Punjab: What did the Green Revolution do to it?

Posted on February 18, 2010 in Society

Arun Sharma:

In 1970s when High Yield Varieties of rice and wheat made their entry into India in the form of green revolution, Punjab and Haryana proved to be the most successful stories for them. HYVs offered a higher level of per capita income that would be translated into a better lifestyle and hence the progress of the nation along with meeting the growing demand for food across the globe. It served these objectives to a large extent. Today, Punjab produces 1% of rice, 2% of wheat and 2% of cotton of the world, leading all the states in per hectare yield of all these crops. Its per capita income (2006) at Rs 28,605 is way above the national average of just Rs 6,929. Punjab also claims a 100% rural electrification as well as almost 99% connectivity of villages by road against the national average of just over 40%.

But what does that translate into, in the long run for Punjab’s growth? Is this growth sustainable? Can Punjab keep its reputation of being the Food Basket of India? How will it make a decision to create a balance in the industrial growth and agricultural success? Getting an answer to each of these questions might prove to be a research in itself, but this article will try to discuss some facts that will be helpful in creating a hypothesis regarding the future of Punjab’s Green Success.

To start with, the first concern is about the sustainability of this high agricultural production level and hence, better lifestyle of the Punjab citizens. There have been many theories that refute the very notion of the success of Green Revolution in Punjab. They have provided a new perspective to look at it, rather than the conventional increase in productivity per hectare. Punjab consumes highest amount of fertilizers in the country, amounting to almost 10% of the national consumption with just 1.5% of the geographical area of the country. Whether it should ring alarm bells or not, is a matter of discussion for the agriculture specialists, but prima facie it looks like a grim situation. According to a research done by Punjab Agricultural University in 2007, Punjab has already lost 5.1 mn tonnes of nitrogen, 2.5mn tonnes of phosphorous and 4.7mn tonnes of potassium, each one of these being very crucial for the crops to grow and provide nutritional value. On top of it, the water level in Punjab has been falling by 50 to 70 cm every year which is another matter of concern. And already, 97% of the cultivable land is under plough indicating no further expansion of the cultivable land. In such a situation, the chances of long term sustainability of the supernatural productivity levels are very dim.

Besides the land degradation, a number of secondary issues have resulted due to the Green Revolution, that have the potential to impact the growth of Punjab in future. Land consolidation is one such issue. Small or marginal farmers have found it difficult to benefit from HYVs, machinery and fertilizers in their fields due to which the wealth disparities have widened further than before. Also, installing pumps and using higher amount of fertilizers have increased the cost of production, thereby increasing the average debt taken by the farmers. Every year, a lot of subsidies have to be provided to the farmers in form of cheap electricity, loan waivers and lower interest rates. These costs are seldom counted as the costs of production in awarding the success crown to Punjab.

The real GDP growth of Punjab from 2007-08 to 2008-09 has been about 14% as compared to its neighbor Haryana that grew at about 18% during the same period. This is an indicator of the growth stagnation for Punjab’s economy that’s highly dependent upon agriculture to an extent of 65%.

It’s high time that Punjab government takes note of the worsening situation in the region and creates alternative employment opportunities for its citizens. But more importantly, it should start conducting intensive researches on the situation of agriculture in the state and plan well ahead for its sustainability. Otherwise, the food basket can again turn into a beggary bowl for its citizens.

The writer is a Senior Correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz.