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What Went Wrong With The Green Revolution?

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India is a country where agricultural growth is usually determined by counting the number of farmer suicides in a given period of time.

India is a country where agricultural growth is usually determined by counting the number of farmer suicides in a given period of time. If numbers are less, we assume that agricultural growth is satisfactory, and farmers are enjoying a prosperous and comfortable life. If numbers are more, we suddenly get to know that we are heading towards an agrarian crisis.

The fact is that nobody, except farmers, has even the slightest idea about ground realities of agriculture, day-to-day struggles, challenges and disappointments associated with this profession.

Farming is tough, indeed. From sowing seeds till selling the harvest, every stage of farming has its own set of daunting challenges. Small and marginal farmers with less than two hectares of land account for 86.2% of all farmers in India. Surprisingly, they own just 47.3% of the crop area. This clearly shows the failure of land reforms in India. Had effective land reforms been introduced in India at the right time, we would not have witnessed such a distressful and deplorable condition of agriculture.

What Went Wrong With The Green Revolution?

We adopted a wrong growth model in the 1960s, disastrous results of which we are seeing today. To improve productivity, the Green Revolution particularly emphasized on high-yielding varieties, agrochemicals including fertilizers and pesticides, irrigation and mechanization.

If the only objective of a student is to get good marks in the examination by rote learning or any other method which guarantees instant results, they may get good marks in the short run, but it’s certain that his learning, understanding and cognitive depth will remain stagnant in the long run. Similarly, since the only aim of the Green Revolution was to increase productivity, and thereby farmers’ income, it resulted in exorbitantly rising input cost, degradation, erosion and infertility of soil, leaching and waterlogging, soil salinity, pollution, and so on.

Some of the long-term problems are visible already:

Paddy farming which requires high amounts of water
Farmers are growing water-intensive crops, primarily for higher returns, in water-scarce regions.

Groundwater Levels Are Declining Rapidly

It is evident that the Green Revolution has made farmers heavily dependent on groundwater. As per the Fifth Minor Irrigation Census, the groundwater level in India has declined by 61% between 2007 and 2017, and 89% of the extracted water is used for irrigation purpose.

As the groundwater level is declining, farmers are deepening wells, leading to higher input cost. This is accompanied by the insensitivity of farmers who are growing water-intensive crops, primarily for higher returns, in water-scarce regions.

Poor Productivity Due Poor Fertility

As far as productivity is concerned, it has decreased over time as soil fertility has been negatively affected due to mismanagement of inputs, including agrochemicals. It requires little common sense to understand that heavy pesticide use causes a decline in the level of beneficial microorganism in the earth, leading to poor soil quality in the long run. We also really need to introspect why Malwa region of Punjab, where pesticide usage is excessive, has a huge number of cancer cases.

Talking about fertilizers, the current consumption ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium is 6.7:2.4:1, against the desirable ratio of 4:2:1. The situation in Punjab and Haryana is worrisome. Here NPK use ratio is 31.4:8:1 and 27.7:6.1:1, respectively. According to Down To Earth, 42% of India’s districts use 85% of its chemical fertilizers.

It’s not just about numbers. It’s about the idea. You are providing them something, about which they are ill-informed and largely unaware.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

The fundamental problem with the Green Revolution is the fact that it universalized an idea without paying little heed to land profile diversity in India. The wave which started in the northern region of Punjab Uttar Pradesh and Haryana started blowing everywhere else gradually, while the fact is that huge geographical, climatic and edaphic diversity exists in the country where one size fits all approach may or may not work.

Rising input cost means that farmers have no option but to get into the vicious cycle of a debt trap.

Moreover, input costs rose so high that farmers had no option but to get into the vicious cycle of a debt trap. Institutional or non-institutional, both sources of credit have their own shortcomings and challenges. While non-institutional credit bothers them with higher interest rates and subsequent exploitation in case of non-payment, institutional credit is full of systemic inefficiencies, overly technical and formal procedures, and insufficient coverage.

Also, the banking system is usually reluctant, citing poor repayment record of borrowers. Even till date, most of the small and marginal farmers are bereft of proper financial resources due to inefficient and unaffordable credit system.

Unfortunately, we haven’t learned anything from the mistakes committed in the past, and it doesn’t seem we are going to change our methodology any time soon since we have become habitual to techniques which give instant results. It is a belief, which is a myth of course, that ecologically destructive methods are essential to ensure increased farm productivity.

In India, BT cotton has been criticized for its supposed failure to reduce the need for pesticides and increase the yield. It particularly failed in containing pink bollworms. Kapil Shah, one of the pioneers of the organic farming movement, calls it “Terminator Technology” that kills the basic instinct for survival.

It is still not proved that GM crops provide affordable and sustainable solutions to agricultural challenges. Research on utilities and benefits of genetically modified crops is still going on, but our scientists and policymakers see GM crops as the only hope for solving the agrarian crisis. Needless to mention, such an approach is only going to aggravate the ongoing crisis.

Nobody denies the fact that farming is dependent on various natural factors which are outside of human capacity to control, erratic rainfall, locust attack, hailstorm, to name a few. Farmers of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab are finding it hard to deal with the ongoing locust attack.

However, the majority of agrarian problems have an anthropogenic origin. Sadly, factors that are driving agriculture in India are based on failed land reforms, fragmented landholding patterns, uneconomical farm size, government apathy and associated policy paralysis, unexamined technology transfer, unregulated and unmonitored inputs usage and mismanaged marketing and payment system.

Farm loan waivers only show the failure of the approach we have adopted till now. Every crop season starts with the government announcing support prices and ends with loan waivers. This vicious cycle will persist until we look into the existing issues on the ground, introspect on policy part and come up with an agrarian overhaul which is profitable and sustainable at the same time.

Part 2 of this series is available here.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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