on quality is the first requirement to address the adverse selection problem. Then dovetailing this with electronic national agricultural market (e-NAM) will help farmers discover the best possible price and thereby help address the moral hazard problems. Perhaps, limited procurement is also needed to raise the market price and to help limit the fiscal costs o PDPS a carefully designed PDPS, with partial procurement and dovetailing with e-NAM is probably the direction to proceed.

One important problem observed was a general dip in the prices of major crops in MP–soyabeans, maize and urad–across mandies during the BBY period from October 15 to December 31, 2017 (Figs 1-3). There was a strong suspicion among farmers that traders and oil companies were instrumental in suppressing the price of soybeans during this period. But when the ratio of percentage change of price to that of arrivals during 2016-17 (BBY year) was analyzed, the price decline during the BBY year was not found to be abnormal. Therefore, there is little evidence to support trader collusion or artificial suppression of prices due to BBY. It can be reasonably inferred that the farmers’ apprehensions were largely unfounded.

Private Sector Participation

The third option being considered by the PM-AASHA is the involvement of the private sector. The rationale for this approach is rooted in the assumption of inability of the public procurement system (PDS) to attain the desired foodgrain pricing. The major shortcomings of the PDS is the reported inefficiencies of the procurement agencies and leakages (Food Corporation of India, 2015). The main challenges that hinder the public sector’s ability arise from technical and managerial shortcomings. Leveraging the technical and managerial capacities of the private sector in combination with public funding could be the way forward.

A recent initiative of the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare (MoAFW) merits mention here (Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare, 20180. Under the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY-RAFTAAR), corporations have been invited to design projects that ensure technology infusion, price assurance, value addition, marketing and overall project management. Each project is required to target at least 500 farmers across the project life. Projects can span 2 to 3 years. An integrated value chain approach needs to be adopted, covering all aspects from production to marketing. Complete flexibility in design is ensured to the corporation who will be responsible for delivering all the interventions of the project through a single window. There is a possibility that the delivery of inputs and services may improve under the system. However, this system may amount to a virtual outsourcing of policy formulation and implementation to the private sector, too much of which is not desired.

Direct Payments: An alternate approach to price support

A lump sum payment is made directly to farmers in the system of direct payments. In fact many countries such as the US and China have adopted the system (Sekhar and Bhatt, 2012). Unlike the procurement or the PDPS systems discussed above, direct payments are more in the nature of income support. In this system, a payment is made directly to the farmers, based on historical area, yield and price of a crop for few crops). There is no requirement for the farmers to actually produce the crop/s. this system is expected to have minimal effect on market supply and demand.

The programme is broadly as follows. A payment rate is fixed by the government for various crops, similar to minimum support price. The farmer is free to select a set of crops and a base year in the last five years. A payment, which is a product of the fixed payment rate and production of the crop in the base year, is made to the farmer every year. This payment is made to the farmer, irrespective of whether the farmer actually produces the crops in the current year or not. The farmer is allowed to grow any other crop deemed profitable. In this way, direct payments can be viewed as a sort of universal basic income (UBI) to the farmers, subject to the crops and base year chosen. For instance, in the countries of the European Union (EU), farmers receive direct payments on the conditions that they respect strict rules on human and animal health and welfare, pant health and environment. In case of partial non-compliance, the farmers can get their payment reduced. At present, the average direct payment amounts to 267 EURO per hectare (EU, 2018).

Differentiated Policies on Commodity Specificity

Considering the effects of procurement, PDPS, direct payments and participation of private sector, I believe that a judicious mix of policy is desirable.

  • For all the commodities central to PDS and National Food Security Act, effective procurement is essential, with outsourcing of storage activities to the private sector to limit fiscal costs and ensure product quality.
  • Direct payment may be needed in case of commodities which are not central to PDS and for which public procurement is difficult and market demand is inadequate i.e., coarse grains.
  • For commodities like pulses for which there are periodic gluts in production with inadequate market demand, PDPS with limited procurement may be appropriate. Limited procurement will help in raising the market price in years of glut, which in turn, will help to limit the fiscal costs of PDPS. A carefully designed PDPS, with partial procurement and dovetailing with e-NAM is probably the direction to proceed in case of such commodities.


The PM-AASHA Scheme is expected to support the famers to reap the benefits of minimum support prices and thereby enhance their source of income. The new scheme is put in operation across the country and covers quite a few commodities. It needs to be seen if this new dimension would be friendlier and get the famers remunerative prices to enhance their income tread.

The size of operational landholding is one of the crucial considerations in measuring the performance of the agricultural sector. Landholding size helps in deciding farming techniques and the quantity of inputs required to complete the agrarian cycle from the sowing of seeds to harvesting of corps. For instance, extensive mechanization requires large holdings, whereas small holdings are better suited to intensive farming methods. Operational landholding in agriculture, which is used wholly or partly for agricultural production as a single technical unit, has been further categorized into different size-groups for the ease of understanding. While large holdings are spread over 10 hectares (ha) or more, medium holdings spread over 4.0-9.9 ha, semi-medium holdings spread over 0.2-3.9 ha, small holdings spread over 1.0-1.9 ha and anything below 1.0 ha are defined as marginal holdings.

The Agriculture Census 2015-16, published by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare in 2018 has brought forth some of the key characteristics of this sector. For instance, it highlights how the average size of landholding has experienced a significant decline in the recent years. At resent (2015-16), the average size of landholding is a significant parameter that helps estimating output from such holdings, reflecting their economic profiles. The fact that India’s agricultural scenario is dominated by small and marginal holdings reflects the complexities of India rural socio-economic matrix.









Water scarcity has been increasing at an alarming rate worldwide and is expected to be aggravated further with the increasing pressure of population. The International Water Management Institute (IWMI, 2006), projects that one-third of the world’s face absolute water scarcity by the year 2025. The semi-arid stretches of Asia, the Middle-East and Sub-Saharan Africa having a large, poor population will tend to be the worst affected. Especially in Asia, where 82 per cent of the total 1,980,829 million cubic m per year water withdrawal per year is used for agriculture (Aquastat, 2011) the dominant agri-dependent economies might appear in the list of worst hit.

India, the second largest producer of wheat and rice and largest consumer (27 per cent of world consumption) of pulses, demands special attention when it comes to support mechanization in agriculture (Food and Agriculture Organization, 2018). Given the limited availability of water and its increasing demand, various management strategies have been introduced in India at different points. One of them, put in place in the mid 1980s was to increase water use efficiency through the drip method of irrigation (DMI). Despite substantial increase in area under irrigation, its coverage reveals a great regional variation. While each of the states of Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh have 0.8 million hectares under drip irrigation, Haryana and Chhattisgarh and Bihar have a coverage of 0.02 million hectares only (Fig. l).

Development of Drip Irrigation

The development of drip method of irrigation dates back to the 1920s, when an important breakthrough in irrigation was achieved in Germany using a perforated pipe. However, adoption of DM1 in the country is evident from the 1990s onwards, in response to the various programmes introduced by the Central and state governments (Ministry of Agriculture, 2014).

To achieve the objective of ‘per drop more crop’, the Central and state governments have been engaging in a series of efforts to increase the adoption of DMI. While the centrally sponsored schemes are in vogue since the early 1990s, the National Mission on Micro-Irrigation (NMMI) introduced during 2010-11 and the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY), launched in 2015, have brought significant increase in the adoption of DMI. As a result, area under DMI has increased from a mere 1,500 ha in 1985-86 to 70,859 ha in 1991-92 and further to 3.92 million hectares in 2016 (Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, 2016). The pace of adoption of drip irrigation has been very significant since 2005-06 (Fig. 2). However, special mention of Maharashtra may be made, which is probably the first Indian state to initiate a state sponsored subsidy programmes to popularize DMI even during the mid 1980s.

Benefits of Drip Irrigation

Unlike flood method of irrigation (FMI), in the drip method water is directly supplied to the root of the crop through a network of pipes and emitters. This reduces water loss through evaporation and distribution. Although DMI was introduced primarily to increase water use efficiency, yet a number of field studies have shown that it generates many economic and social benefits too. First, DMI supplies water only at the root zone in specified intervals and in required quantities. Reduction in water consumption over the surface method of irrigation varies from 30 to 70 per cent for different crops. Second, DMI reduces the cost of cultivation substantially especially for labour-intensive operations such as weeding. Third, with the supply of water at regular intervals, moisture stress is completely reduced. As a result, productivity enhancement for various crops under DMI is found to range between 19 per cent for grapes in Maharashtra to about 54 per cent for sugarcane in Tamil Nadu (Table 1). Productivity of cotton cultivated under DMI was 45 quintals per hectare, whereas the same was only 21 quintals per hectare for the same cultivated with FMI, depicting a change of 114 per cent. In fact, the on-farm irrigation efficiency of DMI estimated for sugarcane is over 90 per cent, while it about 35 to 40 per cent for the surface method of irrigation (Narayanmoorthy, 2004; 2008). Sugarcane is a highly water intensive crop and warrants a special discussion. Contrary to popular belief, DMI has been found to enhance the growth of the crop. Interestingly, the dimensions of weight, girth, length, number of inter-nodes, leaf length and leaf breadth were also found to be higher in sugarcane cultivated under DMI.

Fourth, the reduction in water consumption in DMI helps reducing the energy usage that is required to lift water from irrigation wells (Fig. 2). Fifth, with the increased productivity and quality of crops cultivated under DMI, farmers are able to realize substantially higher income as compared to farmers cultivating the same crops under conventional method of irrigation (Table 1). An another important advantage of DM1 is its efficient operation in undulating terrain, rolling topography, hilly areas, barren land and areas which have shallow soils unlike FMI. This also eliminates the need to level the land and incur an additional cost. Also levelling is environmentally damaging as it potentially alters the catchment geomorphology.

A nationwide study was carried out during 2014 to find the impact of NMMI. Covering 13 states this study reveals that DMI has benefitted farmers significantly (Ministry of Agriculture, 2014). Productivity increased by about 42.3 per cent and 52.8 per cent in fruit and vegetable crops respectively. Irrigation cost was reduced by 20-50 per cent while electricity consumption fell by about significant 28 per cent for different crops (Fig. 3).

Financial Viability

The largest constraint however is the need for investment in DMI. The installation of system requires a fixed investment (for its entire period) varying from INR 54,000 to INR 72,000 per hectare depending upon the nature of crops (wide or narrow space) and the materials to be used for the system. The benefit-cost ratio estimated by the author reveals that DMI is economically viable even for small and marginal farmers cultivating different crops in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. The estimated benefit-cost ratio varies from 2.3 to 2.4 in crops like banana and sugarcane, from 2.8 to 3.9 in vegetable crops like brinjal and chilli and from 1.8 to 2.0 in the case of cotton. Results suggest that farmers are able to pay back the entire capital from the profit of the very first year itself.

Potential and Policy

India has enormous potential for DMI. The Indian National Committee on Irrigation and Drainage in its report on Drip Irrigation in India (1994) indicates that about 80 crops (both narrow and widely spaced crops) can be grown viably under DMI. The measures taken by the central and state governments along with a proactive role played by the leading drip-set manufactures, the area under DMI has increased substantially in recent years. However, there is a large potential that remains to be addressed.

As per the estimate of Task Force on Micro irrigation in India (Go1, 2004), India’s total potential of drip irrigation is about 27 million hectares. Despite having many advantages over conventional method of irrigation, the area under drip-irrigation occupies only about 4.1 per cent of gross irrigated area and about 14.5 per cent of its total potential as of 2016-17 (Ministry o Agriculture and Farmer Welfare, 2017).

Fig. 1: Area covered under drip irrigation by states, 2015  








Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh have 1 mha under drip irrigation, whereas Chhattisgarh and Bihar have 0.2 mha under drip irrigation.


Fig. 2: Trends in drip irrigated area in India, 1991-92 to 2016-17







The impressive growth of the drip irrigated area during the last three decades is being shown.

Source: Agricultural Statistics at a Glance, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India

Despite its impressive growth, the current pace of adoption of DMI remains slow and it may be very long before it is fully utilized. Given the looming water scarcity and variations in rainfall pattern due to climate change, sustained efforts are needed to increase the pace of coverage of DM I. The points listed below may be considered for framing future policies on DMI:

  • The capital cost required to install drip irrigation is perceived to be high by marginal and small farmers-who account for about 85 per cent of India’s farmers as per the 2016 Agricultural Census of India, Department of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare. If the drip system is made available at a low cost, area under drip irrigation can be increased at a faster pace. Recognizing drip equipment manufacturers as an infrastructure industry and announcing a tax holiday for a specific time period, cost of the system can be considerably reduced.


  • Despite availability of subsidy from state agencies, the majority of farmers are reluctant to invest in micro-irrigation system even for horticultural cr0ps, which are highly suitable for drip irrigation. Therefore, there is a need to revisit the technological options of which crop geometry modification is the most important one. Instead of adopting traditional spacing, adoption of paired row planting has been found to reduce the cost of the system by 40 per cent in many crops including tomato, brinjal, okra, etc. Therefore, micro-irrigation system should be tailored based on location-specific parameters to reduce the cost.



  • The rate of subsidy is fixed uniformly for both water intensive and less water intensive crops. This needs restructuring. Special subsidy programmes may be introduced for water-intensive crops like sugarcane, banana, vegetables, etc. For instance, the DMI designed for sugarcane can be used for most narrow spaced vegetable crops.


  • Uniform level of subsidy currently followed for water-scarce and water-abundant areas need to be changed. Higher subsidy should be provided for those regions where water scarcity is acute and exploitation of groundwater is very high.



  • Subsidy is provided to a maximum of five hectares per beneficiary under NMMI, which is affecting the adoption of DMI. As the ultimate aim of DMI is to reduce overall water consumption/exploitation, the ceiling for subsidy should be removed.


  • Sugar industries must play proactive role in expanding sugarcane cultivation under DMI as they have close contact with its cultivators. A target should be fixed for each sugar industry to bring cultivation of sugarcane under DMI, within the next 10-15 years.



  • Lack of information on the aspects of operation, maintenance as well as usefulness of drip irrigation is one of the main reasons for its uneven spread across regions in India. Even DMI-adopters do not fully know how much subsidy is available per hectare for different crops. Many farmers do not know that drip irrigation can be used efficiently and economically for myriad crops. Wide publicity involving drip set manufactures needs to be undertaken on a continuous basis to increase the DMI literacy.


  • Drip set manufactures should be involved intensively in promoting micro-irrigation through regular training and demonstrations at farmers’ fields and in providing advice on agronomic packages to the farmers. This will help in developing confidence about the usefulness of this technology.



  • For encouraging the adoption of DMI, a special package scheme may be introduced linking immediate bank loan facility for digging wells with electricity connection (pump-set) to those with electricity connection (pump-set) to those famers who are ready to adopt drip irrigation.


  • Groundwater is the only source of water presently used in India for DMI since water-use efficiency for surface sources is very low owing to heavy losses through conveyance and distribution. However, at least 10 per cent of water from each irrigation projects may be allocated only for the use of micro-irrigation.
  • Formulation of appropriate pricing policies of canal water usage and electricity for irrigation pumpsets may encourage the farmers to adopt DMI.


  • More than one department is involved in implementing the subsidy scheme of DMI, leading to a lack of coordination among departments. Therefore, an independent special purpose vehicle may be established in each state replicating the model of Gujarat (GGRC) and Andhra Pradesh (APPMIP) to implement the scheme in transparent way.


Climate change is expected to exacerbate water scarcity, damaging the growth of agriculture. The World Bank in its latest report–High and dry: Climate change, water and the economy (2016) has cautioned about the decline in GDP by about 6 per cent by 2050 for the countries which suffer from water insufficiency. Therefore, tough actions are needed to increase the water use efficiency and DMI is the only way in which this is possible.

Biotechnology has many useful applications particularly in the fields of health and agriculture. In agriculture it can offer solutions to long persisting problems like pests, salinity and drought and malnutrition in the growing population. Changes in climate have also introduced newer pests and diseases that call for a variety of plant protection mechanisms. Agri-biotechnology provides useful solutions for such challenges in the form of seeds that are pest resistant, drought and salinity tolerant and bio-fortified foods enriched with nutrition. There exists a wide divergence in the adoption of genetically modified (GM) crops across developed and developing countries. In Europe and among a few developing countries, acceptance of GM crops is significantly low (European Food Safety Authority-EFSA, 2017). This is despite the fact that huge scientific data is available regarding the health and environmental safety of GM crops from countries such as the USA, Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil which dominate in producing GM crops for commercial purposes for over two decades (Clive, 2015).

GM Crops: A Global Context

The total area under GM crops in different countries has increased from a mere 1.7 million hectares (m ha) in 1996 to 189.8 m ha in 2017 (ISAAA, 2017; Fig. 1). The three year moving average indicates a smooth increase in area over the years. Five countries, namely the United States of America (40 per cent), Brazil (26 per cent), Argentina (12 per cent), Canada (7 per cent) and India (6 per cent) account for 91 per cent of the 189.8 m ha area under GM crops in 2017 (Table 1). Of the different biotechnology based crops, soya (50 per cent), maize (31 per cent), cotton (13 per cent) and canola (5 per cent), account for 99 per cent of the GM crops all over the world. Although GM crops are not very popular in Europe–Spain and Portugal have grown insect resistant maize, the only ones approved in the EU.

Cotton Production in India

About 105 countries consume cotton that is grown in 77 countries, of which only seven countries–the USA, Australia, Brazil, India, Uzbekistan, Burkina Faso and Mali, are the major exporters (US Department of Agriculture, 2018), the period from 2008-09 to 2017-18 shows that both the area under cotton as well as production of lint cotton (Fig. 2, 3) in the central zone comprising of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh had been much higher than the north and south zones with Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan in the north and Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu in the south.

Several issues affect the yield of cotton. Factors such as quality of soil and seeds, adequacy of rain, level of incidence of pests and diseases, and, prices of cotton in the domestic and international market are taken into consideration in deciding the area under cotton cultivation. Loss in cotton yield due to bollworm was estimated to be around 50-60 per cent annually for the country (Lilitha and Ramaswami, 2007). Cotton is also susceptible to insects and pests throughout its plant life. Hence, the crop has been infamously associated with the use of a variety of pesticides.

Bollgard, a GM crop aimed at protection against bollworms (a major menace for cotton), was introduced in 2003 in select stats as the first generation Bt cotton. Subsequently farmers in all the cotton growing states adopted it. As farmers with both small and large holdings adopted Bt cotton, the technology was considered scale neutral. Area under Bt cotton increased manifold after its adoption in 2003–from 0.3 lakh ha (0.38 per cent) out of 76.7 lakh in 2002-03 to 119.4 lakh ha (93.1 per cent) out of 128.2 lakh hectares in 2014-15, revealing a significant adoption within a span of 13 years (Vithal, 2018). An analysis showed that the profit of the industry and technology providers of Bt cotton increased substantially since the adoption in 2002 accounting for 85 to 90 per cent of total revenue earned 9Nagarajan et al., 2018).

Farmer profits accrued with the savings on pesticides due to a reduction in the number of spays required to control the bollworms–which used to be as many as 13 to 14 sprays as reported by farmers in Gujarat (Lalitha and Vishwanathan, 2009). Different studies on cotton, both through primary data and as well as through the data from the surveys conducted by the National Sample Survey Organization, point out that there has been a reduction in the use of pesticides after the adoption of Bt cotton (Ranganathan et. al., 2018). Reduction in pesticide use exerted a positive impact on the reduction in the cost of cultivation, providing a fillip to the health of farmer as well as to the health of the soil and water bodies.

Current Scenario

Around 2008, all seed companies that started with the Bollgard variety of cotton shifted to Bollgard II which offers protection against bollworms and additionally spodotera, a leaf worm. Farmers continue to use this variety even no. as per the data for 2017-18, Bt cotton is cultivated in more than 11 m ha and accounts for 93 per cent of the area under cotton cultivation. However, the Bt cotton scenario has been changing. Since 2014, several parts of cotton growing regions reported the infestation of pink bollworms and a resultant decline in the yield and area, which continues to be a cause of concern for the different stakeholders. Also in 2015, the production of Bt cotton in Punjab and Haryanasuffered a massive loss owing to the attack of whiteflies (Anilakumar, Sharma and Bawa, 2017). Though the central zone still leads the country in terms of area and production, the cultivation of soya is gaining more attention than cotton in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. Cotton yields in India were expected to be 9 per cent less in 2017-18 than the previous year due to infestation of pink bollworm, though total production could be 11 per cent more due to increased acreage (Vithal, 2018).

Has Bt cotton lost its potency in India?

Several factors could have contributed to the pest outbreak. Cotton is cultivated as a monocrop in several regions (Ranganathan et al., 2018) which in itself is not a sustainable practise, as it makes the soil weak and unable to support the healthy growth of crops. The issue in Bt cotton is that it was promoted just as a seed technology and not as a combination of practices. Bt would target only bollworm in cotton-sucking pests would still need attention. Hence, along with Bt, insecticide resistance management (IRM) and integrated pest management (1PM) practices should have been encouraged among farmers with the planting of non-Bt seeds for bio-safety which was not the case. Both IRM and IPM are knowledge intensive practices and require continuous guidance and monitoring at the field level and its efficacy rests on extension services. However, the reach and efficacy of the extension services calls for a serious debate.

Another practice, which may have been aiding pest infestation is extending the cotton cultivation beyond the second picking. While the first two pickings of cotton are of superior quality, subsequent pickings find deterioration in quality. Beyond October, due to a seasonal shift in temperature and moisture, pest attacks increase in cotton.

In the midst of increased infestation of bollworms and reduced yield, the stacked variety of GM cotton–Bollgard 3, was not released for commercial purposes due to mounting opposition and the subsequent moratorium on GM crops, though it had completed all the regulatory requirements. One of the grounds of opposition was that the herbicide tolerant nature of Bollgard 3 would prevent the growth of weeds in the field, which would affect female employment in cotton fields as women primarily undertake weeding. However, empirical research in Gujarat shows willingness of the farmers to adopt the new technology given the large shift of workers out of agriculture (Mehta, 2018). There are also several unconfirmed reports which indicate that unapproved cultivation of Bollgard 3 is taking place in different parts of India (Shrivastav, 2017). Not only is it a serious regulatory lapse, ISAAA 2017 too cautions that these unapproved seeds may express varied levels of protein with inefficient weed control and could perhaps damage the cotton crop. Thus, a lack of combination of IRM/IPM practices and refuge crop, use of cocktail of pesticides and spurious seeds have all aided in the Bt technology losing its efficacy in a very short time period.


Bt cotton remains the only GM crop in India. Close to the year 2016, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) approved several trials for bio safety for crops like cotton, maize, pigeon pea and chickpea. The trials remained a non starter as many states did not provide the no-objection certificate to the concerned agency to conduct the trials. Anti GM activists burned the GM mustard crop before scientists could collect the data. Unlike the earlier gene events where it was the MNCs’ involvement that caused much discomfort for the anti-GM lobby, GM mustard was developed by the University of Delhi. It takes years to develop a GM crop and such vandalism is a severe setback for both scientists and investors. The Union Minister for Science, Technology and Earth Sciences, Dr Harsh Vardhan rightly said, “More than awareness to the common man, the challenge is to deal with fringe groups of people who are giving misinformation to the public” (Vardhan, 2016). Bt brinjal was shunned by India earlier. We need to remember that experiments and trials are required to ascertain facts and rule out fears regarding GM crops. If there are no trials conducted then as a country we will be missing out on science based advancements that would be useful for the growing population.

India requires strict monitoring and a strict governance mechanism for the safe adoption of GM crops. For instance the unauthorized cultivation of herbicide tolerant (HT) cotton is the loopholes in regulation and governance. In fact, India should have learnt a number of lessons from the early Bt cotton days as these would be useful in developing a protocol for future GM crops. While a case-by-case approval is understandable, not allowing further research, or developing an ‘apartheid’ for certain agricultural technologies will have a significant negative impact on the agri-biotechnology sector and those dependent on innovation for their livelihoods.


Agricultural biotechnology, particularly genetically modified (GM) or transgenic crops have been a matter of intense debate for several years. The issues around GM crops have been debated by three strong groups in India with relevant arguments emanating from each side. The first is that of the activities, who raise apprehensions about the introduction of these crops in the country, keeping Indian farmers’ and consumers’ interests in view. The second consists of the groups of policy makers who have taken a lead in introducing these crops, while the third includes scientists and biotechnologists who objectively assess the potential and realities of this innovation and tend not to hold any biased opinion/s. the multiple conflicting opinion on GM, however, can leave the general readers confused.

There is a perceptible difference between the outlook of developed and developing counties towards the business of agriculture. Most developing countries are rich in biological and genetic resources, but are also economically backward. On the other hand, the developed world possesses highly-advanced technologies for research and product development. Their market economies are well-developed; legal and regulatory infrastructures are sophisticated. These differences have come to the fore during several international negotiations within the World Trade Organization (WTO), WTO Trade-Related Intellectual Properties (WTO-TRIPs) Agreement and Convention on biological Diversity (CBD) and other United Nations (UN) conventions associated with biological resources, traditional knowledge (TK), environmental sustainability and food security. Thus there are reasonable apprehensions regarding GM crops in India.

Patent Issues

It is important to take into account that the use of genetic and biological resources must correspond to the multilateral agreements and international regulatory framework designed by WTO and organizations of the UN. The CBD defines provisions of access and benefit sharing (ABS). It is interesting to note that Section 3 of the Indian Patents Act (1970) explicitly describes inventions which are not patentable (Intellectual Property India, 2015).

Clause 3(c) states that “the mere discovery of a scientific principle or the formulation of an abstract theory or discovery of any living thing or non-living substances occurring in nature” will not be considered as a patentable invention. Clause 3(i) states, “plants and animals in whole or nay part thereof other than microorganisms including seeds, varieties and species and essentially biological processes for production or propagation of plants and animals as a non-patentable inventing. “Transformed plants, seeds, planed cells, animal cells, essentially biological processes for the production of plants and animals, gene sequences, DNA sequences without having disclosed their function for lack of inventive step and industrial application are not patentable.

It may, thus, be interpreted that clones and also new varieties of plants are not patentable, but the process or method of preparing GM organisms (GMOs) is a patentable subject matter. Microorganisms, transgenic microorganisms, vaccines, chemical substances produced by microorganisms, recombinant DNA, plasmids and process of manufacturing–provided these are produced by a substantial human intervention–and processes of developing a transgenic product are patentable. There is a need for greater clarity and specific guidelines for assessment of agriculture-related intellect rural property (IP) dealing with vague or insufficiently defined subject matter. There are several grey areas–a variety of biological materials involved are not clearly defined. Interpretation of the law during court cases needs to be referenced and observed. However, in India, agricultural biotechnology is an emerging area of work and hence, there is a dearth of case laws for ready reference.

It is evident that patent laws are territorial and countries have the flexibility to allow for patenting as per their own guidelines and preferences. The provisions of the Indian Patents Act (1970), differ from the patent laws of countries like the USA, the European Union and Japan who follow liberal patent standards. In these countries, patents are also granted to GMOs and plant varieties.

The exception of non-patentability is allowed as per the WTO-TRIPs agreement, provided member countries offer an alternate effective sui generis system for protection of plant varieties. The protection of plant Varieties and Farmer Rights Act (PPV and FRA) of India is a sui generis law that protects plant breeders and farmers’ rights to encourage the development of new farmers’ rights to encourage the development of new varieties of plants. Indian patent laws were amended to include biochemical, biotechnological and microbiological processes within the definition of potentially patentable processes. It also gave due importance to mandatory disclosure of biological materials and prior approval from the biodiversity board and ABS.

Intellectual Property Rights

Another matter of concern regarding GM crops in India is the ownership pattern of intellectual property rights (IPR) held by our public funded institutions as compared to the private companies operating in India. Public sector institutions actively participated in the Green Revolution success story. However, in the last few decades of rapid advances in agricultural biotechnology, they have not been able to compete with the private sector. A significant number of recent advances in agricultural biotechnology is in the private sector. Private sector institutions, mostly multinational corporations (MNCs), have well-defined market-oriented strategies. They are using stronger instruments for IP protection, such as patents with broad claims (Jumbo Patents). The private sector vehemently defends its IP against infringement (vanWijk, Cohen and Komen, 1993). This makes the path to innovation laden with uncertainties for both smaller enterprises and public-funded institutions. The private sector concentrates mostly on commercially viable core crops suitable for industrial agriculture while the public sector’s mandate includes of crops important to subsistence farming.

The major GM field-crops grown commercially are herbicide tolerant and insecticide resistant soybeans, corn, cotton and canola, Research is ongoing to enhance traits such as water use efficiency, cold tolerance, heat tolerance, resistance to salt exposure, shade tolerance, increased yield, nitrogen use efficiency, enhanced seed portion, seed oil, etc.

There is a high degree of fragmentation of IP ownership across organization. This stifles scientific innovation. As a result, no single entity may have access to all the technologies required for Research and Development (R&D) or to bring a product to the market. One of the glaring examples of this is the Golden Rice (beta-carotene-enriched rice). Beta-carotene is the precursor of Vitamin A (Pardey, Wright and Nottenburg, 2001). Deficiency of this vitamin leads to night –blindness, a condition found in nutrition poor counties. This innovation would have been a good instance of agricultural biotechnology enhanced nutraceuticals for humanitarian use. Yet, Golden Rice was never commercialized due to operational and IP ownership issues (Fig. 1). 70 patented technologies were used in R&D and 44 US patents are required for practicing the innovation.

The Experience

In the year 2002, bollworm resistant Bt-cotton, Bollgard (with the gene Cry1 Ac from soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis) was the first GM crop to be commercialized in India. The product was developed by Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech India Ltd. (MMBL) a joint venture of Monsanto and the Indian seed company Mahyco. This was followed by the next generation Bollgard II in 2006. Bollgard II has two genes Cry1 Ac and Cry 2 Ab, stacked for broader protection. This technology was further sub-licensed by MMBL to various Indian seed companies (Fig. 4).

Success stories and controversies followed. At one point of time, the Competition Commission of India has to intervene to sort out pricing issues. In the case of Monsanto vs Nusiveedu Seeds, a division bench of the Delhi High Court observed that Monsanto’s patent for Bt technology in India was invalid, as Section 3(j) of the Indian Patents Act prohibited the grant of patents for plants for plants, plant varieties or seeds or any part thereof. The court, however, suggested Monsanto seek protection under the PPV and FRA. Therefore, IP laws in case of GM crops are open to interpretation. However, the Supreme Court has now restored Monsanto co. patent claim on GM Bt cotton until its validity is decided by a single judge of the Delhi High Court.

Besides this, India now faces an unnerving situation. The Pink Bollworm another key insect pest of cotton, has developed resistance to Bt-cotton and is causing significant crop losses. Other major target pests are also likely to develop resistance over the years. The possibility of the resurgence of secondary pests looms large. Due to insensitivity and lack of understanding of the complex ecosystem, the circumstances look gloomy and are likely to worsen in future. The primary cause is the lack of adherence to the planned ‘refuge crops’. Suggested precautions, as recommended by the authorities, were not put into practice effectively. In addition to this, the unregulated rampant use of illegal (unapproved) Bt-cotton has contributed to this impending ecological disaster.

Pharma biotechnology trials are mostly lab-based and confined. Therefore, it is possible to control environmental and health risks with a strict bio-safety regime. However, there are several problems associated with own field crop trials, especially those of GM crops. Development of resistance in insect pests has been demonstrated through scientific studies and field observations of Bt-crops.

Hazards associated with horizontal gene transfer and gene escape are proving to be real. GM herbicide tolerant canola was found growing wild in North Dakota and California; there is a strong possibility that it could pass on its herbicide tolerant genes to weeds. Therefore, better diligence, pre-launch environmental and health risk assessment, government policy formulation based on sound scientific reasoning and strict implementation are prerequisites for adopting any new technology pertaining to GM crop. Cost benefit analyses must incorporate ecological, environmental, social, moral and ethical concerns besides economics.


The seed wars, undeniably, will be a subject of future analyses and case-studies to understand the dynamics of India’s agriculture industry. The initial euphoria of GMOs as the breakthrough technology that would provide solutions for problems in agricultural production has almost died down, the long drawn debates on transgenic crops in the past two decades were indeed essential. It is obvious that sustainable crop production should be a priority rather than industrial agriculture and corresponding overproduction.


Agricultural development has been the prime goal of India’s endeavours to ensure food security and poverty alleviation Indian agriculture has undergone major transformation during the past seven decades, registering a turnaround from being dependent on food aid to becoming a consistent net food exporter. Policy support, production strategies and public investment in infrastructure, markets, institutions, research and extension have made this transformation feasible. The contours of Indian agriculture have gradually changed too. The focus of agricultural development strategy has shifted from raising agricultural output to doubling farmers’ income in five years which aims to promote farmers’ welfare, reduce engrain distress and bring parity between the income of farmers and those working in non-agricultural sectors.

Declining share of Agriculture in Income and Employment in India

The Indian economy has transformed significantly during the past seven decades and the share of agriculture in the national gross domestic product (GDP) declined from 51 per cent in 1952 to about 16 per cent in 2016-17 (Fig. 1).

The growth of industrial and services sectors has far exceeded the growth of the agricultural sector in India. However, the slow absorption of workforce in the non-agricultural sector raises concerns. The share of agriculture in employment stood at around 70 per cent for first three decades, but declined by 24 per cent in the next three and half decades following independence. The latest estimates of 2015-16 reveal that about 46 per cent of the total labour force remained engaged in the agricultural sector. The asymmetry in the contribution of agriculture to the GDP and the proportion of population it employs has become a major concern.

Growth of the Agriculture Sector

During the past seven decades India’s foodgrain production has multiplied by more than five times from 51 million tonnes (MT) in 1950-51 to 278 MT in 2017-18. During the same period, milk production increased by 10 times from 17 MT to about 170 MT. the agriculture sector in India grew by 2.6 per cent per annum during the fifties, but decelerated to grow at 1.7 per cent per annum during the 1960s. The growth rate accelerated to more than 3 per cent per annum in eighties, nineties and during 2000s. during 2011-12 to 2016-17, it again slowed down to 2.4 per cent per annum. However, the growth of the agricultural sector has remained higher than the growth rate of population in the country and therefore, per capita production of agricultural commodities has also increased substantially. It may be mentioned in this regard that the increase in per capita production has not helped with the per capita food availability. Additionally, the faster growing non-agricultural sector has added to the burden of disparity (Fig, 2).

Disaggregated Growth Patterns of Agriculture Sector

The growth of the crop sub-sector in the first decade of India’s planning phase (1950s) was quite modest (3.1 per cent). The First Five-Year Plan (FYP0 accorded highest priority to agriculture and initiated several measures to boost agricultural growth. These initiatives included higher allocation of plan outlay on agriculture, remarkable progress in land reforms, institutional changes and operatoinalisation of major irrigation projects. The dilution of these initiatives in the Second and Third FYP, along with occurrence of severe droughts in the mid 1960s decelerated agricultural growth in the crop sector during sixties to as low as 1.7 per cent (Table 1). This led to severe shortage of food grains and the country was compelled to import huge quantities of foodgrains. The food aid from the USA came with conditionality, which forced the country to put greater efforts to increase foodgrain production. In the mid 1960s, a new agricultural development strategy was adopted which emphasized on widespread adoption of dwarf and high-yielding varieties (HYVs) of wheat and rice. The new strategy paid dividends and resulted in the well-acclaimed ‘green revolution’. The crop sub-sector, which was growing at an annual rate of 1.8 per cent in the seventies, grew at the rate of 2.2 per cent in eighties and 3.0 per cent in the 1990s and 2000s. However, the growth of crop sector in recent years (2011-12 to 2016-17) plummeted to 1 per cent per annum owing to a vast variety of reasons ranging from poor soil quality to crop failures and increased vulnerabilities owing to sudden weather phenomena despite policy supports, adoption of improved production technologies and public investment in infrastructure, research and extension which were expected to contribute to the growth in the crop sub-sector.

Table 1: Annual growth rate (per cent) in output of various sub-sectors of agriculture, 1950-51 to 2011-12

Period Crop sector Livestock Fisheries Horticulture crops Cereals
1950-51 to 1959-60 3.06 1.42 5.79 0.74 3.95
1960-61 to 1969-70 1.70 0.41 4.00 4.87 2.10
1970-71 to 1979-80 1.79 3.92 2.90 2.86 2.40
1980-81 to 1989-90 2.24 4.91 5.67 2.63 2.89
1990-91 to 1999-00 3.02 3.79 5.36 5.95 2.24
2000-01 to 2010-11 2.85 4.29 3.63 3.78 1.83
2011-12 to 2016-17 0.98 5.30 7.49 3.88 0.26

Source: National Accounts Statistics, Government of India

Of the various components of the agricultural sector, the growth rates of crops and cereals have declined substantially post independence, whereas the same for livestock, horticulture and fisheries have improved.

Fig. 1: Share of agriculture in GDP and employment in India, 19522017  


Source: Base data are from National Accounts Statistics, GOI; NSSO Reports on Employment and Unemployment in India (Various rounds); Reports of Annual Employment Surveys in 2013-14 and 2015-16, Ministry of Labour and Employment, GoI.

The share of agriculture in GDP is declining. In 2017, the sector contributed 15.7 per cent to the GDP. However, it employed about 46 per cent of population in the same year.

Fig. 2: Annual growth rate in GDP agriculture and non-agriculture, 1950-51to 2016-17 (per cent)







Source: National Accounts Statistics, Government of India

Despite temporal highs and low, the growth rate of overall GDP has dropped by 1.2 percentage points between 2000-01 and 2016-17. Agricultural GDP also followed a similar declining tread from 3.1 per cent in 2000-01 to 2.4 per cent in 2016-17.

On the other hand the livestock sub-sector marked a modest growth till 1970-1.4 per cent per annum in the 1960s (Planning Commission, 2011). The acceleration continued in the 1980s (4.9 per cent) but slackened in the 1990s and 2000s. The livestock sector again picked up momentum and grew at 5.3 per cent per annum in recent years (MoSPI, 2018). The impressive performance of the livestock sector is attributed to effective government interventions, success of the dairy cooperatives, rising demands for livestock products, liberalization of livestock markets, participation of private sector in marketing and processing of livestock products, improvement in veterinary services, trade friendly policies (especially for buffalo meat) and emphasis on improvement in quality and hygiene of the livestock produce.

Diversification of Agriculture

Tremendous diversification has taken place in agriculture post independence. At the time of independence, agriculture was dominated by the crop sector but in the following decades, especially after the 1980s, the share of livestock rose sharply. Its share increased from 16 per cent in 1952 to 28 per cent in 2017. Similarly, the contribution of fisheries in the Value of Production (VoP) of agriculture increased from merely 0.6 per cent in 1952 to 5.0 per cent in 2017 (Fig. 3). Within the crop sector too, the share of horticulture increased from 10.8 per cent in 1950 to 34.2 per cent in 2017 (Fig. 4).

Changing Sources of Agricultural Growth in India

The contribution of the crop sub-sector has been declining over time while the contribution of livestock has grown almost five times and accounts for more than half of the agricultural growth (Fig. 5).

Also, wide inter-state variations are noticed, which is driven partly by the diversity in the production potential and extensive cultivation in marginal areas and partly by policy priority promoting food production regardless of technical or economic efficiency. Moreover, the deceleration in agricultural growth in the late 1990s renewed the debate of convergence in agricultural performance across states in India. A high level of regional disparities in agricultural output and productivity existed during the 1980s, which tapered off to some extent during 1990s and started rising again during the 2000s. The persistence of regional variations poses a challenge for attaining balanced regional agricultural development. There are states like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab contributing to more than 10 per cent each of the total production of foodgrains (252 MT) in 2015-16, whereas states like Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir and Kerala contribute to less than 1 per cent of the total output (Deshpande, 2017).


The degree of commercialization has increased over time. The marketed surplus ratio (MSR), which is a robust indicator of agricultural commercialization, has been consistently increasing for almost all agricultural commodities. The MSR of rice increased from 30 per cent in 1952 to 84 per cent in 2014-15. The MSR of wheat went up from 30 per cent to 74 per cent and of maize from 24 per cent to 88 per cent in the same period. In the case of other cereals, pulses and oilseeds, the increase has been quite substantial. The high and increasing MSR of staple food clearly indicates that farmers now retain only a small fraction of production for their own consumption and the major proportion is sold in the market. Thus, remunerative prices of agriculture produce at the time of harvest have significant implication for Indian farmers.

Globalization of Indian Agriculture

Indian agriculture has witnessed consistent globalization over a period lasting nearly three decades (Table 2). Both agricultural exports and imports have registered significant and steady growth in terms of value over this period. The growth rates for exports and imports, however, differ in magnitude. While agricultural exports grew at 10.4 per cent per annum, agricultural imports registered an annual growth rate of nearly 15 per cent. The most notable feature of Indian agriculture since the early 1990s is the rising share of agri-trade (agri-imports plus agri-exports) to agricultural GDP. The ratio of agri-exports) to agricultural GDP. The ratio of agri-trade to agri-GDP reveals the extent of openness of the agricultural sector to trade. This ratio has risen from 0.06 in 1992 to 0.39 in 2016-17. It is indicative of the tread of accelerated globalization of the agricultural sector in India because of trade policy reforms.

Fig. 3: Share in the grows value of agricultural output, 1952-2017







Source: National Accounts Statistics, Government of India

The share of crops in the agricultural sector has declined whereas the same for livestock is found to increase between 1952 and 2017.

Fig. 4: Share in value of crop output, 1952-2017








Source: National Accounts Statistics, Government of India

The share of horticulture in agriculture has increased substantively between 1952-2017, while foodgrains have shown a marked decline during the period.

Fig. 5: Contribution of different sub-sectors in agricultural growth, 1950-2016








Source: National Accounts Statistics, Government of India

Contribution of livestock and fisheries sub-sectors in agricultural growth is significant in the recent years.

Factors for Agricultural Growth

The widespread adoption of high-yielding varieties, expansion of irrigation facilities and increase in fertilizer application along with improvement in rural literacy, increase in agricultural credit and improved infrastructure played significant role in the agricultural growth of the country. During the green revolution of 1970s, the cropped area planted with HYV cereals increased from less than 17 per cent in 1970 to 40 per cent in 1980. The area under HYVs continued to increase and reached 70 per cent of the cropped area by 2009-10. Similarly, the cropped area under irrigation, increasing from 23 per cent in 1970 to 34 per cent in 1990 and 51 per cent in 2015-16. The fertilizer consumption per hectare (ha) was merely 26 kg in 1970, increasing to 58 kg by 1980-81 and to 96 kg in 1991. The fertilizer consumption in 2015-16 was about 243 kg/ha (Table 3).

Fig. 6: Trend in marketed surplus ratio for major crops, 1950-2015








Source: National Accounts Statistics, Government of India

The marketed surplus ratio for rice, wheat, maize and sorghum has been higher in 2014-15 in comparison to the previous years.

Table 2: Performance of Indian agriculture in trade, 1992-2016

Year Agricultural Export (million USD) Agricultural Import   (million USD) Agri-M + Agri-X       (million USD) Agricultural GDP    (million USD) Agri-Trade/ Agri-GDP Agri-export/ Agri-import
1992 3332 452 3,783 60216 0.06 7.4
2001 6055 1376 7,431 79985 0.09 4.4
2011 26803 8158 34,960 105698 0.33 3.3
2016 35398 12534 47,932 123923 0.39 2.8
CAGR (Per cent) 10.35        (per cent) 14.85        (per cent) 11.16 (per cent)      

Source: Economic Survey, (various years), Government of India

The ratio of agri-trade to agri-GDP revealing the extent of openness of the agricultural sector to trade, has risen from 0.06 in 1992-93 to 0.39 in 2016-17

Table 3: Use of technology and infrastructure in Indian agriculture, 1970-71 to 2011-12

Year HYVs      (per cent) Irrigation (per cent) Fertilizer consumption (kg/ha) Literacy rate (per cent) Electrified villages    (per cent)
1970-71 16 22 20 23 20
1980-81 42 58 39 29 45
1990-91 52 34 88 36 81
2000-01 55 39 118 47 86
2011-12 70 45 199 69 95
2015-16   52 243 73  

Source: Economic Survey, (Various years), Government of India

During the Green Revolution of the 1970s, the cropped area planted with HYV cereals increased form less than 17 per cent in 1970 to 40 per cent in 1980. The cropped area under irrigation also showed an increase from 23 per cent in 1970 to 51 per cent in 2015-16.

Rapid electrification has been one of the greatest achievements in the rural India. In 1970, only 34 per cent of the villages in rural India were electrified. But in 1995 this percentage increased to 86 per cent, which rose to 95 per cent in 2014 and recently claims have been made for about 100 per cent electrification of villages in India. The increase in electrification not only contributes to agricultural growth by encouraging more irrigation, it also contributes to reduction in rural poverty through the generation of non-agricultural employment opportunities (Fan et al., 1999). Similarly, there has been a significant increase in road density in rural India (MoSPI, 2017).

Contemporary Issues

The continued importance of agriculture in the Indian rural economy calls for sustainable and inclusive agricultural development in the country. However, the increasing marginalization of land holdings in most Indian states, accompanied by increasing fragmentation compounds the challenges of increasing productivity and accelerating agricultural growth. The crowding of Indian agriculture has been noted by many researchers (Birthal et. al., 2015). For example, the average size of an operational holding had declined from 2.2 ha in 1970-71 to 1.8 ha in 1980-81, to 1.3 ha in 2000-01, 1.1 ha in 2010-11 and further down to 1.1 ha in 2015-16 (Agriculture Census, 2018). The continued predominance of smallholders indicates that the development strategy for agriculture must consider the perspective of small farm development.

Ensuring sustainability and economic viability of smallholders and improving their competitiveness in production and marketing is a gigantic task. Options for easy leasing out of land must be encouraged and this would pave way for families to move out of agriculture and enter more lucrative sectors. This would also provide an opportunity for others to increase the size of their holdings by leasing-in land.

Shifting a large chunk of workforce from agriculture to the non-farm sectors is also required to check the disturbing trend of increasing disparities between agricultural and non-agricultural occupations. However, accelerating agricultural growth is crucial to ensure food security and enhance the welfare of the people dependent on agriculture. Pragmatic and plausible options to accelerate agricultural growth need to be harnessed. Alternative options like zero budget farming and organic agriculture should also be promoted appropriately.


The level of productivity of most crops is quite low in most of the states and there exists a big gap between the total production and the benefits realized by farmers. Bridging the existing yield gap would enhance agricultural output considerably. For achieving the existing potential, availability of quality seed is the most critical factor apart from strengthening the technology transfer mechanism. India needs to develop a competitive market for seeds by intensifying the role of public sector and by vigorously encouraging a larger number of players from the private sector in the seed business. Ensuring sustainable and inclusive growth of agriculture sector in India would require concerted focus on land and labour reforms, market reforms, revamping of agricultural extension system and minimizing risks in agriculture through promotion of climate smart agriculture, expansion of agricultural insurance and strengthening of weather advisory services.


AS I was attending the 24th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change–to create a rulebook to operationalise the Paris Agreement–in Katowice, Poland, it dawned on me, like never before, that the negotiations were taking place in a make-believe world. There was a stark disconnect between what is required to contain the impacts of climate change and what representatives of 197 parties were trying to achieve.

The world is reeling under the effects of climate disasters. From Kerala to California, extreme weather events are killing people, destroying properties and businesses. This, when the global temperature has only increased by 1.0oC from pre-industrial levels. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5oC makes it clear that the impacts are going to be substantially higher at 1.5oC warming and catastrophic at 2.0oC. The worst part is that most countries, including the US and the European Union, are not even on track to meet their meager commitments to curb emissions.

So why is it that three years after the “historic” Paris Agreement was signed, the global collective effort is in tatters? The reason is the architecture of the Paris Agreement itself. The Paris Agreement is a voluntary agreement in which countries are free to choose their own climate target, called nationally determined contributions (NDCS0. Developed countries and rich developing countries were expected to take higher emission reduction targets than poor developing countries. But if a rich country doesn’t commit to a higher emission cut, no one can demand a revision of targets. Worse, if a country fails to meet its NDCS, there is no penalty. The agreement, therefore, based on the goodwill of countries.

Hereing lies the catch. Since the beginning, climate negotiations have been viewed as an economic negotiation and not as an environmental negotiation. So, instead of cooperation, competition is the foundation of these negotiations. Worst still, the negotiations are viewed as a zero-sum game. For instance, Donald Trump believes that reducing emissions will hurt the US economy and benefit China, so he has walked out of the Paris Agreement. China too believes in this viewpoint, and despite being the world’s largest polluter today, it has not yet committed to any absolute emissions cut.

The fact is every country is looking for its own narrow interest and not the larger interest of the whole world. They are, therefore, committing to as little climate targets as possible. This is the Achilles heel of the Paris Agreement. This is the reason why the Paris Agreement will not be able meet its own goal of limiting global warming well below 2oC. The negotiations, however, are devoid of this relaxation.

We need to understand that the interest of countries and the interest of the world are two sides of the same coin. Climate change demands countries cooperate and work together to reduce emissions. But this can only happen if the climate change negotiation move from being a zero-sum game to a positive-sum game. Today, it is possible to make this changeover because reducing emissions and increasing economic growth are no more incompatible to each other. Costs of technologies such as batteries, super-efficient they are already completive with fossil fuel technologies. So the reason for countries to compete with each other for carbon budget is becoming immaterial. If countries cooperate, the cost of low and no-carbon technologies can be reduced at a much faster pace, which will benefit everyone. The bottom line is negotiations cannot continue in a business-as-usual fashion. The time has come to devise new mechanisms for a meaningful international collaboration to fight climate change.

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is an important tool to inform decision-makers, regulators and stakeholders, about the possible environmental, social and economic costs of the proposed project. To be effective, it requires the active involvement of all concerned stakeholder.

There is a genuine need to develop the capacity of all concerned stakeholders including regulators to screen and scope the EIA process, to conduce transparent public consultations and to evaluate the EIA reports. At the same time, there is a need among environmental managers and NGOs to review and interpret EIA report; and for consultants, institutions and academicians to conduct an effective EIA process.

Centre for Science and Environment recognizes this need and has developed a hands-on five-day training programme aimed at giving exposure to the participants on EIA with specific reference to mining, power sector and infrastructure projects (road and bigbway), After the programme, the participants shall have an understanding of:

  1. Legal requirements: Environmental Clearance Process, Circulars and Office Memorandums and other Laws and regulations applicable on projects
  2. Filling of form 1 and Formulation of ToR for development programme
  3. Data Collection, Evaluation Interpretation and Validation
  4. Tools and thumb rules for environmental impact
  5. Development of Environmental Management Plan (EMP) and Sector Specific best practices for Mitigation
  6. Risk and Biodiversity Assessment
  7. Socio-Economic Impact and Gender Inclusion
  8. Review and Evaluation of EIA Report.

ONE EXTENSIVE use of bamboo is the usage of young shoots as food in the Northeast. Young bamboo shoots of almost all species are eaten in various forms and people have developed techniques and methods to preserve and process bamboo shoots for long-term use as well. Forest dwellers collect the shoots and they consume it either raw or ferment it to increase its shelf life.

In Manipur, bamboo is locally known as soibum. It is used to make chutneys locally known as eromba and singzu. Moreh block of Chandel district houses some of the best shops that sell bamboo shoot products. In the past 10 years, demand has been rapidly increasing in towns and cities. It is now one of the main sources of livelihood for local people between August and October, which is the season when the shoots are collected and processed.

Fermented bamboo shoots are a compulsory part of festivals such as Ningol Chakkouba, when married women return to their parent’s house to revive family traditions. The festival is usually celebrated on the second day of the new moon in November. During this festival, the best dishes are prepared for the women by their parents. On this day, gifts are exchanged and elders give their blessing and wishes to their daughters.

Boost to shoots

A government livelihood and development project, the North Eastern Region Community Resource Management Project (NERCORMP), with an objective to transform the lives of marginalized tribal families, is providing a fillip to promote bamboo shoot production. In 2014, NERCORM enabled the formation of self-help groups (SHGS) in Manipur. There are about 1,765 SHGS and each SHG has about 20 members. Apart from training and imparting livelihood skills, NERCORMPS is also helping SHG members to take up bamboo shoot collection and fermentation. For instance, Naomi SHG and Sahei SHG from H Mogjang village in Chandel district took up bamboo shoot fermentation by taking a loan from their SHGS. Each member collected 160 kg of raw bamboo shoots in this year’s season. The market value is `50 per kg.

Method to preserve

Tender bamboo shoots are collected and washed thoroughly in running water usually by placing them under waterfalls. Latter the outer skin is removed and the shoots are sliced thinly. The slices are placed in big bamboo baskets; they are covered with plastic sheets. Heavy stones are placed on the top to apply pressure.

They are then checked regularly for fungus infection, and the infected slices are removed. After two months of natural fermentation, the slices, along with the juice, are placed inside plastic pouches and sealed airtight. Airtight sealing is the only precaution one has to pay attention to avoid fungal growth.

NEFCORMP has organized communities into 787 Natural Resource Management Groups (NaRMGS), who act as caretakers of all natural resources in the village. Residents of villages are member and there is an executive body to implement different activities. One of the main responsibilities of NaRMGS is to conserve the forest area and plan developmental activities matching with their consumption needs keeping the intricacies of the bamboo shoot fermentation process and its potential market value in mind, NaRMGS  has adopted “cultivation, consumption, conservation and commercialization” as their motto.

The nutritional value of young bamboo shoots cannot be understated. Scientific studies have established their bioactive compounds and they hold great promise for its utilization as a health food. Shoots help in digestion and can cure cardiovascular diseases and cancer, says a study published in Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety in 2011. Research has also revealed that bamboo shoots have antibacterial and antiviral properties. They also have antioxidant capacity due to the presence of phenolic compounds.

Unlike most agricultural crops, bamboo shoots grow naturally with very little artificial selection. It is fairly resistant to disease, insects and climatic changes. They are free from residual toxicity as they grow without the use of fertilizers and pesticides and are protected from the surrounding pollutants by several layers of tightly clasped sheaths. They are gradually finding a new place in the spectrum of plant foods used to enhance the quality of life.

Sincere efforts need to be made to develop proper processing and packaging techniques for long storage and transport of the fermented bamboos hoots. Improvement of crude traditional methods by employing modern scientific technologies is the need of hour to upgrade the quality and production of bamboo shoots while keeping their unique natural flavor, taste and aroma intact.



Many cities in the global south witness hetero generous pollution sources involving multiple stakeholders and thereby rendering it difficult to regulate. Regulations of air, water and solid waste management thus requires comprehensive Environmental Management Plan (EMP) that involves community participation. A good EMP should delineate the mitigation measures, monitoring and evaluation plans, citing specific roles and responsibilities of key personnel, the implicated cost and anticipated deadline; so as to minimize the adverse effects of the activity to the environment, health and safety.

Anil Agarwal Environment Training Institute (AAETI) recognizes the importance of a good EMP and thus offers a five days training program on Development of Environmental Management Plan for polluted areas; for the environmental regulators from India and different countries of the global south.


  1. Source identification;
  2. Characterization and pollution load estimation;
  3. Protocol for setting up monitoring network;
  4. Protocol for preparing environmental management plan;
  5. Stakeholder analysis, Community participation and Resource immobilization;
  6. Case studies and class exercises.















In an effort to tackle air pollution from stationary sources, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board adopted an innovative solution through the Star Rating Programme. The Programme is a pioneering transparency initiative, where PM emissions of industries are rated on a 5-star scale and disclosed to the general public through a website–mpcb. Info. The least polluting industries are rated 5-stars and the most polluting industries are rated I-star.

The programme was launched on World Environment Day in 2017 (5 June 2017), by the Hon’ble Chief Minister. Currently the progrmme has more than 300 industries from 10 sectors across 32 districts in Maharashtra. Data from more than 20,000 stack samples have been collected and processed to arrive at the Star Ratings for industries.



  • Industries with low emissions are rewarded for their efforts by disclosure of their star rating.
  • Industries become aware of their comparative environmental performance, with respect to their peers.
  • Senior management of the industry are made aware of their environmental performance.
  • Polluting industries are made aware of their performance, so that they can take steps to ensure compliance to MPCB norm.

Benefit to the public

  • Easy comprehension: the public can easily identify the polluters in their region
  • Easy comparison: the public can easily compare environmental performance of different industries thereby demand better performance from more polluting industries
  • Easy communication: the public can easily share information on industrial environmental performance on social media platforms, thereby raising awareness regarding the wider issue of air pollution


To interact with the industries in the Programme, the MPC Board periodically organizes industry report card distribution workshops, where industries are presented with a certificate of their respective Star Ratings. Air pollution control behaviour and initiatives are also discussed in such workshops.

In 2018, 3 report car distribution workshops were held (Pune, Mumbai and Nagpur) and more than 150 report cards were distributed to industries.


To spread awareness about the programme to the general public, awareness workshops have been conducted across 7 cities in Maharashtra. Additionally, 12 different newspaper publications in 3 languages have covered the Maharashtra Star Rating Programme. Through this medium, the programme has reached about 16 lakh people in Maharashtra. The Star Rating Programme has been presented in multiple prestigious forums such as Niti Aayog and the University of Chicago Centre in Delhi, among others.



The issue of air pollution is increasingly in the limelight due to worsening environmental conditions. global leaders have debated about innovative solutions to tackle this issue. Transparency is a key solution that has witnessed global uptake. Star Rating Programme draws from the success of transparency programmes around the world such as in China, the US, Indonesia and Africa.

MPCB’s Star Rating Programme is a first of its kind voluntary information disclosure scheme in India. Based on the programme’s success so far, Odisha has also lauched its own Star Rating Programme.