Introduction to Indian Climate

Introduction to Indian Climate

This article deals with ‘Introduction to Indian Climate.’ This is part of our series on ‘Geography’, which is an important pillar of the GS-1 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.

General Observation

  • India has an extraordinary variety of climates ranging from Tropical to Alpine.  
  • The climate of India can be broadly described as Tropical Monsoon Type.

It is most affected by two seasonal winds.

South-West Monsoon Blow from sea to land after crossing the Indian ocean, Arabian sea & Bay of Bengal.
Bring most of the rainfall in the country.
North-East  Monsoon They blow from land to sea.
Cause rainfall only on the Coromandal coast.

The whole of India can be broadly divided into two climatic zones.

North India Continental Climate with winters freezingly cold & summers with extremely high temperature
South India Equable Climate, i.e. same temperature throughout the year

Factors affecting Climate in India

1. Longitudinal Extend

Since the Tropic of Cancer passes through the middle of India. Hence, 

  • Northern India lies in the subtropical & temperate zone
  • Southern India falls in the tropical zone. 
Introduction to Indian Climate

2. Distance from Sea

  • Places situated near the sea have Equable Climates. A large area of India, especially the Peninsular region, is not very far from the sea. This part of the country does not have a very clearly marked winter, and the temperature is almost equal throughout the year. Kerala, situated on the coast, has an annual range of temperatures less than 3° C. 
  • On the other hand, places situated away from the sea have Continental climates. In areas of central and north India, summers are hot, and winters are cold. 

3. Altitude

  • Every 1000 metres of elevation gain results in a 6.5°C drop in temperature. Hence, places situated at higher altitudes are cooler than places on the plains.

4. Mountain Ranges

4.1 Himalayan Mountains

  1. The Himalayas acts as a barrier to the freezing cold wind blowing from central Asia and keep the Indian subcontinent warm compared to Central Asia.
  2. The Himalayas compel the South-West monsoon to shed whole rainfall in India.

4.2 Western Ghats

  • Significant rainfall happens on the western slopes of the Western Ghats. In contrast, the eastern slopes & Deccan plateau receive very little rain as they lie in the rainshadow region of Western Ghats.

5. Direction of Surface Winds

  • Summer: winds blow from sea to land, bringing widespread rain.
  • Winter: winds blow from land to sea, and hence, they are dry & cold.

6. Upper-Air Circulation

They affect Indian Climate in the following ways 

  • The onset of the South-West Monsoon is driven by the shift of the Sub-Tropical Westerly Jet (STWJ) from the plains of India towards the Tibetan plateau (explained in the next article in detail). 
  • Sub-Tropical Westerly Jet (STWJ) reaches India after passing over the Mediterranean Sea, where rainfall occurs during winters. These winds bring cyclonic disturbances to Northern India, causing rain in Northern India during winters known as Western Disturbances. 
  • The Tropical Easterly jet streams that blow over Peninsular India (approx. 14° N during summer) cause tropical depressions during the South-West and retreating monsoon.
Tropical Easterly jet streams

Rare Earth Metals

Rare Earth Metals

This article deals with ‘Introduction to Mineral Resources of India.’ This is part of our series on ‘Geography’, which is an important pillar of the GS-1 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.


Rare Earth Metals
  • Rare Earth Metals include 15 lanthanides with Atomic numbers 57 to 71 and two non-lanthanide metals, i.e. Scandium and Yttrium.
  • As they frequently occur in the same ore deposits as the lanthanides and have comparable chemical characteristics, scandium and yttrium are also regarded as rare-earth elements. But they have different electronic and magnetic properties.
  • Although they are termed Rare Earth elements, they are not so rare in occurrence. However, 
    • They tend to occur together and are difficult to separate from one another. 
    • Along with that, they do not occur in concentrated form and are dispersed throughout the world. It makes their extraction difficult and economically unviable. 
    • They are also hazardous to extract due to their radioactive nature.  
  • Two main ores from which Rare Earth Metals can be extracted are Monazite and Bastansite.

Uses of Rare Earth Metals

  • They are used in various high-end electronic devices due to their useful magnetic, chemical and spectroscopic properties.
  • They have the unique property to accept and discharge electrons, enabling them to be used in electronic devices, rechargeable batteries & fluorescent lighting.  
  • Due to their spectroscopic properties, they are used as fluorescent and as the main component in night vision glasses.
  • Due to their magnetic properties, they are used in electromagnetic circuits and also to make powerful and stable magnets.
  • Military uses 
    • They are used in night-vision glasses & precision-guided weapons. 
    • They are the critical component in making ultra-hard alloys used in making armoured vehicles.
  • Some Rare Earth Metals and their uses 
    1. Scandium: Television and fluorescent lamps
    2. Yttrium: Treat cancer and rheumatoid arthritis 
    3. Lanthanum: Night vision glasses 
    4. Neodymium: Guidance systems and wind turbine motors
    5. Europium: Fluorescent lamps 
    6. Samarium: Powerful permanent magnets which are stable even at high temperature
    7. Cerium: Space program, especially space shuttles

Global Distribution

  • There are two main sources of Rare Earth Metals
    • Bastnasite deposits in China and the United States constitute the largest percentage  
    • Monazite deposits found in Australia, Brazil, China, India, Malaysia, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Thailand.  
  • China is the world leader, accounting for around 97% of world production. India, Brazil, Australia, the USA, Russia, Thailand and Malaysia comprise the rest. 
  • In 2023, large deposits of rare earth metals were found in Sweden. Until then, no rare earth deposits have been reported from the continent.
  • Rare earth metals are also being recycled from e-waste. 

Indian Distribution

  • India has 3% of world reserves. 
  • The main source in India is monazite which is found in the form of sand on the beaches of Kerala. 
  • The Geological Survey of India recently found a high concentration of rare earth elements in western Rajasthan.  

Types of Vegetations in India

Types of Vegetations in India

This article deals with ‘Types of Vegetations in India.’ This is part of our series on ‘Geography’, which is an important pillar of the GS-1 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.


  • Natural vegetation refers to a plant community unaffected by man, directly or indirectly.
  • Climate, soil and landform characteristics are the important environmental controls of natural vegetation.

1. Tropical Evergreen Forest

  • Tropical Evergreen Forests are found in areas with 
    1. 200 cm or more annual rainfall
    2. Annual temperature of more than 22°C 
    3. Rainfall is distributed throughout the year.
  • These forests never shed their leaves; therefore, they are called evergreen forests.
  • The temperatures in these regions are high enough to promote constant growth, and water is always sufficient. The only physical limitation for vegetation growth is light, which sets a competition between adjacent species for light. Due to this reason, Tropical evergreen forests are dense, vertically stratified and multi-layered
    • The tallest trees, to ensure maximum sunlight goes up to the height of 60 meters and have a branched canopy. They receive maximum sunlight. 
    • Vegetation layers closer to the ground consisting of shrubs and creepers receive very low sunlight due to darkness in this area.       
  • Vegetation in this region consists of 
    • Trees: Rosewood, Mahogany, Aini, Ebony, Ironwood, Cinchona (bark used to make quinine), and Cedar (all hardwoods). Their height is up to 60 meters, and their bark is up to 5 m thick.
    • Dense undergrowth: Bamboo, Fern, Canes & Climbers 
Types of Vegetations in India
  • Though this is a hardwood type of vegetation, due to high density, lack of pure strands and swampy ground conditions, it is not easy to exploit these forests. Also, due to the lack of transportation facilities, their full economic benefits have not yet been realised.
  • They are found in 
    1. Western Ghats in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala
    2. Parts of Tamil Nadu and Andhra
    3. Andaman-Nicobar Islands
    4. Plain areas of West Bengal and Odisha
    5. North-Eastern states of Assam, Nagaland, Tripura, Mizoram, Manipur and Meghalaya 
Tropical Evergreen Forest (Areas in India)

2. Tropical Deciduous Forest

  • Tropical Deciduous Forests develop in areas with  
    1. 70 to 200 cm annual rainfall
    2. Annual temperature of about 27°C  
    3. But there is a distinct dry and wet season.
  • The characteristic feature of the Deciduous forest: This vegetation sheds its leaves due to stress during the long dry season, which occurs at the time of low sun and cool temperatures.
Tropical Deciduous Forest
  • Vegetation in this region consists of 
    1. Teak and Sal are the most important trees.
    2. Rosewood, Kusum, Pipal, Neem, Teak, Eucalyptus, Mahua, Amla, and Tendu are also found. 
  • They are found in regions having tropical monsoon climates i.e. 
    1. Great Plains: Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal
    2. Central India: Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, 
    3. South India: Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu 
Tropical Deciduous Forest

3. Scrubs and Thorny Forests

  • Scrubs and thorny forests are found in areas with 
    1. Annual rainfall of less than 70 cm. 
    2. Annual temperature of about 27°C  
  • In such regions, Xerophytic vegetation is found, which has the following characteristic features to conserve moisture.  
    1. Long roots to extract moisture 
    2. Thick barks to store water
    3. Waxy leaves, thorns and small leaves to avoid evapotranspiration
  • Vegetation in this region consists of 
    • Trees: Kikar, Babul , Pipal, Palm, Khejri , Ber, Neem etc.
    • Xerophytes like Cactus
    • Grasses like Munj, Tussocky etc.
  • These forests are found in 
    1. West of Aravallis in Rajasthan
    2. South Punjab and South Haryana
    3. Gujarat
    4. Interior rain shadow areas of the Deccan Plateau
Scrubs and Thorny Forests

4. Mountain or Montane Forest

This type of vegetation is found in India in the Himalayas in the north and Nilgiri hills in the south. 

4.1 Himalayan Montane Forests

  • All type of vegetation available worldwide is found in the Himalayan region. The Himalayan mountains exhibit a succession of vegetation, ranging from tropical to tundra, with changes in altitude 
  • The natural vegetation found on hill slopes is affected by the difference in temperature and rainfall with increasing height. 

Upto 1000 m

  • Mixed trees of deciduous vegetation are found, like Sal and Teak.

1000 to 2500 m

  • There is a decrease in temperature and an increase in precipitation. Hence,  wet-temperate vegetation is found here, which consists of evergreen broad-leaf trees such as Deodar (highly durable wood used in construction),  Chinar and Walnut (in Kashmir and used in handicrafts) etc.

2500 to 4000 m

  • With an increase in temperature and a decrease in precipitation, this region contains Alpine vegetation and pastures. Pointed-leafed coniferous trees like pine, spruce, rhododendrons etc., are found here. 
  • Pastures of this region are used extensively by tribes like Gujjars, Bakarwals, Bhotiyas and the Gaddis.

Above 4000 m

  • These areas are above the snowline, and Tundra vegetation is found in this region, containing mosses, lichens, natural grasses and flowers. 
Himalayan Montane Forests

4.2 South Indian Montane Forests

  • These forests are found in three distinct regions of Peninsular India viz; the Vindhyas, the Western Ghats and the Nilgiri.
  • It is different from the Himalayas because 
    1. They are closer to the tropics
    2. Their height is only 3000 m above the sea level at max 

Two different types of vegetation are found in accordance with increasing height

Lower regions

  • Subtropical vegetation is found in this region

Higher regions

  • Temperate vegetation is found here.
  • In Nilgiris, Annamalai and Palani Hills, these Temperate forests are known as Sholas
  • Shola forest has a high degree of endemism, i.e. concentration of species that are not found anywhere else in the world. 
  • Shola forests on the higher reaches of the Western Ghats are like “patches of forests floating in a sea of grassland.”

5. Littoral and Swamp Forests

  • This vegetation is found in the deltaic areas of rivers like the Ganges, Brahmaputra, Krishna, Cauvery, Godavari and Mahanadi. 
Mangroves in India
  • Here, seawater at the time of tides keeps entering the deltaic areas. Due to this, the soil becomes marshy and saline, and normal vegetation can’t survive there. A special type of salt-tolerant plant called Mangroves is found here, which has adapted itself to survive in these conditions with features like 
    1. aerial roots (roots above ground for breathing)
    2. stilt roots (roots below water to hold tree against tides) and 
    3. vivipary (special technique of germination) 
  • The Sundari tree is also found in abundance. Therefore, the Ganga-Yamuna delta is known as the Sundarbans delta. Sundari tree provides valuable timber for making boats.
  • This type of vegetation is also called mangroves or Sundarbans vegetation.
Properties of Mangroves

Side Note: Importance of Mangroves

  • It provides Buffer Zone between the land and sea.
  • Mangroves protect coastal land from erosion. 
  • Mangroves serve as the natural defence against cyclones and other calamities that threaten the environment.
  • Many living species, including invertebrates, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and even mammals like tigers, can be found in mangroves.
  • Huge volumes of carbon dioxide are removed from the atmosphere by mangrove forests, and their preservation can help to control and combat climate change.
  • Mangroves clean the air by absorbing pollutants in the air and cleanse the water by absorbing contaminants and dangerous heavy metals.
  • Mangroves are a potential source of recreation and tourism.

Side Note: Causes of degradation of Mangroves

1. Natural Causes

  • Cyclones, typhoons, and strong wave action damage mangroves
  • Attack of insect pests such as wood borers and caterpillars (which eat the mangrove foliage and damage the wood).

2. Human Causes

  • Human Encroachment: The increasing human population in coastal areas results in increased pressure on mangrove ecosystems in many countries, including India.
  • Oil spills and other accidents: As happened recently in Sundarbans

Mangrove Alliance for Climate (MAC)

  • It was launched at CoP-27 (Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt (2022)).
  • The initiative is led by UAE and Indonesia. India is also one of its founding members.
  • It aims to raise awareness about the potential benefits of mangroves as a climate change solution and their role in reducing global warming.

Soil Erosion

Soil Erosion

This article deals with ‘Soil Erosion ’ This is part of our series on ‘Geography’ which is an important pillar of the GS-1 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here


The removal of the top 15 to 30 cm thick layer of soil by natural agents such as water, wind, glaciers and human activities is called soil erosion.

Agents of Soil Erosion

Wind and water are the most powerful agents of soil erosion

  1. Wind Erosion: It is the most potent agent of soil erosion in arid and semi-arid regions 
  2. Water Erosion: In areas with heavy rainfall and steep slopes, water erosion becomes significant

Types of Erosion

a. Sheet Erosion

  • In this type of erosion, a thin sheet (layer) of soil is eroded uniformly from a large area by wind or running water.
  • It is not easily noticeable but is harmful since it removes the finer and more fertile topsoil.

b. Rill Erosion

  • During heavy rainfall, water flows in the form of narrow channels along the slope of the land. Many finger-shaped grooves are formed over the surface.

c. Gully Erosion

  • It is an extreme type of rill erosion.
  • In areas of the steeper slope, Rills deepen with rainfall to form ravines, cut the agricultural lands into small fragments and make them unfit for cultivation. 
  • A region with a large number of ravines is called a badland topography. It is widespread in the Chambal basin.   

Soil Erosion

Reasons of Erosion

Human-Induced Reasons 

  • Deforestation: Deforestation is one of the major causes of soil erosion. Plants keep soils bound in locks of roots and, thus, prevent erosion. 
  • Brick making: Top layer of soil used in making bricks. 
  • Overgrazing: Loss of grass cover exposes soil to erosion. 
  • Faulty Agro-practice: Like Shifting Agriculture or Ploughing along the slope with no barrier to the movement of loose soil particles by wind and water 

Natural Reasons 

  • Water & Wind erosion
  • Landslides, Volcanic eruptions and flooding
  • Side-cutting of river banks

Implications of Erosion

  • Eroded materials are carried down to rivers, lowering the river’s carrying capacity and causing frequent floods.
  • It leads to the loss of topsoil, which is the most fertile. Hence, the productivity of the soil is reduced.
  • Soil erosion from agricultural land causes eutrophication in ponds, tanks, oceans & other water bodies. 
  • Events of landslide increase. 
  • Natural hideouts to carry out nefarious activities are formed in the case of Gully Erosion (Chambal Valley is famous for dacoits).

Methods to prevent Soil Erosion

Methods to prevent soil erosion can be divided into structural and non-structural solutions.

a. Structural Solutions

1. On the Slopes

  • Construction of retaining wall along slopes. 

2. On the Coastal Areas

  • Using Tripods & Tetrapods: Wave action is held back & erosion is prevented 
Methods to prevent Soil Erosion

3. On the Rivers

  • Strengthening slopes of river banks using stone pitching or wire netting.

b. Non-Structural Solutions

1. Afforestation

  1. Vegetation holds the soil particles firmly and restricts soil erosion.
  2. Creating windbreaks: Trees are planted in rows to create windbreaks to reduce the velocity of winds in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttaranchal and Uttar Pradesh.
  3. Agroforestry: Tree plantations on the sides of agricultural field act as barriers to fast-moving winds

2. Along Slopes

  • Terrace farming: Slows the speed of the water
  • Contour bunding: Barriers at the edge of the slope are created to slow down water.
Methods to prevent Soil Erosion

3. Agricultural practices

  • Relay farming: Multiple crops are grown in the same field, and the field is never left open. It is practised in Uttarakhand.
  • Strip farming: The field has a layer of one crop and then of another.
  • Avoiding overgrazing of grasslands

4. Other Solutions

  • Allowing indigenous plants to grow along the river banks. 
  • Encouraging biological diversity by planting several different types of plants together.

Soils of India

Soils of India

This article deals with ‘Soils of India ’ This is part of our series on ‘Geography’ which is an important pillar of the GS-1 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here


Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) divides the soils of India into the following eight major groups

Soils of India
Soils of India (percentage of different soils)

1. Alluvial Soil

  • 22.16% of the total area of India consists of Alluvial soil. 
  • Alluvial soil formation results from the deposition of soil carried downstream by rivers originating from the Himalayas and southern plateau
  • Their texture is sandy loam to clay.
  • Their colour varies from ash grey to light grey.
  • Their profile shows no marked differentiation
  • Chemical Composition
    1. These soils are rich in potash, phosphoric acid, lime and carbon compounds 
    2. But they are deficient in nitrogen and humus. (they need urea for cultivation)

They are of two types

Khadar Found in the floodplains of the rivers and contain fresh alluvial.  
They are rich in kankar or nodules of impure CaCO3.
Bhangar They are found well above flood plains and contain old alluvial
Khadar and Bhangar
  • They are found in 
    • Plains of Ganga-Indus river valleys of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Eastern Rajasthan, Bihar, West Bengal
    • Brahmaputra and Surma valleys of Assam
    • Mahanadi valley of Orissa
    • Narmada and Tapti valleys of Madhya Pradesh 
    • Deltaic areas of Godavari, Krishna and Cauvery in the South
  • Crops grown in it includes Rice, Wheat, Sugarcane and Oilseeds

2. Black Soil

  • 29.69% of the total area of India consists of black soil. 
  • They are also known as ‘Regur Soil’. 
  • Black soil has formed due to the disintegration of basalt volcanic rocks of the Deccan Traps
  • The black colour of these soils is due to the presence of iron and aluminium. 
  • Their texture is clayey
  • Chemical composition 
    1. They are rich in iron, potash, aluminium, lime and magnesium. 
    2. But they are deficient in nitrogen, phosphorus and organic matter.
  • They have two unique properties.
    1. Self-Ploughing Nature: It has high clay content & as a result, cracks are developed when it is dry & becomes sticky when wet. Cracks allow air to reach depth. Aeration, usually done by ploughing the field, happens naturally. 
    2. It has a high water retention ability. Hence, it is suitable for cotton cultivation. (Note: cotton grows in dry areas because a dry climate is required for boll formation, but roots need a good water supply, which is ensured by the high clay content of black soil) .
  • They are found in 
    1. Maharashtra and Malwa plateaus,
    2. Kathiawar peninsula
    3. Kaimur hills
    4. Telangana and Rayalaseema region of Andhra Pradesh 
    5. Northern part of Karnataka
  • Crops grown in it include Cotton (most important), Millet, Tobacco and Sugarcane.

3. Red Soil

  • 28% of the total area of India consists of Red soil. 
  • These soils have been formed by the disintegration of ancient crystalline and metamorphic rocks like granites and gneisses.  
  • The red colour of these soils is due to the presence of iron.
  • Their texture is sandier and less clayey.
  • Chemical composition 
    1. They are rich in iron, magnesium, aluminium and potash.
    2. But they are deficient in humus, nitrogen and phosphorous.
  • They practically encircle the entire black soil region of the Deccan plateau on all sides and are found in 
    1. Whole of Tamil-Nadu,
    2. Parts of Karnataka
    3. North-east Andhra Pradesh
    4. Orissa
    5. South Bihar,
    6. eastern Madhya Pradesh 
    7. North-eastern hilly states.
    8. Aravalli mountain regions of Rajasthan.
  • They are found in arid regions with low rainfall. But under irrigation, these soils provide good production with the application of ammonia, superphosphate, and compost fertilizers.
  • Since they are rich in magnesium, iron and aluminium, so can produce excellent crops like bajra, pulses, cotton, tobacco, jowar and fruits.

4. Laterite Soil

  • 2.62% of the total area of India consists of laterite soil. 
  • These are soils of warm wet tropical regions, where due to heavy rain (more than 200 cm), lime, silica and salts are leached away, and oxides of iron and aluminium are left behind.
  • The word laterite means brick type. It is named so because it hardens like Brick when dry. However, it is soft when it’s wet. 
  • They are red in colour due to the presence of Iron oxide.
  • Their texture is heavy loam and clay.
  • Chemical Composition 
    1. They are rich in Iron and Aluminium oxides and hence are acidic.
    2. But they are poor in nitrogen, lime, potash, phosphorus and organic matter. The Humus content of the soil is removed fast by bacteria that thrive well in high temperatures.
  • These are found on 
    1. Hills of Satpura and Vindhya 
    2. Eastern Ghats region of Orissa,
    3. Hills of Western Ghats of Karnataka
    4. South Maharashtra
    5. Malabar in Kerala 
    6. North & Eastern parts of the Shillong plateau in the northeastern states
  • It is not very suitable for agriculture because of its high iron content. But it is suitable for crops that need iron for growth, i.e. Tapioca, Cashew nuts, Coffee and Rubber.

5. Arid and Desert Soils

  • 6.13% of the total area of India consists of Arid and Desert Soils. 
  • They are also called Sierozem soils.
  • They are formed under arid & semi-arid conditions, high temperatures and accelerated evaporation when the soil becomes dry.
  • Their texture is sandy.
  • Chemical Composition 
    1. They contain a high proportion of salts
    2. But they are deficient in humus, nitrogen & moisture.
  • As a result of the “Kankar” layer formation in the bottom layers, water infiltration doesn’t happen. But in case water is made available by irrigation, the soil moisture is easily accessible to the plants their sustained plant growth
  • They are found in
    1. Rajasthan
    2. Northern Gujarat  
    3. Southern Punjab and Haryana (Desert soil reaches here from Rajasthan under the influence of sand storms, in the form of ‘Bhur’ soils)
  • With irrigation facilities, crops like bajra, jowar, cotton, wheat, sugarcane, and some vegetables can be grown.

6. Forest and Mountain Soils

  • 7.94% of the total area of India consists of Forest and Mountain soil. 
  • As the name suggests, this type of soil is found in the mountains. 
  • The thickness of the upper layer is very low on mountain slopes, although it can be up to 2 metres in valleys and gently sloping hillsides. These are less developed immature soils.
  • Their colour and character change with height.   
    1. Up to an elevation of 1800 metres: brown-coloured, acidic forest soils are found due to the decomposition of deciduous vegetation. 
    2. Between 1800 and 3000 metres: Low temperatures and poorly decomposed coniferous vegetation convert these soils into grey-brown podzolic soils. 
    3. Above 3000 mAlpine meadow soils occur above the timberline. These are shallow, dark in colour and sandy-loam or sandy-silica in texture. The organic matter is not decomposed in these soils due to a sharp fall in temperature.
  • These are found in 
    1. Lower and middle ranges of the Himalayas, especially in Assam, Ladakh, Lahaul –Spiti, Kinnaur, Darjeeling, Dehradun, Almora, Garhwal etc 
    2. Nilgiri hills in the south.
  • These soils can be used to grow Coffee, tea, maize, potato, fruits and various types of spices
  • Apart from that, forestry and lumbering activities are also done here. 

7. Saline and Alkaline Soils

  • 1.29% of the total area of India consists of Saline and Alkaline soil. 
  • They are also known as Usara soils.
  • These soils can be formed due to many reasons in
    • In the interior areas, saline soils originate due to bad drainage, over-irrigation or canal seepage. It causes water logging, and the capillary action transfers injurious salts from the subsurface to the topsoil.
    • In dry agricultural areas, relying on excessive irrigation. Such conditions promote capillary action resulting in the deposition of salts in the top layer.
    • In coastal areas, saline soils form due to Sea water intrusion. 
  • Their structure ranges from sandy to loamy. 
  • Chemical Composition
    1. They have excessive amounts of sodium, potassium & magnesium. It makes such soils infertile, and they can’t support vegetative growth.
    2. They lack nitrogen and calcium. 
  • They are found in
    • Deltas of the Eastern coast, Sundarbans of West Bengal and Western Gujarat due to seawater intrusions  
    • Areas of Green Revolution like Punjab (locally called Kallar or Thur), Haryana and Uttar Pradesh

8. Peaty and Marshy Soil

  • 2.17% of the total area of India consists of Peaty and Marshy soil. 
  • Such soils are found in areas with heavy rainfall, high humidity, and good vegetation growth. Hence, excessive dead organic matter is present in such areas, providing humus and organic content to the soil. Organic matter in such soils can range between 40 to 50 per cent.
  • This soil is heavy and black in colour. 
  • They are found in 
    1. Sundarbans Delta
    2. Coastal areas of Orissa
    3. South-Eastern coastal parts of Tamil Nadu
    4. Central Bihar 
    5. Almora district of Uttar Pradesh

Soil Formation, Profile & Characteristics

Soil Formation, Profile & Characteristics

This article deals with ‘Soil Formation, Profile & Characteristics ’ This is part of our series on ‘Geography’ which is an important pillar of the GS-1 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here


  • Soil is the uppermost layer of the earth’s crust which can support plant life, and is usually composed of minerals, organic matter, living organisms, air and water.
  • Naturally occurring soil is influenced by the following factors
Parent rock Climate
Relief Physical, Chemical & Biological agents
Land use practice Time

How is Soil formed?

  • Soil formation begins with volcanic sedimentary or metamorphic rock material and can be seen in operation at an early stage on a recently formed volcanic island. 
  • Rock is colonized by plants, suited to bare rocks like lichens and mosses, happens. 
  • It is followed by the decay of plant material and the development of a thin organic layer on the rock.
  • Wind, rain, snow and freezing cause erosion and rock fracturing, leading to more colonization and physical breakdown of the rock materials.
  • After thousands of years, the upper layer of rocks will be converted into soils of many types.

Soil Profile

Soil development begins with the colonization of parent rock by plants and animals. Due to various factors of erosion and transportation, different layers with different physical and chemical properties are formed. These are known as soil profile or horizons.

Soil Formation, Profile & Characteristics


  • O-horizon is very common to surfaces with lots of vegetative cover. It is the layer made up of organic materials such as dead leaves and surface organisms, twigs and fallen trees.


  • A-Horizon is called Top Soil.
  • It is rich in minerals as well as humus.
  • Humus is generated by the decay of organic matter in the O horizon is carried downward by percolating water to enrich the A horizon.
  • A horizon is dark because of a concentration of decomposed organic matter.


  • E-Horizon is usually lighter in colour
  • This layer is rich in nutrients which are leached downwards from A and O horizons.


  • It is called Subsoil.
  • It lies below the E-horizon 
  • Most of the nutrients taken from the A and E horizons are deposited in this zone of accumulation.
  • B horizon generally has little humus.


  • C-Horizon is the weathered parent rock.
  • This layer is the first step in the development of soil and eventually gives rise to the top two layers. 


  • It is the unweathered parent rock.

Factors affecting Soil formation

Parent Rocks

  • Soil is formed by the erosion of the parent rock. Hence, soil inherits many properties from the parent material.
  • E.g., In Deccan Plateau, Black coloured soil is found as it is derived from lava rocks. At the same time, the alluvial soil of the Northern plains is different from in-situ rocks as its parent rocks are Himalayan rocks.


Soil formation also depends on how long these have been affected by a particular climate. E.g.,

  1. Precipitation impacts the soil in the following ways
    • In regions receiving high precipitation, nutrients leach downward, reducing soil fertility (lateritization and podzolization).
    • Salts accumulate in the soil in arid regions due to excessive evaporation and capillary action. 
  2. Temperature directly affects the activity of soil microorganisms. Hence, 
    • In the cool regions (between 0 to 10 °C), there is retarded microorganism activity. Thus, the decomposition of organic material occurs at a lower rate, and thick O-Horizon forms due to the accumulation of organic matter. This organic material turns to humus, which percolates downwards, resulting in organic matter in A Horizon as well. 
    • In warm & wet tropics, microorganisms rapidly decompose the organic material. Hence, O-Horizon cannot develop properly, and the whole posit profile lacks organic matter.
  3. The density of vegetation depends on the climate of the region, which impacts soil formation. 
    1. Dense vegetation in a wet climate
      • The dense vegetative cover protects soil from being removed through erosion by running water or wind. Hence, a thick layer of soil develops in these regions.
      • Forests form a protective canopy which prevents heat and rain from directly impacting soil.
      • In areas of dense vegetation, the moisture content in the soil is high due to the action of roots 
    2. Sparse vegetation in an arid climate
      • In the case of sparse vegetation, soil evaporation will be more than in the case of thick protective vegetation. This evaporation, in turn, increases the movement of capillary water toward the surface leading to higher soil salinity.


  • The run-off is fast in hilly areas with steep slopes, and the soil keeps sliding. Hence, soil horizons are thick on gentle slopes and thin on steep slopes.
  • Along with that, slopes that face away from the Sun have cool-moist soil as they are sheltered from direct insulation. On the other hand, slopes that face the Sun receive direct solar rays, resulting in increased evapotranspiration. 


  • Vegetation is an important factor as
    1. It acts as a source of organic matter and humus in the soil. Hence, some of America’s richest soils developed in the Middle West prairies under a thick grass cover.
    2. Roots of vegetation help in breaking the rocks
    3. Legumes and certain other plants help in the fixation of atmospheric nitrogen in the soil 
  • Many organisms, from bacteria to burrowing animals, are found in soil. E.g., Earthworms continuously repair the soil by burrowing and moving it through their intestines. They ingest large amounts of decaying leaf matter, carry it down from the surface, and incorporate it into the mineral soil horizons.


  • Time is of great importance in the development of soil. Humus and organic matter are added to the soil every year, and soil fertility continues to increase. However, the process continues for thousands and thousands of years before good-quality soil is formed.

Transportation of Minerals in Soil 


  • Laterization is a soil-forming regime that occurs in humid tropical areas with high temperatures and abundant precipitation.
  • The soil in this type of climate does not have an O-horizon (because of the rapid decomposition of organic material by microorganisms), and most of the minerals and silica of A horizon are leached downwards except for iron and aluminium compounds, which are insoluble primarily because of the absence of organic acids. 
  • B horizon of Laterite soils is enriched in all the leached materials like silica.
  • Lateritic soils are generally reddish in colour due to the presence of iron oxides


  • Podzolization occurs mainly in the high middle latitudes where the climate is moist and cool.
  • The soil in this type of climate has a thick O-horizon because, due to low temperatures, microorganism activity is reduced enough that humus accumulates. When water percolates downwards through the O-Horizon, it becomes acidic due to the formation of an Organic Acidic solution.
  • Leaching by organic acidic solutions removes the soluble bases and aluminium and iron compounds from the A horizon leaving behind silica. The remaining silica gives a distinctive ash-grey colour.


  • In contrast to laterization and podzolization, which require humid climates, this occurs in arid regions with high temperatures where evaporation significantly exceeds precipitation.
  • In arid regions, B horizon has high levels of Calcium. When water is evaporated from the upper layers of soil in these regions, water from the lower layers of soil mixed with Calcium comes up by capillary action. Hence, the proportion of calcium salts increases and soil salinity increases. 

Characteristics of Soil

1. Colour

  • Soil colour might not be the most important attribute of soil, but it is certainly the most visible.
  • A soil’s colour offers a clue to its physical and chemical characteristics
  • E.g.: 
    1. Humus is black or brown, and soils with a high humus content tend to be dark. As soil’s humus content decreases because of either low organic activity or its loss by high microbiological activities, soil colours gradually fade to light brown or grey.
    2. Reddish soil usually indicates that iron is present in the soil.
    3. In cold-moist climates, a light grey soil indicates that iron has been leached out, leaving oxides of silicon  

2. Texture

oil texture refers to the size of grains that make up soil. Soil grains can be of the following types

Clayey Grains have a diameter of less than 0.002 millimetres
Silt Grains have a diameter between 0.002 to 0.05 millimetres
Sandy Grains have a diameter between 0.05 to 2.0 millimetres
Gravel / Pebble Grains have a diameter above 5 millimetres

Soil texture helps determine a soil’s capacity to retain the moisture and air necessary for plant growth. 

  1. Soils with a higher proportion of larger grains (i.e. sandy soils) have many small passages between touching mineral grains, which allow water to seep downwards. They are well aerated as the space between the grains is occupied by air. But they allow water to seep through so quickly that plants cannot use it. 
  2. Clay soils present the opposite problem. They have fine particles, resulting in smaller passages and spaces, so water penetrates slowly, and soils become waterlogged. But at the same time, they are deficient in air

Soils can be classified based on their proportion of sand, silt, and clay. Loam soils occupy the central areas of the triangular diagram. Loam is soil that contains a proportion of each of the three grades and, as a result, is most effective at storing moisture and air. This mixture is often added to gardens because it is particularly suitable for plant growth. Depending on which grade is dominant, loams can be further classified as sandy, silty, or clay-rich.


3. Soil Structure

  • oil structure refers to the way soil grains are clumped together into larger masses called peds.
  • Along with soil texture, soil structure also determines the permeability of water. Soils with the same texture but different structures can have different water permeability. 
  • Soil structure can be of the following type
Granular structure  Small peds, shaped roughly like spheres, give the soil a granular structure.
They are loosely packed and found in the surface layers, along with organic material and roots.
Blocky Structure Larger peds form an angular, blocky structure
These are typical of B-horizons
Palty structure Platy structure tends to indicate compaction of the soil by animals or human activities 
Columnar structure A columnar structure can occur in arid or sandy soils.
Soil Structure

4. Soil Acidity and Alkalinity

  • Soil pH is an important indicator of soil fertility as soil acidity, or alkalinity helps determine nutrient availability for plant growth.

Why is soil acidity important for the fertility of soil?

  • Since plants receive virtually all their nutrients in solution, they can only absorb nutrients dissolved in liquid. However, if the soil moisture lacks some degree of acidity or is basicity, soil water has little ability to dissolve these nutrients. As a result, even though nutrients are in the soil, plants may not have access to them. 
  • To correct alkalinity, which is common in the soils of arid regions, farmers can flush the soil with irrigation water. 
  • Strongly acidic soils are also detrimental to plant growth. In acidic soils, soil moisture dissolves nutrients, but they may be leached away before plant roots can absorb them. Soil acidity can be corrected by adding lime to the soil.

Plantation Crops of India

Plantation Crops of India

This article deals with ‘Plantation Crops of India  ’ This is part of our series on ‘Geography’, which is an important pillar of the GS-1 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.


  • Plantation crops are grown for the purpose of export. In India, they are generally grown in large estates on sloping hills.
  • The main plantation crops grown in India are tea, coffee, rubber, and spices. 

1. Tea

  • Tea is an evergreen plant that mainly grows in tropical and subtropical climates.
  • Tea is made from dried leaves of the tea plant. When added to boiling water, the theine in it serves as a stimulant.
  • There are at least 6 different types of Tea 
    1. White Tea: Wilted and unoxidized
    2. Yellow Tea: Unwilted and unoxidized
    3. Green Tea: Unwilted and unoxidized
    4. Oolong Tea: Wilted, bruised and partially oxidized
    5. Black Tea: Wilted /sometimes crushed
    6. Post-fermented: Allowed to ferment / compost.


  • Although Tea is said to be indigenous to China, Major Robert Bruce noted in 1823 that tea bushes grew freely on the slopes of upper Assam’s hills.
  • In 1840, tea seeds were smuggled out of China, and commercial tea plantations were set up in the Brahmaputra valley. 

Conditions required for growing Tea 

Temperature The ideal temperature for its growth is 20-30°C. But temperatures above 35°C and below 10°C harm the bushes.
Annual Rainfall 150-300 cm well distributed throughout the year.
Specific factors Heavy dew and morning fog favour the rapid development of young leaves.
Tea is a shade-loving plant and develops rapidly when planted with shady trees.
Although Tea requires heavy rainfall, stagnant water is detrimental to its roots. Therefore, it is grown on hill slopes where water drains away easily. But nevertheless, if drainage is good, it grows equally well in the valley.
Soil Well drained, rich in humus and iron content soils.
Labour required Tea is labour intensive crop. Cheap and skilled labour is required at the time of plucking the tea leaves. 

Producer States

In India, it is mainly grown in 

  • North East India (Assam (51%) and Darjeeling hills of West Bengal (22%))
  • South India (Nilgiri hills, Cardamom, Palani and Anaimalai Hills) 
  • North-West India (Kangra Valley and Mandi of Himachal Pradesh and Dehradun, Almora and Garhwal district of Uttarakhand)

Note: Green Tea is produced in the Kangra Valley of Himachal Pradesh.

Plantation Crops of India

Side Topic: Darjeeling Tea

  • Darjeeling Tea of India is famous worldwide for its unique aroma and taste.
  • It has the GI Tag (in fact, it was the first product from India which was granted the GI Tag).

2. Coffee

  • Coffee is a brewed beverage made from roasted coffee beans.
  • The genus ‘Coffea’ is native to Tropical Africa.
  • There are two main varieties of coffee. They are 
    1. Arabica (High quality): 49% of the area under coffee cultivation in India is Arabica 
    2. Robusta (Inferior quality): 51% of the area under coffee cultivation in India is Robusta


  • The history of coffee in India dates back to around 1600 AD when the Indian Sufi saint named Baba Budan went on a pilgrimage to Mecca. He took seeds of coffee from Mocha, a port city in Yemen, and after returning from his pilgrimage, planted seven seeds of Mocha in his courtyard in Chikmagalur. The coffee plants gradually spread to hills now known as Baba Budan Hills. 

Conditions required for growing Coffee 

The coffee plant requires very specific conditions.

Temperature Varying between 20-27°C (It requires a high temperature and humid climate for rapid growth but a cold and dry climate for ripening of berries)
Rainfall Abundant rainfall between 100 to 200 cm
Specific conditions Direct sunlight is harmful to coffee plants. Therefore, these are planted in the shade of taller trees, such as bananas. 
They require well-drained land, as stagnant water is harmful to coffee plants. Hence, it is grown on slopes receiving orographic rainfall and having a height between 600 m to 1,800 m because these are well-drained and cooler. 
Labour required Large labour is required because coffee is to be hand-picked.

Producer States

  • India is the 7th largest producer of coffee globally. 
  • India produces 2.5 % of the world’s coffee. 
  • Karnataka (71%), Kerala (22%) and Tamil Nadu (7%) are the leading producers of coffee in India. 
Coffee growing areas of India

3. Rubber

  • Rubber is a coherent elastic solid obtained from latex. 
  • A rubber tree is a quick-growing tall tree acquiring 20-30 m height in 5 to 7 years after planting.
  • Rubber is used for various purposes like tyres, tubes, erasers and industrial products.
  • The first rubber plantations in India were set up in 1895 on the hill slopes of Kerala. 

Conditions required for growing Rubber 

Temperature High temperature between 25 to 35°C
Rainfall High rainfall of above 200 cm, distributed around the year
Soil Deep well, drained loamy soils on the hill slopes at an elevation ranging from 300 to 450 m above sea level. But yield starts to decline at higher elevations, and no rubber plantations are found above 700 m.  
Soil should be acidic, with a pH in the range of 4.5 to 6.0.
Soil should be deficient in phosphorus.
Specific conditions Daily rain followed by a strong sun is beneficial.
Labour required Large labour is required for making a cut and collecting rubber milk. Hence, cheap and abundant labour must be available.

Producer States

In India, it is produced in Kerala (92%), Tamil Nadu (3%), Kerala (2%) and Andaman and Nicobar (~2%).

Rubber growing areas of India

4. Spices

  • India has been world-famous for its spices since ancient times. 
  • These spices are mostly used for flavouring cooked food and for preparing medicines, dyes etc. 
  • Pepper, chillies, turmeric, ginger, cardamom, clove and areca nut are the major spices cultivated in India. 
  • Kerala is the leading producer of spices in India.  

Cash Crops of India

Cash Crops of India

This article deals with ‘Cash Crops of India ’ This is part of our series on ‘Geography’, which is an important pillar of the GS-1 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.


  • The crops which are cultivated for commercial purposes are called cash crops.
  • These crops include sugarcane, tobacco, fibre crops (cotton and jute), tea, coffee and oilseeds.


  • Sugarcane is India’s most important cash crop, and India is the second largest producer of sugarcane globally.
  • This crop provides the raw material for the sugar industry.
  • Besides providing sugar, gur and khandsari, it supplies molasses for the alcohol industry and bagasse for the paper industry.

Conditions required for growing Sugarcane 

Temperature High temperature between 21 to 27°C  
Annual Rainfall Humid climate with rainfall between 75 to 150 cm  
Specific conditions In the latter half, the temperature around 20 °C and the open sky help in acquiring juice and thickening.
While too heavy rainfall results in low sugar content, deficiency in rainfall produces a fibrous crop
A short cool, dry winter during ripening and harvesting are ideal. 
Frost is detrimental to sugarcane, and it must be harvested before frost season.   
Soil Deep rich loamy soil is ideal.
Soil that can retain moisture.
Soil should be rich in nitrogen, calcium and phosphorous.
Sugarcane exhausts soil fertility quickly and extensively, and its cultivation requires heavy doses of manures and fertilizers.  
Labour required It is a labour-intensive crop.
Cheap and abundant labour is a prerequisite.

Producer States

At the state level, Uttar Pradesh is the leading producer of sugarcane, followed by Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Punjab, Haryana and parts of MP and Bihar.

Cash Crops of India

Traditionally sugarcane areas were northern plains, especially UP. But its cultivation has gradually shifted towards the south.  The reason for this is the fact that North Indian sugarcane is :

  • Subtropical variety 
  • Low sugar content 
  • Sugar factories are shut in winter as sugarcane is grown only in summer.  

Hence, when irrigation developed in the southern states, the sugarcane industry developed there as well.

2. Cotton

  • Cotton is the most important cash crop in India. 
  • It provides raw materials to India’s most significant industry, i.e. Textile Industry. 
  • Besides the cotton fibre, its seed acts as raw material in the Vanaspati industry. Additionally, cotton seed can be used as fodder for milch cattle.
  • India ranks second next to China in the production of cotton.

Conditions required for growing Cotton 

Cotton is a tropical and subtropical crop requiring uniformly high temperatures. Conditions for its growth are 

Temperature Uniformly high temperatures between 21 to 30° C
Its growth is retarded when the temperature falls below 20°C.
Frost is its enemy, and it is grown in areas having at least 210 frost-free days.
Annual Rainfall Modest requirements varying between 50 to 100 cm
However, it is successfully grown in areas with lesser rainfall with irrigation’s help.
Moist and heavy rainfall during boll opening and picking is detrimental as plants become vulnerable to pests and diseases. 
Soil Best suited soil is the Black soil of the Deccan and Malwa plateaus.
It can also grow in the alluvial soils of the Northern Plains and Laterite soils of Peninsular India.
Cotton quickly exhausts the fertility of the soil. Hence, regular application of manure and fertilizer is necessary.
Labour required Cotton picking is not yet mechanized and requires cheap and efficient labour.

Varieties of Cotton

There are three main varieties of cotton grown in India. 

1. Long Staple Cotton

  • It has the longest fibre, with lengths varying from 24 to 27 mm.
  • The fibre is long, fine and shining and is used for making fine and superior-quality cloth.
  • 50% of the total cotton produced in India is of this variety.
  • It is grown in Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, MP, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh.

2. Medium Staple Cotton

  • The length of its fibre is between 20 to 24 mm.
  • 44% of the total cotton produced in India is of this variety.
  • It is grown in Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, UP, Karnataka and Maharashtra.

3. Short Staple Cotton

  • It is an inferior variety whose length is less than 20 mm. 
  • About 6% of the cotton grown in India is of this type.

Producer States

Leading producer states include Gujarat (35%), Maharashtra (21%), Andhra (14%), Haryana (8%), Punjab (7%), MP (6%), Rajasthan (4%) and Karnataka (3%).

Cotton Growing Areas in India

3. Jute

  • Jute, also known as ‘Golden Fibre’, is an important cash crop.
  • It provides the raw material for the Jute industry. It is used to manufacture gunny bags, carpets, hessian, ropes and strings, rugs, clothes, tarpaulins, upholstery etc. 
  • It has high tensile strength and low extensibility and ensures better breathability of fabrics.
  • It is 100% bio-degradable and recyclable and thus environmentally friendly. 

Conditions required for growing Jute 

It is a tropical fibre crop and requires the following conditions

Temperature High temperature varying between 24 to 35°C 
Annual Rainfall Heavy rainfall of 120 to 150 cm with 80 to 90% relative humidity
A large quantity of water is required to grow the jute crop and process the fibre after the crop is harvested. 
Soil Light sandy and clayey loams.
Jute rapidly exhausts the fertility of the soil, and the soil must be replenished annually by the silt-laden flood water of the rivers. 
Labour required A large supply of cheap labour is required to grow and process jute fibre.

Producer States

  • India suffered a great setback during the partition of India in 1947 because 75% of the jute growing areas went to Bangladesh while the jute mills remained in India. The government has made great efforts to increase the production and area under jute in India.
  • The main producer states in India include West Bengal (80% production), Bihar, Assam and Odisha.
Jute Growing Areas in India

4. Oil Seeds

  • Oilseeds are a very important group of the commercial crop in India, and oil extracted from oilseeds is an important item of our diet and used as raw material for many items like paints, varnishes, hydrogenated oil, soap, perfumery, lubricants etc.
  • Oil cake, the residue after oil is extracted from the oilseed, is used as cattle feed and manure. 
  • India is the largest producer of oilseeds in the world. But production of oilseed has always fallen short of our demand, and there has always been a need to import oilseeds. 
  • Nine major oilseeds grown in India are groundnut, sesamum, rapeseed and mustard, linseed, safflower, castor seed, sunflower and soybean. 


  • It is the most important oilseed in India.
  • India is the second largest producer.
  • It constitutes 50% of the oilseed production of India.
  • It contains 40-50% oil.
  • Use: Mainly as edible oil. It can also be eaten in raw form. Its oil cake is used as cattle feed.
  • It synthesizes atmospheric nitrogen and increases the fertility of the soil.
  • It requires 20-30°C temperature, 50-75 cm rainfall and well-drained light sandy loan, red, yellow and black cotton soil.
  • It is mainly grown in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Maharashtra.

Sesamum (Til)

  • India has the world’s largest area under sesamum.
  • It contains 45-50% oil.
  • Use: Mainly as edible oil. Sesamum seeds can also be eaten in a fried form mixed with sugar or gur. Its oil cake is used as cattle feed.
  • It grows well in areas having 21-23°C temperature, 45-50 cm rainfall and well-drained light loamy soils. 
  • Sesamum is grown in all parts of the country, but West Bengal is the largest producer producing 33% of the produce. Other significant producers are Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. 

Mustard and Rapeseed

  • It is the most important oilseed next to groundnut.
  • It contains 25-45% oil.
  • Use: Mainly used as edible oil. Its oil is also used for pickles, lubricants and toiletries. Its oil cake is used as cattle feed.
  • Like wheat and gram, they thrive only in the cool climate of the Satluj-Ganga plain.
  • Its major producers include Rajasthan (46%), Haryana, MP, YP, West Bengal, Gujarat, Punjab etc. 

5. Tobacco

  • Tobacco was brought to India by the Portuguese in 1508. since then, its cultivation has spread to different parts of the country. At present, India is the major producer of tobacco in the world.
  • Apart from oral consumption, tobacco is mainly used for cigarettes, bidi, cigars and hookah. It is also used in the production of insecticides. 
  • There are two varieties of tobacco. These include 
    1. Nicotiana Tabacum: High-quality tobacco used in cigarettes, cigar bidi, chewing, hookah and pipe. 90% of tobacco grown in India is of this variety. 
    2. Nicotiana Rustica: Inferior and short quality used in hookah, chewing and snuff. 10% of tobacco grown in India is of this variety.

Conditions required for growing Tobacco 

Conditions for the growth of tobacco includes

Temperature Wide range varying from 16 to 35°C.
Annual Rainfall From 50 to 100 cm of rainfall. But the rainfall should be well distributed throughout the year. Irrigation is required if the rainfall is low or erratic.
Specific factors Frost is injurious to its growth.
Soil Well-drained sandy loam, not too rich in organic matter.
Labour required Cheap and abundant labour is required at all stages of cultivation.

Producer States

It is grown in 15 states of India. But 66% of production comes from Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh. 

Tobacco growing areas in India

Food Crops of India

Food Crops of India

This article deals with ‘Food Crops of India ’ This is part of our series on ‘Geography’ which is an important pillar of the GS-1 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here


  • Due to its large population and limited land, Indian agriculture is largely dominated by food crops.
  • Food crops include cereals and pulses, amongst which rice, wheat, jowar, bajra, maize, barley, ragi, gram and tur are important.

1. Rice

  • Rice is an indigenous crop and staple food of the majority of Indians.
  • After China, India is the second-largest rice producer in the world.

Conditions required for growing Rice

Temperature It is a tropical crop, growing with mean temperatures of 24°C.
Annual Rainfall Require high rainfall above 150 cm. It can be grown with the help of irrigation facilities in low-rainfall areas
Soil Deep fertile clayey, or loamy soils
Labour required Labour-intensive crop requiring an abundant supply of cheap labour
Important Varieties IR-8, Jaya, Padma, Hamsa, Krishna, Sabarmati, IET 1039, CR Dhan 205, AR Dhan 306, CRR 451 etc.

Producer States 

  • West Bengal (largest producer in India), UP, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Andhra, Odisha, Assam, & Haryana.
Food Crops of India

Issues associated with its cultivation

  • Due to the increased use of High Yielding Variety (HYV) seeds (CR Dhan 205, AR Dhan 306, CRR 451 etc.), many indigenous varieties have disappeared.
  • It is a water-guzzling crop grown in arid regions like Punjab and Haryana with the help of tubewell irrigation. It has led to a rapid downfall in the groundwater level.

2. Wheat

  • Wheat is the country’s second most important food crop, after rice.
  • India ranks 5th in the production of wheat in the world. 

Conditions required for growing Wheat 

Temperature Wheat requires a cold and moist climate at the time of sowing and a warm and dry climate at the time of ripening (10-15°C at the time of sowing and 20-25°C at the time of ripening of grains.)  
Rainfall Requires less rainfall than rice ranging between 50 to 75 cm
Western disturbances in North India significantly help wheat production by providing the required moisture in a cold climate.
In drier regions, it can be grown with the help of irrigation.
Soils Well-drained clayey or loamy soil
Important varieties Sonalika, Kalyan, Sona, Sabarmati, Lerma, Roso, Heera, Shera, Sonara-64.

Producer States

  • Over 85% of India’s wheat production comes from 5 states, namely Uttar Pradesh (highest producer), Punjab (highest yield per hectare), Haryana, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh
  • Apart from these regions, the black soil tract of the Deccan covering parts of Maharashtra and Gujarat also grows wheat.
Wheat growing regions of India

3. Millets – Bajra, Jowar and Ragi

  • In this too, 
    • Bajra is grown mainly in North India.
    • Jowar is grown mainly in Peninsular India 
    • Ragi is grown mainly in South India.
  • Millets have high nutritional value. 


  • It is a coarse grain and forms the staple food for poor people. Its stalks are used as fodder for cattle and for thatching purposes.
  • Bajra is a crop in warm and dry regions.

Conditions required for growing Bajra 

Temperature  High temperatures ranging between 25 to 30°C
Rainfall They can grow well in low rainfall of up to 45 cm.
Soils Sandy soils and shallow black soil

Major Producers

  • It includes 
    1. Arid regions like Rajasthan (the largest producer)
    2. Rain shadow regions of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.  
  • Note: In Punjab, millets, especially Bajra, were grown earlier. But with the development of irrigation facilities, farmers of Punjab have adopted highly productive crops like wheat and rice in place of low-productive crops like Bajra. Therefore, a sharp decline has been noticed in the cropped area under crops like Bajra in the last few decades.


  • Jowar is the third important food crop of our country. 
  • Although a coarse grain, it is rich in carbohydrates, protein, minerals, and vitamins. Hence, it provides cheap food to a large section of the poor population.

Conditions required for growing Jowar 

Jowar has a tendency to grow even in adverse climatic conditions. Basically, they are warm and dry climate crops.

Temperature It grows in high temperatures within a wide range of 20 to 32°C.
Rainfall It can grow well even in low rainfall of up to 30 cm.
Soils Black and Red soil

Major Producers

  • Jowar is essentially a crop of Peninsular India.
  • Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Madhya Pradesh are the leading producers of Jowar


  • Ragi is a coarse grain but very rich in iron, calcium, other micro-nutrients and roughage.

Conditions required for growing Ragi 

They grow well in warm and dry climates. 

Temperature They grow in a warm climate
Rainfall They grow well in arid regions
Soils Red, Sandy, Loamy and Shallow Black soils.

Major Producers

  •  Karnataka is the largest producer of Ragi, followed by Tamil Nadu.

Benefits of Millets

Considering the benefits of Millets, FAO has decided to celebrate 2023 as the ‘UN International Year of Millets‘.

1. Climate Smart

  • They are climate-smart and can tolerate warm climates and droughts. 
    • Millets are photo-insensitive as they don’t require specific photoperiod for flowering.
    • Millets are thermophilic as they can thrive in high temperatures and xerophilic (i.e. can survive in limited water)
  • Millets have less water requirement as compared to other crops due to an efficient root system
  • Millets are less affected by diseases and pests.
  • Carbon Sequestration: Millets are C4 Carbon Sequestration crops contributing to the reduction of CO2 in the atmosphere.

2. Nutrition

  • Millets are rich in vitamins, calcium, iron, potassiummagnesium, and zinc, which can reduce the malnourishment and hunger problem in India.
  • Millets have a low glycaemic index. They are beneficial to highly diabetic people.  
  • Millets are gluten-free. Hence, they are beneficial to gluten-intolerant people.

3. Positive Externality

  • Millets have an excellent ability to sequester carbon and assist in climate adaptation.  
  • It can get proper nutrients from Organic Fertilisers. Chemical fertilizers are not required.

4. Productivity

  • Millets have a short growing period of 65 days. It allows multiple cropping, thus helping farmers to increase their incomes.

5. Cultural Aspect

  • Millets are traditionally associated with the cultivation practice of tribals, e.g. Karnataka Ragi Habba (Festival).
  • Millets have a long history in the Indian subcontinent, and their reference can be found in poetry, ayurvedic recipes etc. Hence, millets are interwoven into the socio-cultural fabric of numerous regions of India.

6. Export Potential

  • Millet has great export potential as millet is the staple food in most of Africa. From 2013-18, India exported 15.4% of the world’s Bajra.

7. More from Less

  • Millets do not require
    • High mechanization
    • Fertilizers 
    • Large supply of water
    • Pesticides and insecticides
  • Hence, it can increase the real income of farmers because input cost is low. 


  • Unfavourable agricultural Policy: Crop loans, subsidies, and Public Distribution System (PDS) are favourable for crops such as Rice, Wheat etc. which acts as a disincentive towards cultivating Millet.
  • Dietary Habits– Due to increasing urbanization and industrialization, people are converging towards consuming Rice and Wheat (India Council of Agricultural Research 2014.) 
  • Lack of Awareness about the socioeconomic and nutritional benefits of Millet distorts its demand and supply. Moreover, Millets have a ‘poor man’s food’ tag, further reducing their consumption. 

Efforts to promote Millets

  1. 2018 was declared the National Year of Millets.
  2. Millets are part of the National Food Security Mission (NFSM).
  3. India has more than 500 StartUps which are involved in Millet Value Chain. Indian Institute of Millet Research is incubating 250 Millet StartUps under Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana-RAFTAAR. 
  4. FAO has decided to celebrate 2023 as the ‘UN International Year of Millets‘.


  • India is world’s top producer & consumer of pulses. But even after that, India is not self-sufficient in the case of Pulses.
Pulses production in India
  • Major pulses that are grown in India: are tur, urad, moong, masur, peas and gram.
  • Pulses can be grown in all parts of the country except the heavy rainfall areas. 

The share of different pulses in total pulse production 

Pulse Share Major producers
Gram / Chana 45% Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra
Tur / Arhar 15% Maharashtra, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh
Urad 10% UP, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra
Moong 10% Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh
Masur 5% UP, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar
Others 15%  

The area under pulses has decreased in the country. The main reason is the area under pulses is being shifted to the more profitable crops like rice and wheat after the green revolution.

Importance of Pulses

  • Pulses are rich in vegetable protein. Since most Indians are vegetarians. Hence, pulses are the primary source of protein for a majority of people
  • Pulses are leguminous crops which can fix atmospheric nitrogen in the soil and hence are usually rotated with other crops.

Government Initiatives to promote Pulse Production

  1. National Food Security Mission (NFSM)-Pulses: Aims to Increase Pulses production by 3 Million tonnes 
  2. Increase in MSP of Pulses 
  3. Price Support Scheme (PSS) under PM-AASHA 
  4. Creation of Buffer Stock of Pulses by NAFED. 
  5. Price Stabilization Fund Scheme to check volatility in the prices. 



This article deals with ‘Aviation – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘Economics’ which is an important pillar of the GS-3 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.


  • India’s domestic passengers have almost doubled in the last 5 years owing to the UDAN scheme
  • In 2020, the number of airports in India reached the 100 mark.

Potential of civil aviation sector

  • The geographical, economic and demographic conditions are such that India can be on the third-largest number of airline passengers. These favourable conditions are listed below.
    • India’s geographical situation in the middle of the Eastern and Western Hemisphere
    • India has a robust middle class of about 35 cr Indians. 
    • Rising income due to India being one of the fastest-growing economies globally
  • But strict and outdated regulations have not allowed the sector to achieve its potential, and India is ranked 10th globally wrt the number of airline passengers. 

Aviation Challenges


1. Infrastructure constraints

  • The civil aviation infrastructure, especially in the metros such as Delhi, Mumbai etc., has been operating at saturated levels. Therefore, the government will have to attract large investments in building new and upgrading the existing infrastructure.

2. Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATF)

  • The taxation on Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATF) in India is high. Hence, ATF is priced 60% higher in India compared to the global average. Given the fact that ATF accounts for 40% of the operating costs of airlines, it puts Indian airlines under considerable pressure.

3. Lack of skilled workers

  • Given the growth of the aviation sector, India will need 0.25 skilled workers in the aviation sector over the next decade.

4. Limited Capacity of Airlines

  • 90% of traffic is concentrated in the metro cities. Although the potential consumer base is large, airlines have not been able to tap it.

5. Predatory pricing

  • Indian airlines indulge in Predatory pricing, i.e. sell their tickets at very low prices to bleed the competitors out of business. But in the process, they bleed themselves and make substantial losses.

6. Aviation Safety

  • In India, there were 440 aviation safety violations in 2016 and 340 in 2017, which are quite high compared to global standards.

7. Other challenges

  • High Airport Charges
  • High aircraft to man ratio

Airlines in India

Public Sector Air India and its subsidiaries
Private Sector Air India = owned by Tata GroupB
Jet Airways = Naresh Goyal
Spicejet = Sun group (of Kalanidhi Maran)
Interglobe Aviation (IndiGo)
Go Airlines
Cargo Airlines Deccan cargo (Deccan 360) 
Blue Aviation Express Logistics

New players in the Indian market

  • Air Asia (Tata 30%+ Malaysian Airline AirAsia 49% + Telstra 21%)
  • Air Costa
  • Quickjet Cargo Airlines

Air India

  • Air India was formed after Air India & Indian Airlines merger in 2007. 
  • It has the largest fleet in India, including new planes. It controls 17% of the Indian Market.
  • But it suffered from a debt of over ₹50,000 Crore. Hence, the government wanted to privatize it. After large discussions, the Tata group has bought the airlines. 

Pawan Hans Helicopter ltd

  • It is a government-owned company started in 1985 
  • Provides helicopter service to
    • ONGC’s offshore drilling platforms
    • Hilly and inaccessible areas
    • Amarnath Yatra
    • Emergency evacuation

Disinvestment of Air India

Timeline of Air India

1932 Tata Airlines begins offering air services in India
1946 Tata Airlines renamed as Air India (AI)
1953 Air Corporation Act passed, and Air India was nationalized along with 7 other private carriers.
1981 Vayudoot, a new carrier, established to act as a regional feeder airline
1986 To boost tourism, private air taxis were allowed to fly with riders.
1993 After suffering an annual loss of ₹200 crores, Vayudoot was merged with Indian Airlines, adding to its debt load.
1994 The Air Corporation Act was repealed, and private carriers were allowed to enter the market again.
2003 Naresh Chandra Committee report calls for the privatization of Indian Airlines and Air India but faces stiff opposition.
2005 Air India signs a purchase agreement for 50 Boeing aircraft at the cost of ₹ 33,000 crores.
2007 Indian Airlines & Air India were merged to form the National Aviation Company of India Ltd.
2010 The company was renamed Air India
2011 CAG hauls up Air India and Civil Aviation Ministry for reckless purchase of aircrafts
2017 Air India losses mounted to ₹ 50,000 crores forcing the government to move towards privatization.
2021 Tata group bought Indian Airlines from the Government of India.

Debt Causes

Air India has a debt of ₹ 50,000 crores, accumulated for various reasons spanning decades. CAG Report of 2011 too has given detailed reasons for this 

  1. Unprofessionalism in management when compared to world-class airlines. 
  2. Massive fleet expansion 
  3. Free travels by VVIPs like Ministers and Officials
  4. In early 2005, Indian Airlines inducted planes despite no demand for them. These were funded by raising high-interest loans.  
  5. Liberalized policy on international routes like nonstop flights to the US was loss-making.

Pros of disinvestment of Air India

  • Indian Airlines is loss-making. Hence, keeping it afloat under government control would be wasting taxpayers’ money 
  • The private sector has taken up, and private airlines already cater to over 85% of the air travel demand in the country.
  • It would bring professionalism in management.  
  • Government money that keeps Air India afloat would be better used to fund important social and infrastructure programs. 
  • It will help the government to spend its energy on core governance issues. 
  • The sale of Pawan Hans in 2016 revived the company owing to the infusion of professionalism and better management.

Cons of disinvestment of Air India

  • Many sectors and routes that private airlines may not find economical to operate are handled by Air India. E.g., Private Airlines give limited services to North East. 
  • Air India, which is a sovereign airline, is used by Government in emergency evacuations of Indian nationals from warzones.  

National Civil Aviation Policy, 2016

Key highlights of  Aviation Policy-2016 are as follows

1. 5/20 rule Scrapped

  • 5/20 rule, i.e. 5 years of operation and a fleet of 20 aircraft before handling international flights, has been scrapped. 
  • But airlines will have to operate at least 20 aeroplanes or 20% of their planes (whichever is higher) on domestic routes. 

2. Improve Air connectivity to smaller cities 

  • The policy wants to improve air connectivity with smaller cities. 

3. Subsidized Tickets

  • Under the regional connectivity scheme, the maximum price that can be charged is Rs 2500 per hour.
  • A 2% levy is to be charged on all domestic and overseas tickets to subsidize airlines’ losses.

4. Infrastructure

  • Airports in Tier 2 and 3 cities will be operationalized on the ‘No Frills Model’. 

5. Open Skies Policy

  • Under the ‘Open Skies Policy’, foreign airlines can operate unrestricted and unlimited flights in and out of India. It will help India become a regional hub like Dubai and Hong Kong. 

6. Other important

  • Maintenance, Repair & Overhaul (MRO) don’t have to pay a royalty to airports where they operate, which will help make India an MRO hub. Royalty is up to 20% presently.  

Side Topic: No Frills Airport

  • No Frill Airports are the airports with lesser facilities like no escalators, no AC Lounges etc.
  • These Airports are made in small cities because airports providing high-end facilities are not feasible in Tier II & III Cities.
No Frills Airport

UDAN Scheme


2017 Aviation Ministry announced a scheme named UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik) to increase air traffic to Tier II & Tier III cities. 
2018 Second phase of UDAN scheme announced.
2019 UDAN (International) scheme launched, under which Guwahati Airport will be connected to Bangkok and Dhaka shortly. 

Under Scheme

  • Capping the fare
    1. Airfare for an hour’s journey of about 500km is capped at ₹2,500. 
    2. In the case of helicopter operations, fares are capped at ₹2,500 for a 30-minute flight.
    3. Seaplanes have also been included in the scheme in the subsequent phases. 
  • Capping of airfare is applicable on half of the flight’s seats.
  • Centre provides subsidy support to airlines via a Viability Gap Fund (VGF), which obtains money by levying cess on non-regional routes. 
  • Airlines get three-year exclusive rights to operate regional flights. 
  • No airport charges for airlines as airline operators complain that airport expenses constitute 25% to 30% of operating costs.
  • The scheme will be operational for a period of 10 years. 


  • The scheme has brought Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities into the country’s aviation network. 
  • Positive Spillover Effect on Economy: The scheme will make businesses and trade more efficient, enable medical services and promote tourism.
  • Employment Generation: As per the International Civil Aviation Organisation, each job created in the aviation sector creates 6.1 jobs in the economy. 
  • This scheme can help in improving the health of the ailing Aviation Sector. Even if 1 middle-class family buy 1 air trip per year, the Aviation sector can sell 35 crore tickets. 


  • Misdirection of Subsidy 
    • Even without the subsidy, there was an increase in air flyers.  
    • The subsidy is given to Middle Class when it could better serve some Social Schemes aimed at Lower Class.
  • Against Laisse – Faire: Airlines are given exclusive rights for 3 years, and other airlines cant operate there even if they want to. 
  • Another levy for creating the Viability Gap Fund will impact the already overtaxed Aviation Sector. Taxes on ATF is already among the highest in the world.

NABH (Nextgen Airports for Bharat) Nirman initiative

Aim: Capacity augmentation of the airport because 25 busiest airports of India are operating beyond their capacity.  

What it will do?

  • Expansion of the airport capacity to handle a billion trips a year.  
  • Establish about 100 new airports in the next 15 years at an estimated Rs 4 lakh crore investment. 
  • Increase the economic and tourism activities in the smaller cities by connecting them with airline services.

FDI in Aviation

FDI in Aviation

Bodies related to Aviation Sector

Ministry of Civil Aviation

  • Ministry of Civil Aviation mainly looks after the Aviation sector in India 

Airport Authority of India

  • AAI is a PSU of Miniratna category. 
  • Sovereign Air traffic controller of India.
  • It manages international airports, domestic airports, and custom airports.

Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA)

  • DGCA is the regulatory body of Civil Aviation. 
  • Its functions include 
    • Registrar of civil aircrafts
    • Laying down airworthiness requirement 
    • Gives license to pilots
    • Investigates of minor accidents 
    • Implements Chicago Convention

Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS)

  • Initially, it was a cell in DGCA setup in 1976 on the recommendation of the Pandey Committee after an aircraft hijack in 1976. It has been restructured now an independent department under the Ministry of civil aviation, after Kanishka Tragedy in 1985
  • BCAS is the regulator of the security of civil aviation. 

International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)

  • ICAO is a specialized agency of the UN and was set up under the provisions of the Chicago Convention of 1944.
  • It is headquartered in Montreal, Canada and India is a member of ICAO since its inception.
  • ICAO ensures the operation of airlines between different countries.