India has a history of farming that goes back 8000 years ago. During the Indus Valley Civilization, irrigation was well-developed and step-wells and bunds helped provide water to fields. In the Vedas, agriculture and animal husbandry are held as the highest occupations, and in the Upanishads, a farmer is likened to the creator itself, for providing food and sustenance to all. From this lofty statements in the HIndu scriptures, one would expect a rosy picture of the current state of farming and agriculture in India. Unfortunately, the ideals of the Puranas and Sanskrit literature do not find expression in reality.
The agricultural sector in India grew only by 0.2% last year, as compared to 7.9% for the entire economy, and 5.7% for inflation. The state of affairs for farmers has grown worse with every year, and they are in fact in much worse state today than they were in 1992-93, when liberalization opened up India's economy. The targets given every year by the government represent an overall increase in agricultural production over the 1955-56 figures of about 28 per cent. The original target for additional agricultural production proposed in the Plan was 18 per cent. As a result of the renewed discussions between representatives of the States and Members of the Planning Commission, this target was raised to 28 per cent in November 2016 to meet increased domestic needs, eliminate imports, expand exports and, above all, to provide against the possibility of inflation arising from the heavy investment proposed under the Plan.
The Plan envisages not only an increase in the physical quantities of various agricultural commodities but also an improvement in the quality of these products. In the case of foodgrains, for example, the major portion of the increase is envisaged in superior kinds of rice and wheat. Under cotton, the emphasis is on increasing the production of long-staple varieties. Likewise, in the case of jute, sugarcane, lac, oilseeds and other commodities, measures for the improvement of quality are to be given a high place in the programme of development. As in the first Plan, the higher production will be achieved largely through improvement in techniques and institutional arrangements for promoting land use and land management on more efficient lines and for ensuring a greater degree of social justice among those dependent on land. Under the existing proposals the irrigated area is proposed to be raised by 21 million acres.
The consumption of nitrogenous fertilizers is proposed to be raised from 610,000 tons in 1955 to over 1-8 million tons in 1960-61. Encouragement will also be given to green manuring and to the utilization of sewage, town compost, oil-cakes and other manures. To meet the requirements of improved seed a comprehensive programme for establishing seed multiplication farms has been drawn up. Soil conservation and land development work will be carried out on a more intensive scale. In the institutional sphere, particular attention will be paid to questions relating to the imposition of ceilings on holdings, consolidation of fragmented plots, land management practices and co-operative farming.
The problems of marketing, warehousing and rural credit will also receive attention. It is hoped that by all these methods and by the part to be played by the Community Projects and the National Extension Service in popularizing improved techniques of agricultural production, the targets will be achieved in full measure. Agricultural Research and extension activities play an important part in agricultural production. The programmes of agricultural research in India are co-ordinated by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research. The Council was set up in 1929 on the recommendation of the Royal Commission on Agriculture. It was reorganized in 1951 to enable it to discharge its responsibilities more effectively, especially in the field of extension work. The extension service aims at bridging the gulf between research workers and farmers.
Research work is carried on at a number of institutes such as (i) the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Delhi; (if) the Central Rice Research Institute, Cuttack; (iii) the Central Potato Research Institute, Simla; (iv) the Central Vegetable Breeding Station, Kulu; (v) the Forest Research Institute, Dehra Dun; (vi) the Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Izatnagar; (vii) the Indian Dairy Research Institute, Bangalore, and (viii) the Indian Lac Research Institute, Namkum. Besides, there are 22 agricultural colleges which carry on research in specialized fields. The Indian Central Committees for cotton, jute, oilseeds, sugarcane, coconut, arecanut, lac and tobacco similarly operate and subsidize a number of research schemes at various stations and sub-stations. The research institutes are engaged on a variety of research projects, both fundamental and applied. They conduct experiments in improving the fertility of the soil and the quality of seeds. They have evolved certain varieties of crops which are capable of resisting drought, disease, insects and pests.
The IARI has, for example, evolved the New Pusa-700 wheats, noted for their high yield and resistance to disease. The Sugarcane Research Institute at Coimbatore has evolved the CO 312 and 313 varieties which have increased the sugarcane yield per acre by more than half. Similar results have been obtained in respect of crops like millets, pulses, tubers, vegetables, cotton and jute. The Research Institutes maintained by the Central and State Governments are to be strengthened during the second Plan period. It is proposed to concentrate on problems which link research with development.