11. Green Revolution


Green Revolution, led to a great increase in production of food grains (especially wheat and rice) that resulted in large part from the introduction of new, high-yielding varieties, beginning in the mid-20th century. It is known to have reduced the dependence of India on foreign aid for the supply of good grains during the agricultural crisis caused by droughts, floods etc. It envisaged to make India self-dependent and a self-sustained nation in terms of food grains availability. To ensure food security was its aim.

Prevailing Conditions before the introduction of Green Revolution:

  • India is a nation where most of its people are engaged in agriculture.
  • The focus of Indian agriculture for its development was restricted to only institutional reforms and not on improving its technological base.
  • Despite very credible growth of agriculture output from 1949 to 1965 of 3% per annum, India had been facing acutefood shortages since the mid-1950s.
  • The massive jump in population growth rates after independence, steady rise in per capita income, huge outlays towards planned Industrialisation rendered long term pressures on Indian agriculture resulting in massive demand.
  • To meet this food shortage, India was forced to import food in greater amount.
  • Meanwhile, two wars, one with China (1962) and another with Pak (1965) coupled with successive drought in years 1965–1966, led to a massive fall in agriculture output.
  • Food prices shot up drastically.
  • Arm twisting policies resorted to by U.S.A. Government due to India‘s stand on Vietnam and its denial of accepting an economic policy package. (During shortage of food, India was importing food from the U.S.A. under the PL-480 Scheme).
  • Due to the grim Scenario of the mid-1960s economic self-reliance and food self-sufficiency became top priority objectives of Indian leadership.

Introduction of Green Revolution in India

Green Revolution took place in three different phases in various regions of the country at different points in time.

The first phase of Green Revolution: This happened from 1962–65 to 1970-73 with sharp increase in yield of wheat in the north-western region of Punjab, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh.

The second phase of Green Revolution: This happened from 1970-73 to 1980-83 with the extension of HYV [High Yielding Variety] seed technology from wheat to rice. This time the technology spread was in the regions of Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh particularly the coastal areas, parts of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and soon regions like Maharashtra, Gujarat, improved their production too.

Third Phase: The third phase from 1980-83 to 1992-95 showed very significant and encouraging results. This time the Revolution spread to low growth areas like Orissa, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan. During the last phase, the Southern region registered a higher rate of growth than the Northern region

By the end of this phase, the ‘coefficient of variation’ of the output growth levels and yield [per hectare] level between the various states dropped down substantially compared to earlier decades. By the end of the last phase, there was a considerable reduction in regional inequality by an increase in the prosperity in rural India.

Government’s other positive initiatives:

  • Government’s investment in agriculture rose significantly. Institutional finance in the agricultural sector doubled from 1968 to 1973.
  • The Agricultural Prices Commission was set up in 1965 and efforts were made to assure the farmers a sustained remunerative price.
  • Public investment, institutional credit remunerative prices and availability of new technology at low prices raised the profitability of private investment by farmers.
  • The result of the government’s initiative was that the rate of increase in the gross irrigated area rose from 1 million hectares per annum in Pre Green Revolution to about 2.5 million hectares per annum during the 1970s.

The Positive Impacts of Green Revolution

  • Throughout the three phases of the Green Revolution, food grain production rose significantly. By the 1980s not only was India self-sufficient in food with buffer food stocks of over 30 million tonnes but also it was exporting food to pay back its earlier loans and to lend to deficit countries.
  • The critical impact of the Green Revolution was it maintained the agricultural growth rates plus it generated a rapid increase in the marketable surplus of food grains.
  • The liberation from dependence on PL–480 or other imports was a major step in the direction of self-reliant independent development for India.
  • The new Green Revolution technology proved not only to scale neutral but also evolved an inverse relationship between scale and productivity. Small farmers applied more inputs per unit of land compared to large farmers.
  • Small farmers became relatively more viable and did not sell out their land to large landholding farmers in distress.
  • The Green Revolution not only generated employment in agriculture but also non-agricultural rural and semi-urban employment through the development of agro-industries, transport industry, and other agriculturally allied sectors. Increase in income of farmers led to the demand for factory-produced consumer durable like radios, watches, TVs, Sewing machines etc.
  • The surplus stocks of food-grain helped the government to launch employment-generating poverty alleviation programmes in backward areas.
  • In conclusion, the Green Revolution had a major impact on rural poverty level which declined sharply through food availability, and it resulted in a decline in relative prices of food, generating employment in the agricultural sector and agriculturally allied areas, rises in wages etc.

Negative impacts of the Green Revolution:

  • Huge disparity and polarization between classes and regions resulted in favourable conditions for left-wing organisations to organise the poor peasants to follow extreme paths (seeds of Left Wing Extremism) for their rights;
  • the green revolution also resulted in the rise of middle peasant sections.
  • These middle peasants with medium size holding hugely benefitted from the changes and later emerged as politically influential in many parts of the country.
  • The negative environmental impact of excessive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides as well as plateauing of the growth rates in areas like Punjab.
  • The excessive withdrawal of groundwater for irrigation in many areas without adequate recharging of the subsoil aquifers became environmentally unsustainable.
  • Tenants and sharecroppers who did not have security of tenure were losers.
  • To appease the Farming Community in Green Revolution belt, many political parties provided electrical power with a subsidy or totally free which led to misuse of it and adversely affected the overall health of the Indian economy.

Operation Flood and Cooperatives

Background to Operation Flood:

Peasants of Kaira [Kheda] district, Gujarat which supplied milk to Bombay felt cheated by the milk traders and then they met Sardar Patel who was from the same region to redress their grievances. At the initiative of Patel &
Morarji Desai, the farmers organized themselves into a Cooperative Union. They pressurized the Bombay government threatening of a “Milk Strike” to buy milk directly from their Union. These farmers registered themselves in Anand, Gujarat. In Dec 1946. Gandhian freedom fighter Tribhuvandas K.Patel, convinced the farmers to form milk cooperatives nnd later became its Chairman remaining so for 25 years. Dr Verghese Kurien was CEO of this Union from 1950 to 1973.

Meanwhile, in 1955, the Union chose “Amul” as its name for its range of products, which competed with MNC companies of dairy products like Glaxo and Nestle. The “Anand Pattern” of Kaira cooperative union gradually spread to other districts in Gujarat in 1974. The Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd. Anand was formed as an apex organisation of the unions in the district to look after marketing, According to one estimate, due to the activities of cooperative, 48% of the income of rural households came from dairying.

The Kaira cooperative success made the movements spread to the rest of the country inevitable. In 1964, the then PM Shastriji wrote to the all (CM’s of the country to set up cooperative dairies on the “Anand Pattern”. To perform this task, NDDB (National Dairy Development Board) was created in 1965 with Mr. Verghese Kurien at its helm as its honorary Chairman.

Beginning of Operation Flood:

Drawing heavily from the Kaira Union for personnel, expertise and much more, the NDDB launched “Operation Flood”, a programme to replicate the “Anand Pattern” in other milksheds of the Country.

Operation Flood had organised cooperatives of milk producers into a nation-wide milk grid with the purpose of increasing milk production, bringing the producers and consumers closer by eliminating middlemen and assuring the producers a regular income throughout the year. It was not just a dairy programme, but a path to development, generating employment & income of rural households and alleviating poverty. By 1995 there were 69,875 village dairy cooperatives spread over 170 milk shed all over the country with a total membership of 8.9 million farmers.

Impact of Operation Flood

The obvious impact of operation Flood was the considerable increase in milk supply and consequent increase in income of the milk producers, particularly the poor. It was estimated that 60% of the beneficiaries were marginal or small farmers and landless labourers. Milk Cooperatives proved to be a significant anti-poverty measure and a grand success to emulate.


All the leaders of Indian freedom struggle, from Mahatama Gandhi to Nehru, the Socialists, Communists, post independence agreed that co-operativization would lead to a major improvement in Indian agriculture and benefit the poor. The congress Agrarian Reforms Committee also known as Kumarappa Committee made the recommendation for compulsorily promoting Cooperatives. The Congress party in their 1959’s Nagpur Session passed Nagpur Resolution which visualized an agrarian pattern based on Joint cooperative farming. However, there were some leaders like C. Rajagopalachari, N.G. Ranga and Charan Singh who opposed such move.

  • The chief beneficiaries of this scheme were the landless people from SC &ST communities and deprived sections of other communities. Operation Flood and the accompanying dairy expansion has been instrumental in the establishment of an indigenous dairy equipment manufacturing industry; an impressive body of indigenous expertise that includes animal nutrition, animal health, artificial insemination management information systems (MIS), dairy engineering, food technology.
  • Operation flood was instrumental in the empowerment of women. Operation flood with the help of NGOs like SEWA helped in establishing about 6,000 Women dairy cooperative societies.
  • Operation Flood had a spillover effect on other cooperatives too. Cooperatives for fruits and vegetable producers, oilseeds cultivators, small scale salt makers and tree grower were doing excellently well which were initiated by NDDB.

Limitations of Co-operativization

Danial Thorner, the noted economist during his observation of Cooperatives between Dec 1958 to May 1959 found many weaknesses on the cooperative movements. He observed two types of cooperatives movements. One was of rich and landowning farmers. They formed such cooperatives to evade land reforms and access incentives offered by the state. These were bogus kind of cooperatives where big farmers enrolled their labourers and ex-tenants as members.

The other, second type of cooperatives were state-sponsored cooperatives where uncultivated lands of the government was made available to the landless labourers and underprivileged groups.

These cooperatives didn’t live up to their expectations in terms of benefits of scale. The service cooperatives fared better than the farming cooperatives. There were many shortcomings too in service cooperatives. Service cooperatives reinforced the casted based hierarchical structure. Leaders of such cooperatives mostly drawn from traders and money lending communities. Hence no benefits to the poor. In 1971, the National Commission on Agriculture confirmed the virtual exclusion of the landless from securing credits from credit cooperatives.

Instead of promoting people’s participation in the cooperative movement, very soon it became overstaffed with government officials and became inefficient. Credit cooperatives suffered from the major drawback of failure of repayment of loans, which led to a large percentage of over-dues. Contrary to common perception, rich and the landowning community were the largest defaulters than the poor and small farmers.

Click here to read of Anti-Sikh riots or Operation Blue Star.

Practice Questions

  1. Do you think the Green Revolution and the policies adopted therein are responsible to farmers’ unrest today? Critically examine.
  2. Write a short note on Operation Flood. Also, list out the role of milk cooperatives keeping in backdrop the Indian Scenario.
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