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Agriculture distress in India: extent & way forward

Agriculture distress refers to the problems faced by farmers & agriculture labour in terms of declining per capita value accumulation of their produce. In India, large agriculture output was accompanied by exploding population, resulting into “large output to be shared by even large population”.

Extent of agriculture distress in India

Contribution of agriculture to GDP has declined from 53.1% in 1950-51 to just 15.2% in 2016-17. This was mainly due to the “Hindu growth rate” in agriculture. During the above mentioned period, industry recorded 6.1%, services 6.2% and agriculture just 2.9% of annual average growth rate. This slow growth rate in agriculture resulted in the decline of agriculture’s contribution to GDP.

However, decline of agriculture’s contribution to GDP is not the major concern. The real concern is that the share of agriculture in total employment and the share of dependent population on agriculture are still high. Agriculture still provides employment to 45% of the total population & roughly 60% population still depends on agriculture for their livelihood.

This over dependency on agriculture results in low per worker output. India’s per worker output in agriculture is just one third of nationwide GDP per worker. This shows that Indian agriculture is facing the problem of both disguised as well as under-employment.

So, the real problem is not under production or even under valuation, but the real problem is the under utilization of human resources in rural India. Under-utilized human can’t fulfill their necessities and therefore ultimate problem non-fulfillment of basic needs of rural people.

The way forward

Since the problem is the creation of both internal and external factors, its solutions can be tracked both within and outside agriculture.

Within agriculture framework

  1. Crop diversification: This will bring out extra man power from traditional fields of paddy & wheat, where maximum of population is trapped. Moreover, this will lead to value addition to work force both in terms of money as well as human health.
  2. Increase agriculture productivity through the use of new technology. However, this has very limited application as India has already achieved the goal of self sufficiency and so any over production will lead to fall in price, impounding farmers’ distress.
  3. Securing real benefit to farmers by promoting efficient marketing chain and limiting the role of middlemen.
  4. Enhancing value addition to agriculture produce through processing units.
  5. Diversification of agriculture produces use. Putting agriculture produces use to new sectors like energy & ecology.

Outside agriculture framework

  1. Shifting surplus agriculture labour to other sectors to optimize per capita labour use in agriculture.
  2. Commercialization of agriculture by promoting agri-allied activities and promoting their export.
  3. Reduce the gap in price disparity created during last 70 years.


Any effort to increase productivity and hence production or the increase in MSP present only a short duration solution, real solution lies in the transfer of surplus agriculture work force to other sectors. So, from long term perspective, synchronization of the present contribution of agriculture to GDP is needed with that of agriculture employment to total employment to solve the agriculture distress.


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