Why India Needs A Second Green Revolution


Till the 1970s, India was an importer of food and depended on foreign donors. Famines were common. Lack of development and modern technology, faulty food distribution, and other such factors led to a major chunk of the population going hungry and unable to feed themselves. Starvation and malnutrition were the biggest problems facing the newly-independent country. Food grains had to be imported since traditional agricultural practices with low productivity were unable to sustain the growing population. There was a great strain on foreign exchange reserves.

Green Revolution increased food grain

Then the Green Revolution happened in the 1970s. Modern agriculture technology ushered in an era of increased output and prosperity. It led to increased agriculture production, helping the Indian government in maintaining buffer food grain stocks. India gained a measure of self-reliance and self-sufficiency. The new methods were led by American agronomist and humanitarian Norman Borlaug, also called the Father of Green Revolution. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his efforts in saving a billion people from starvation. His methods involved the development of high-yielding varieties (HYV) of cereal grains, expansion in irrigation infrastructure, modernization of management techniques and methods, use of hybridized seeds, chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

The Green Revolution was initiated with the help of US-based Rockefeller Foundation. It was based on new seed varieties developed in Mexico and the Philippines. Of the HYVs, wheat returned the best results. The area under HYV, which was barely 1.9 million hectares in 1960, jumped spectacularly to 15.4 million by 1970, 43.1 million by 1980, and 63.9 million by 1990.

The Green Revolution particularly proved beneficial for the Third World Countries that were developing. Incidentally, most of them were gaining independence during those times—India being one of them. The Green Revolution lead to adoption of new agriculture technology such as HYVs, fertilizers, irrigation facilities, and novel modes of cultivation like mechanization of farmlands involving the use of heavy machinery such as tractors. The new set of practices superseded previous traditional practices.

USAID first to use the term “Green Revolution”

“Green Revolution” was used for the first time in 1968 by US Agency for International Development (USAID) director William Gaud. He says on the development of new agriculture technologies:  ”These and other developments in the field of agriculture contain the makings of a new revolution. It is not a violent Red Revolution like that of the Soviets, nor is it a White Revolution like that of the Shah of Iran. I call it the Green Revolution.”

Traditional agriculture methods not enough

India was an importer of food grains. Due to traditional agricultural practices, low productivity, and a growing population, food grains had to be imported. That drained the already scarce foreign reserves. Due to the increased production due to the Green Revolution, the Indian government was able to maintain buffer stock. The Green Revolution enabled developing countries such as India to overcome poor agricultural productivity. The new agricultural movement particularly gained momentum the states of Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh.

A second Green Revolution needed?

However, problems of hunger and starvation continue to plague the country. No wonder, a big part of the Indian population suffers from hunger. On the Global Hunger Index, India stands at the 97th position. According to a report by International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), one-sixth of the population is undernourished; 190 million people go hungry daily. About 30% children below 5 years of age are underweight. India accounts for 30% of neo-natal deaths internationally, linked to malnutrition. Perhaps, it is time for a second Green Revolution.