1 May 2017

India’s Green Revolution: Same same but different

Lauriane writes:*

The Food and Agriculture Organisation explains the Green Revolution to be “an explicit strategy for technology development and diffusion targeting poor farmers in poor countries [which] made improved germ plasm freely available as a public good” (FAO, 2005 [pdf]). In India, this strategy was implemented between 1967 and 1878. To secure the success of this movement, high investments needed to be made in agriculture research, machinery, chemicals and market development. In India, as in most nations globally, these financial supports were provided by the corresponding elites and the State. The latter were and are, still not to be seen working the land: each individual’s role is well defined under India’s cast system. The Green Revolution was sponsored by the Rich and exercised by the Poor, with undeniable differences in the benefits obtained on each side. The question here is whether a national development program can in fact, narrow the gap between the rich and the poor if it embedded in the country’s institutions?

Thanks to the Green Revolution, the country achieved its record agriculture output in 1978, making it “the world's biggest agricultural producers” IndiaOneStop. This, in alliance with an expanding manufacture industry for chemicals and improved infrastructures, led to an economic boom in India which experienced GDP growth of 7.9% in 1975. However, GDP per capita remained relatively constant. This might have been induced by India’s drop in its annual population growth by 0.4 percent between 1971 and 1977, which potentially encouraged the shift of the land in the hands of fewer wealthy farmers, born and protected by the higher casts.

Bottom Line: The Green Revolution led to more food, but formal and informal institutions kept that food from turning into economic growth and development.

* Please comment on these posts by students in my growth & development economics course. It really helps if you highlight unclear analysis, alternative perspectives, better data, etc.


  1. Hey Laurie,

    Cool topic! I am a little bit confused about the explanation for how GDP per capita remained the same in your second paragraph - surely if the GDP grew by 7.9%, the population would have to grow as well to keep the per capita level constant? If the population was falling at a lower rate, this would have (in my eyes) increased the GDP per capita. But obviously, as I point out, GDP is a poor indicator of economic growth and development ;)

    Perhaps you could also elaborate on which institutions in particular hindered growth and development? It may be interesting to compare the situation in the 1970s to modern times, especially with PM Modhi ringing in the changes in the Indian government.

    Although I am not aware of any, it may also be worthwhile researching whether there have been other national development plans which have led to a decrease in inequality, and to identify whether any of those would be applicable to the Indian case.

    Lastly, I feel that there needs to be a more of an explanation in your argumentation of the cast system as a reason for inequality - it may seem obvious, but perhaps a more detailed outline of how it functions as an informal institution which holds back development would add weight to your argument, and perhaps you could even suggest ways to break out of it!

    Good luck!

  2. Dear Lauriane,

    Thank you for these interesting insights on the Green Revolution in India! I did not know that India was such a big player (or the biggest) in agriculture. Furthermore, it was also very insightful to learn that the caste system played such a large role with regards to winners and losers of the Green Revolution- usually, one would think that it is the farmers who benefit most directly from agricultural development.

    So, if I understand it correctly, you are looking at the reasons why the Green Revolution in India did not contribute to reducing economic inequality between the rich elites and poor farmers. And you argue that inequality could not be reduced because of India’s formal and informal institutions, in the context of which the Green Revolution took place. Here are some tips to further strengthen your argument:

    1.Decomposed GDP by sector: To show how much the Green Revolution contributed to India’s economic boom, you refer to GDP growth in 1975 for the Indian economy as a whole. However, you mention that this high growth rate was also due to an expansion of the manufacturing industry for chemicals as well as improved infrastructure, which leaves it unclear how large the contribution of agricultural development was. To account for this, it might be useful to look at the decomposed GDP by sector throughout the period of the boom to see how much agriculture alone contributed to it.

    2. Income/wealth distribution: You are investigating the effects of the Green Revolution on economic inequality. In this regard, a measure of inequality, such as the GINI-index or the share of income or wealth of the upper percentiles of society compared to the lowest percentiles, might be more insightful than GDP per capita, since the latter does not account for income distribution. Here too, you might want to look at decomposed measures to isolate the effects of the Green Revolution on farmers and agricultural elites.

    3. Formal institutions: You mention the caste system was one of the main reasons why agricultural development yielded few benefits for the poor. In my understanding, the caste system is more of an informal than formal institution. So, which specific formal institutions played a role?

    I hope you find my tips useful!

    Good luck with your paper and I am looking forward to reading it (I am one of your reviewers :P)!


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