Third World Agriculture: A Proutist Approach
by Ravi Batra
Thirty farmers in Andhra Pradesh commit suicide -- ironically, by consuming
the same poisonous pesticides which were partly responsible for the loss
of their crops. Over one hundred thousands farmers demonstrate furiously
in Meerut ... in Gujarat restive farmers burn buses ... in Maharashtra
they stop rail and road traffic. Underground water sources are being drained
dry, fertile agricultural lands are becoming wastelands at an ever-increasing
rate, crops are being blighted with mysterious diseases--and overall production
has stagnated over the past two years. To paraphrase Hamlet, "Something
is rotten in the state of Indian agriculture."
Indian agriculture has been in the doldrums for a long time, in spite
of many varied attempts to revitalize it. The strategy of the Green Revolution
was lauded as the solution to the nation's food problem, but this hope
has evaporated as thoroughly as the few drops of rain on drought-stricken
fields. After twenty years of high-technology agricultural inputs, India
has still failed to solve its number one problem: feeding its teeming millions.
And in recent years, this problem has grown more acute with the tremendous
growth of population, expected to swell to 1,000 million by the turn of
the century. According to Professor V.K.R. V. Rao, India requires a minimum
agricultural growth rate of 4 per cent to meet its basic food requirements
in the coming years; but the rate of agricultural growth between 1950 and
1985 has been only 2.5 per cent. How can the country increase its agricultural
production in the shortest possible time to keep pace with its rapidly
growing population and the mounting demand for food? This is the burning
question of the hour.
For the past twenty years the answer seemed to be the Green Revolution,
a U.S. sponsored technological package for agricultural development which
was enthusiastically accepted by development planners and farmers alike
as a lasting solution to the perennial problems of rural poverty and hunger.
But the high-yielding varieties of seeds the Green Revolution promoted,
can do their job only when they receive massive doses of pesticides, fertilizer,
irrigation water and advanced farming techniques -- which calls for substantial
capital investments beyond the means of the majority of small farmers.
Thus, far from alleviating poverty, the Green Revolution has actually increased
it, and instead of bridging the gap between the rural rich and poor, it
has widened it. At present, the average disparity in rural incomes between
large and small farmers is 20:1.
All studies and statistics reveal reveal the increasing pauperization
of the rural masses, as indebted small farmers sell out to large landowners,
and swell the ranks of the landless laborers. In the past twenty years
all Indian states, without exception, have experienced a massive increase
in the percentage of rural people living below the poverty line--which
now ranges from 50 per cent to 85 per cent. In the holy land of the Green
Revolution, Punjab and Haryana, the percentage of rural poor has nearly
And the Green Revolution has not only accentuated rural socioeconomic
inequality but is steadily destroying the soil and water as well. The director
general of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), Dr. N.S.
Randhawa has warned that the entire area of Punjab and Haryana will turn
into desert if the underground water sources continue to be over-exploited
by the highly intensive agriculture practiced there. Mysterious blights
are spreading as crops are weakened by gigantic doses of chemical fertilizer,
and indiscriminate use of chemical pesticides has caused new pests to breed
out of control, as they did in Andhra Pradesh and destroyed almost the
entire cotton crop.
No, the Green Revolution is obviously not the answer, and the early
enthusiasm has been transformed to bitter disillusionment. A new strategy
is necessary -- one that does not depend on expensive and unecological
inputs but rather maximally utilizes the naturally abundant resources of
the land of India.
This strategy is part of the overall program of PROUT or Progressive
Utilization Theory developed by the philosopher and socioeconomic reformer,
P.R. Sarkar, to ensure prosperity for all the people of India by the year
2000 AD. The proper utilization of agricultural land is the key: for a
study done by the United Nations' Food and Agricultural Organization, in
1983, revealed that by the year 2000, if India's lands are managed properly,
they could feed a population of 2000 million- twice the projected population
for that year. Yet at present the utilization of land in India is miserably
poor, and its labor productivity dismal compared to other countries, largely
due to inefficient patterns of land use.
The increasing pressure of population in recent years has reduced the
average size of land holdings to less than two hectares -- and these too,
so fragmented that in certain parts of the country the plots are too small
even to move an ordinary plow. Moreover, the insecurity of the tenants
and absence of proper incentives for the poor farmers and landless laborers
has resulted in abysmally low productivity--a gross waste of human resource
These problems can be solved by establishing a comprehensive cooperative
system of producers' and consumers' cooperatives that will unleash the
full potential of the land and its people. Scattered, uneconomic holdings
can then be consolidated under cooperative management, with collective
investment on improved implements, seeds, and irrigation facilities. The
producers' cooperatives, however, rather than being imposed forcibly should
develop gradually out of the collective labor and the increasing wisdom
of a community. In the first phase, only uneconomic landholding should
be taken over by cooperative management for the benefit of the owners.
Over time, as the increased profit and productivity of the cooperative
participants become obvious to all, and as, through proper education, people
learn to think for collective welfare rather than for their own petty self-interest,
all farmers will be requested to join the cooperative system. Consumers'
cooperatives that eliminate the middlemen will remove the evils of speculation
by commodity brokers, and "distress sales" of produce at low prices by
Today, most of India's farmers are completely bypassed by the Green
Revolution developmental programs. But when the farmers' sense of insecurity
is removed by the assurance represented by the cooperative reserve fund,
when their crippling lack of incentive is replaced by distributive justice,
their dynamic energy and innovation will be unleashed, and India's lands
will pour out a cornucopia of plenty for all. Then the farmer's collective
effort and the use of appropriate scientific technology will convert barren
drylands into fertile fields and bring about a stupendous rise in productivity.
India ranks first among the countries of the world in irrigation potential:
what is needed now is full utilization of that potential -- not through
huge, high-technology projects that hardly benefit the majority of small
farmers and end up being poorly maintained--but through small-scale irrigation
works that involve the full participation of the farmers' cooperatives.
Good water management techniques must be adopted throughout the country,
for currently 76 per cent of India's irrigated lands are under-utilized
due to waterlogging and salinity which leads to soil degradation. Water
and soil conservation methods must be employed, such as trickle-drip irrigation,
and the maximum use of ponds and tanks in the traditional Indian pattern,
to avoid digging too many tube wells which drain the water table and precipitate
drought. Integrated pest control must be adopted, instead of the indiscriminate
use of chemical pesticides: not vainly trying to wipe out pests by drenching
them--and us--with poison, but keeping their number at tolerable levels
by applying natural restraints such as mixed planting, and the introduction
Ravi Batra is a Professor of Economics
at Southern Methodist University of Dallas Texas. An expert in international
trade, he is the best-selling author of The Great Depression of 1990. In
the following article he applies the Proutist economic principles of his
mentor, P.R. Sarkar, towards solving the agricultural dilemmas facing his
native country, India, and the rest of the Third World.
This article was published in New Renaissance magazine Vol.1,
this page to a friend.
Search engine optimization by A1-Optimization