Green Revolution

Last Updated: Feb 2023

Green Revolution

This article deals with the ‘Green Revolution.’ 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 first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, said, “everything can wait but not agriculture“. So independent India invested heavily in dams, both for power generation and for bringing large areas under irrigation. It had a positive impact on food production. But by the 1960s, India faced a severe deficit of food grains. The situation was saved by introducing more productive dwarf varieties of wheat and rice, which brought about the “Green Revolution” in Asia.

Need for Green Revolution in India

  • After Independence, India wasn’t self-sufficient in food production. Hence, India imported food grains from the US under the PL-480 program. But these grains had strings attached, which impacted India’s foreign policy. So India thought to attain food grain sufficiency.
  • Land Reforms failed to bring about change in agricultureHence, a paradigm shift was required in the policies to develop Indian agriculture.

Hence, India went for New Agricultural Strategy (NAS) to increase food grains production. NAS stressed fertilizers, irrigation, HYV seeds, credit extension to creditworthy farmers (to buy costly equipment & seeds). 

Green Revolution begins

Green Revolution was centered around the use of High Yielding Variety (HYV) seeds developed by the US agro-scientist Norman Borlaug researching a British Rockefeller Foundation Scholarship in Mexico in the late 1950s. The new wheat seeds developed in vivo claimed to increase productivity by more than 200%.  

Components of the Green Revolution

The Green Revolution was based on the timely & adequate supply of many inputs/outputs.

1. HYV seeds

  • They were popularly called ‘dwarf’ varieties of seeds.
  • Dr Borlaug had been able to develop seed which directed the large amount of nutrients supplied to wheat plant towards grain & less towards leaves and stem (reason for dwarfness).

2. Chemical Fertilisers

  • The seeds increased productivity provided they got sufficient nutrients from the land.
  • Traditional compost couldn’t supply the nutrients required because it had a low concentration of nutrient content. That is why a high-concentration fertilizer is needed – the only option was the chemical fertilizer containing N, P, K.

3. Irrigation

  • There was a need for controlled means of water supply for adequate growth of crops & adequate dilution of fertilizers.
  • It made two critical compulsions – firstly the area of such crops should be at least free of flooding & secondly, artificial water supply should be developed. 

4. Chemical Pesticides & Germicides

  • As the HYV seeds were new & non-acclimatized to local pests, germs & diseases, pesticides & germicide became compulsory for result oriented & secured yields.

5. Chemical  Herbicides & Weedicides

  • To prevent the costlier inputs of fertilizers not being consumed by herbs & the weeds in the farmlands, herbicides & weedicides were used while sowing the HYV seeds.

6. Credit , Subsidies, storage, marketing etc.

  • For farmers to use the new & the costlier inputs of the Green Revolution, easy & cheaper credit was required. 
  • Also, the inputs had to be made cheaper via subsidies. 
  • The farmlands suitable for this new kind of farming were region-specific (Haryana-Punjab & Western UP). The storage was made in these regions from where it was distributed throughout the country.

Positive Impacts of the Green Revolution

  • The productivity of major cereal crops, viz., wheat and rice, was boosted. India, dependent on the US for food grains through PL-480, became self-dependent wrt food crops. As a result of the Green Revolution, cereal production in India increased.
Green Revolution
  • Food self-sufficiency helped India take independent stands in foreign affairs & save huge Foreign Reserves.
  • The Green Revolution positively affected industries that manufactured agricultural tools like tractors, engines, threshers, and pumping sets.
  • New dams were constructed to harness monsoon water. The water stored was used to produce hydroelectric power. It, in turn, boosted industrial growth and improved life of people. 
  • It created a rural middle class who later invested in their children’s studies.

Negative Impacts of the Green Revolution

  • The agriculture subsidy regime that started during the Green Revolution is now hurting the government’s finances. 
  • Green Revolution has distorted the farm ecology and led to environmental degradation.  
    1. Due to the repetitive cropping pattern and increased cropping intensity, soil fertility has decreased. 
    2. An exponential rise in the tube wells has declined the water table in Punjab and Haryana.
    3. Large scale loss of biodiversity and indigenous varieties of crops has been lost forever.
    4. Increased use of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides has led to chemical contamination and toxicity of the soil. 
    5. It has led to extensive water pollution, which has polluted underground water. 
    6. It has increased the instances of cancer, renal failure, stillborn babies, and congenital disabilities due to overuse of pesticides & herbicides.
    7. It has led to the rise in malaria incidence due to waterlogging. 
  • There were Socio-Economic Impacts as well 
    1. It has increased the income inequality in villages. Since Green Revolution was input-centric, only rich farmers who could afford the inputs became rich at the cost of small & marginal farmers.
    2. Dominant castes like Jatts, Jats, Yadavs, Kurmis etc., started to assert themselves in politics because of their numerical superiority and newly acquired wealth. 
    3. The use of machineries such as tillers, tractors, threshers, and harvesters led to the displacement of the service caste groups who used to carry out these agriculture-related activities.
  • Pulses, millets and oilseeds were neglected. As a result, India needs to import oil seeds & pulses now.

Second Green Revolution 

In First Green Revolution, India achieved food security, but it had some drawbacks, for which we need Second Green Revolution.

Second Green Revolution is needed, which will

  1. Special focus on the Eastern States likes Bihar, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Assam, Odisha & North East which have not benefitted as much from the 1st Green Revolution.
  2. Apart from Wheat & Rice, it should also focus on Pulses, Oilseeds and other cereals like maize etc., making India self-sufficient in a real sense. 
  3. It will be Eco-Friendly and Sustainable. Food Security should not come at the cost of soil fertility, lowering water and health of farmers.

Hence, Second Revolution should be more inclusive and sustainable and target nutrient security.  

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