top of page

Commercialisation of Agriculture: Colonial Period




Introduction


During the colonial period, the commercialization of Indian agriculture was driven primarily by the needs and interests of the British Empire. The British government implemented a range of policies and regulations that aimed to increase agricultural production and make the Indian economy more dependent on exports to Britain.


One of the key policies was the Permanent Settlement of 1793, which aimed to increase revenue for the British government by encouraging the growth of cash crops like opium, indigo, and cotton. This led to the growth of large-scale plantation agriculture, and the displacement of many small and marginal farmers.


Another key policy was the introduction of the Railways Act of 1853, which facilitated the transportation of agricultural goods to ports for export. This allowed Indian farmers to access new markets, but also created new dependencies and vulnerabilities, as farmers became more exposed to fluctuations in global demand and prices.





What were the consequences of commercialisation of Indian agriculture?


The commercialization of Indian agriculture during British times had a range of consequences for the country and its people. Some of the key effects of this process included:

  1. The displacement of traditional farming communities: The growth of large-scale plantation agriculture, and the focus on cash crops for export, led to the displacement of many small and marginal farmers. This led to the loss of land, livelihoods, and cultural practices for many traditional farming communities.


  • The creation of new dependencies and vulnerabilities: The growth of export-oriented agriculture exposed Indian farmers to a range of economic and political risks. This included fluctuations in global demand and prices, as well as the impact of British trade policies and regulations. This made Indian agriculture more vulnerable to external shocks, and created new dependencies on the British market.


  • The concentration of land ownership: The policies and regulations implemented by the British government led to the concentration of land ownership in the hands of a few large landowners. This contributed to inequality and social conflict, as small and marginal farmers were often unable to compete with these larger interests.


  • The depletion of natural resources: The growth of export-oriented agriculture led to the overuse of natural resources, such as water, land, and forests. This led to environmental degradation, and reduced the long-term sustainability of Indian agriculture.


  • The impact on food security: The focus on cash crops for export led to a decline in the production of food crops, which had a negative impact on food security in India. This was particularly acute during times of crisis, such as during famines and other disasters.

Overall, the commercialization of Indian agriculture during British times had a number of negative consequences for the country and its people. It led to the displacement of traditional farming communities, the creation of new dependencies and vulnerabilities, and the depletion of natural resources. These effects continue to be felt in India today, and highlight the need for policies and institutions that support and protect the interests of farmers and agribusinesses.

Indian Agricultural sector "Now VS Then"


It is difficult to compare the current state of the Indian agricultural sector with the situation during colonial times, as many changes and developments have occurred over the intervening period. However, some general observations can be made about the current state of Indian agriculture.

One key difference is that the Indian agricultural sector is now much larger and more diverse than it was during colonial times. India is now the world's second-largest producer of food, and the sector contributes around 15% of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) and employs around half of the workforce.

Another key difference is that the Indian agricultural sector is now much more market-oriented and integrated with the global economy. Indian farmers now have access to a range of modern technologies and techniques, and can produce a wide range of crops for both domestic and export markets.

However, despite these developments, the Indian agricultural sector continues to face a range of challenges and difficulties. Small and marginal farmers, who make up the majority of the sector, often lack the resources and knowledge to compete in the modern marketplace, and are vulnerable to economic and environmental shocks. In addition, Indian agriculture is subject to a range of risks and uncertainties, including fluctuations in prices, weather-related disasters, and the impact of global trade policies.

Overall, while the Indian agricultural sector has undergone significant changes and developments since colonial times, it continues to face many challenges and difficulties. The key challenge for the sector is to address these challenges and seize the opportunities that it presents, in order to build a more sustainable and prosperous future for India's farmers and agribusinesses.

Comments


bottom of page