Essay | Agriculture in the wake of ‘Make in India’

At the time of independence, India was essentially an agrarian economy. Not only were more than three fourths of the citizens of India dependent on agriculture for their livelihood but the agricultural sector also contributed over 50% to the Indian economy. Thus, it was truly an agricultural economy. Today, across multiple cultures in the country, there is a prominent festival in every culture which is based on agriculture. Even in the history of India, agriculture has been an important forte for various civilizations with the Indus valley civilization stressing on the agriculture and the mention of agriculture in Rig Veda as well. Thus, historically, agriculture has been at the core of the Indian economy.  However, after the Independence, there was a relative shift in this pattern. While the Indian economy is still, by definition, agricultural as around 60% of the population continues to be dependent on agriculture for their livelihood but in terms of contribution to the GDP, the share of the agricultural sector has steeped below 20%. Moreover, India has this unique distinction of shifting directly from the primary sector economy to the tertiary sector economy bypassing the Secondary sector which explains the scarcity of manufacturing sector and relative scarcity of infrastructure in India.

Make in India‘ is a campaign of the Government of India giving impetus and attracting Foreign Direct Investments and trying to convert India into an investment heaven. This campaign is essentially targeted at the secondary sector and is majorly meant for investment in chemicals, power, automobiles etc. However, besides these, understanding the importance of agriculture sector in India, investments have also been called for in the areas of improvement of irrigation facilities, cold storage, food processing industry, warehousing etc. These will essentially serve as a tool for alleviating the condition of the agricultural sector as well as the people who are directly or indirectly dependent on the sector.

The primary sector has always been a matter of concern for the Government of India. The conditions of the Indian farmers relative to their counterparts have seen but a little change ever since the colonial period. While the Government of India, time and again, have tried to alleviate the conditions by various schemes like waving off farmer loans, providing subsidised crops and fertilizers and tax-free income including providing for certain facilities like Minimum support price (MSP) etc., a little has changed in certain spheres of those dependent on agriculture. Farmers committing suicide at extremely high rates continue to depict a very sorry state of the agricultural affairs.

While the APMCs and other middleman between the producer and the consumer can be blamed, this also provides for an alternate solution of replacing these by agricultural entrepreneurs. The investment in the agriculture could be given impetus by providing facilities of micro finance and micro credit. Grameen Bank has been an epitome of this. The irrigation facilities need a push and infrastructure needs to be built to provide for micro-Irrigation. India is notorious for the lack of appropriate food storage facilities and often observes large chunk of grains squandered. Thus, a need for investment in infrastructure is a must to ensure minimal wastage of the produce. In the wake of this issue, storage houses including cold storage needs to be looked upon. Equally important is the Food Processing Industry which needs to be looked upon. Warehousing is also a subsidiary investment which needs to be considered and made investments in. Organic farming is yet another sector where investment is required.

India is a huge agricultural country and besides being a huge exporter, it’s also a huge importer with net settlements in the favour of import. While the initial impetus was provided by the Green Revolution and the White Revolution to contain the demand for the food, a new revolution is required to contain the gap of the demand and supply. The ‘Make in India’ initiative can very well be used to serve the purpose.



PS: The article was written in mid 2016.

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