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Agriculture holds the key to India's economic growth and development.

The large share of agriculture in poorer economies suggests that strong growth in agriculture is critical for fostering overall economic growth (World Development Report, 2008). Traditionally, agriculture is considered as backbone to the India's economic growth and development. Even now, nearly 70 percent of its population are dependent and earns their livelihood from agriculture. It is an important source of providing backward and forward linkages to industrial and service sector, and is both directly and indirectly instrumental in determining country's economic growth and development. Once Jawaharlal Nehru said "every thing else can wait but not the agriculture". He emphasized "In India, almost everything begins with agriculture.... industry itself depends on the growth of agriculture.... out of agriculture grows industry". Agriculture is the lifeblood of the people of the India's rural economy, as it provides direct employment to about 234 million people and contributes 12 percent towards the national export. The government of India since the First Five Year Plan has given priorities to agriculture sector through various plans, policies and projects and programme implementation such as formulation and implementation of land reform measures; infrastructure building in the form of construction of irrigation canal and check dams, etc.; mechanization of agriculture through the adoption of various technologies such as tractors, threshers, harrow, etc.; provisioning of HYV seeds, subsidized fertilizers, insecticides, pesticides, etc. ; credit and financing; public private partnership in contact farming and diversification of agriculture, etc. As a result, the food grain productivity has increased from 51 million tones in 1950-51 to 250 Million tons in 2011-12. According to government of India report 2008-09, India is standing among top three nations in terms of production of various agricultural commodities like paddy, what pubes, ground nut rapeseeds, fruits, vegetables, sugarcane, tea, jute, cotton, tobacco , etc. .Although, this is satisfactory from the stand point of statistical information, however, from the angle of vast population of India, this figure is still inadequate to control rising food grain prices which is hitting hard to the poorest of the poor and the common men.

Agriculture contributes 13 percent to the total GDP and accounts for more than 60 percent of aggregate employment in India. As per NSSO report, 62.5 percent and 78.8 percent of male and female respectively are employed in farm agricultural activities year 2009-10. The decline in the contribution of agriculture to the GDP without any substantial reduction in the workforce engaged in the agriculture sector is a cause of concern for the economic development resulting in disguised unemployment, underemployment and wastage of man-days further leading to lower per capita income among the rural population dependent on agriculture. Moreover, declining capital formation in the agriculture sector is another important factor for the decrease in the contribution of agriculture to the GDP. The Central Statistical Organization data shows that the Gross Capital Formation in the agriculture sector has declined from 17.7 percent during 1950-51 to 7.1 percent in 2005-06. Further, India's export of agricultural commodities has declined from 18.4 percent in 1990-91 to 10.47 in 2010-11. The planners and the policy makers have to take note of these downward trends and concerns. Special agriculture drive in the ABP (Agriculturally Backward and Poor) states is the need of the hour.

In a populous country like India, with scanty financial resources at disposal, it is a stupendous task on the part of the both State as well as Centre government to transfer manpower deployed and depended on the agriculture sector to the urban-based industrial and service sector by creating more employment in these two sectors. Besides, it is also observed that the migration of unskilled rural manpower from the rural to urban areas has not only aggravated urban poverty, enforced on urban infrastructure and employment, but also ironically informalising urban employment and economy. Therefore, the need of the hour is to commercialize agriculture and its allied sector activities, so that it provides better income of the rural people more particularly to the landless agriculture labour, effectively make them absorbed and de-motivate them to migrate to urban areas for informal employment. The employment in agriculture has to be supplemented with self employment avenues in the form of individual and group rural entrepreneurship in the manufacturing and service sector, which will raise the per capita income and quality of life of the country side population. Moreover, infrastructure and marketing system has to be strengthened and necessary step be taken by the government to deal with imperfect competition in the rural economy. Above measure will boost people's faith in rural economic system which is largely agro-based and can check unbridled migration of rural population from the economically less developed States to the rural and urban areas of the economically advanced States. To make agriculture inclusive, the vast potential of the dry land areas has to be energized, so that these areas become empowered to contribute towards economic growth and development. The Second Green Revolution be made in the dry land belt of the country and the Third Green Revolution must be endeavoured in the desert, hilly areas and other agriculturally less empowered areas. The diversified potential of agriculture in the form of dairy, fishery, floriculture, horticulture, forestry, etc. be unearthed through effective investment in infrastructure, research, extension and capacity building. The production and procurement and distribution of vegetables, pulses and other cash crops has to be strengthened in order to control price rise in these items and more and more agricultural land has to be brought under cultivation through contract farming and other innovative method of public-private partnership. The diversification of agriculture through multiple cropping needs to be the motto of agriculture development. A comprehensive PDS system for the poor for various essential food grain, pulses, dairy items, etc be formulated, which will not only ensure food security but also control malnutrition in rural areas. The agriculture sector must be strengthened to fight against rural poverty, hunger, malnutrition and unemployment. India should not forget Mahatma Gandhi's quotable quote that the real India lives in its villages and development of India means development of the people living in its more than six lakh villages. Agriculture is the backbone of rural economy and development of rural economy veritably depends on the development of agriculture. Thus agriculture holds the key to economic growth and development of India where nearly 70 percent of its people live and are dependent on agriculture and its allied sector activities.

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Title Annotation:The Editor's Column
Author:Pattanaik, B.K.
Publication:Political Economy Journal of India
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Jul 1, 2015
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