Ironies of India's Green Revolution

For nearly five years the "green revolution" has been under way in a number of agriculturally underdeveloped countries of Asia. Its advent into tradition-bound rural societies was heralded as the rebuttal to the dire predictions of hunger stalking large parts of the world. But more than that, those carried away with euphoria at the impending changes saw in them a remedy for the poverty of the vast majority of the cultivators. They were correct in assuming that the new technology stands for vastly increased productivity and income to match. However, the propitious circumstances in which the new technology thrives are not easily obtainable and hence there are inevitably constraints on its scope and progress. Apart from this, where it has succeeded, the revolution has given rise to a host of political and social problems. In short, the green revolution can be, as Dr. Wharton correctly pointed out in Foreign Affairs in April 1969, both a cornucopia and a Pandora's box.

This is seen very decisively in India's experience. There, extravagant anticipations have been replaced by a more sober and meaningful appreciation of its accomplishments and of the possibilities for expanding the scope of the technology beyond its current narrow limits. It has become obvious that many more farmers must be drawn in to share the benefits of the revolution. The polarization of income between the rich and the poor farmers and the erosion of the position of the tenantry which has been accentuated by the increases in productivity should not be part of the model of the new agricultural strategy. While self-sufficiency in foodstuffs is indeed a welcome-and likely-prospect for India, concern is rising that for all its technological feasibility it may fall short in helping solve some of the grave problems of a good many village poor. (The views expressed here and elsewhere in this article are, of course, those of the author alone.)

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