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The state of Punjab led India's Green Revolution and earned the distinction of being the "breadbasket of India."[1][2]

The Green Revolution was a period that began in the 1960's during which agriculture in India was converted into a modern industrial system by the adoption of technology, such as the use of high yielding variety (HYV) seeds, mechanised farm tools, irrigation facilities, pesticides, and fertilizers. Mainly led by agricultural scientist M. S. Swaminathan in India, this period was part of the larger Green Revolution endeavor initiated by Norman Borlaug, which leveraged agricultural research and technology to increase agricultural productivity in the developing world.[3] Varieties or strains of crops can be selected by breeding for various useful characteristics such as disease resistance, response to fertilizers, product quality and high yields.

Under the premiership of Congress leaders Lal Bahadur Shastri and Indira Gandhi,[4][5] the Green Revolution within India commenced in 1968, leading to an increase in food grain production, especially in Punjab, Haryana, and Western Uttar Pradesh. Major milestones in this undertaking were the development of high-yielding varieties of wheat,[6] and rust resistant strains of wheat.[7][8]

Notable figures and institutions

Farmers, young and old, educated and uneducated, have easily taken to the new agronomy. It has been heart-warming to see young college graduates, retired officials, ex-army men, illiterate peasants and small farmers queuing up to get the new seeds.

M. S. Swaminathan, (1969) Punjab Miracle. The Illustrated Weekly of India[9]

A number of people have been recognized for their efforts during India's Green Revolution.


Wheat production

The main development was higher-yielding varieties of wheat,[6] for developing rust resistant strains of wheat.[7] The introduction of high-yielding varieties (HYV) of seeds and the improved quality of fertilizers and irrigation techniques led to the increase in the production to make the country self-sufficient in food grains, thus improving agriculture in India. Also, other varieties such as Kalyan Sona and Sonalika were introduced by cross-breeding of wheat with other crops.[13] The methods adopted included the use of high-yielding varieties (HYVs) of seeds[14] with modern farming methods.

The production of wheat has produced the best results in fueling the self-sufficiency of India. Along with high-yielding seeds and irrigation facilities, the enthusiasm of farmers mobilized the idea of an agricultural revolution. Due to the rise in the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers, there was a negative effect on the soil and the land (e.g., land degradation).

Other practices

The other practices include high-yielding varieties (HYVs) of seeds, Irrigation infrastructure, use of pesticides, insecticides and herbicides, consolidation of holdings, land reforms, improved rural infrastructure, supply of agricultural credit, use of chemical or synthetic fertilizers, use of sprinklers or drip irrigation systems, and use of advanced machinery.

Rationale for the Green Revolution

The Green Revolution in India was first introduced in Punjab in late 1966-67 as part of a development program issued by international donor agencies and the Government of India.[15]

During the British Raj, India's grain economy hinged on a unilateral relation of exploitation.[16] Consequently, when India gained independence, the weakened country quickly became vulnerable to frequent famines, financial instabilities, and low productivity. These factors formed a rationale for the implementation of the Green Revolution as a development strategy in India.


The Green Revolution yielded great economic prosperity during its early years. In Punjab, where it was first introduced, the Green Revolution led to significant increases in the state's agricultural output, supporting India's overall economy. By 1970, Punjab was producing 70% of the country's total food grains,[19] and farmers' incomes were increasing by over 70%.[19] Punjab's prosperity following the Green Revolution became a model to which other states aspired to reach.[20]

However, despite the initial prosperity experienced in Punjab, the Green Revolution was met with much controversy throughout India.

Indian economic sovereignty (negative impact)

Criticism of the effects of the green revolution includes the cost for many small farmers using HYV seeds, with their associated demands of increased irrigation systems and pesticides. A case study is found in India, where farmers are buying Monsanto BT cotton seeds—were sold on the idea that these seeds produced 'non-natural insecticides'. In reality, they still had to pay for expensive pesticides and irrigation systems, which led to increased borrowing to finance the change from traditional seed varieties. Many farmers had difficulty paying for the expensive technologies, especially if they had a bad harvest. These high costs of cultivation pushed rural farmers to take out loans—typically at high interest rates.[15] Over-borrowing entrapped the farmers into a cycle of debt.[15]

India's liberalized economy further exacerbated the farmers' economic conditions. Indian environmentalist Vandana Shiva writes that this is the "second Green Revolution". The first Green Revolution, she suggests, was mostly publicly funded (by the Indian Government). This new Green Revolution, she says, is driven by private (and foreign) interest—notably MNCs like Monsanto—as encouraged by Neoliberalism. Ultimately, this is leading to foreign ownership over most of India's farmland, undermining farmers' interests.[15]

Farmers' financial issues have become especially apparent in Punjab, where its rural areas have witnessed an alarming rise in suicide rates.[15] Excluding the countless unreported cases, there has been estimated to be a 51.97% increase in the number of suicides in Punjab in 1992–93, compared to the recorded 5.11% increase in the country as a whole.[15] According to a 2019 Indian news report, indebtedness continues to be a grave issue affecting the people of Punjab today, demonstrated by the more than 900 recorded farmer committed suicide in Punjab in the last two years.[21]

Environmental damage

Excessive and inappropriate use of fertilizers and pesticides polluted waterways and killed beneficial insects and wildlife. It has caused over-use of soil and rapidly depleted its nutrients. The rampant irrigation practices led to eventual soil degradation. Groundwater practices have fallen dramatically. Further, heavy dependence on few major crops has led to the loss of biodiversity of farmers and the increase of stubble burning cases since 1980. These problems were aggravated due to the absence of training to use modern technology and vast illiteracy leading to excessive use of chemicals.[22]

Increased regional disparities

The green revolution spread only in irrigated and high-potential rainfed areas. The villages or regions without access to sufficient water were left out that widened the regional disparities between adopters and non-adopters. Since, the HYV seeds technically can be applied only on land with assured water supply and availability of other inputs like chemicals, fertilizers, etc. The application of the new technology in dry-land areas is simply ruled out.

States like Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, etc. having good irrigation and other infrastructure facilities were able to derive the benefits of the green revolution and achieve faster economic development while other states have recorded slow growth in agriculture production.[23]

Alternative farming methods

In the years since Green Revolution was adopted, issues of sustainability have come up due to the adverse environmental and social impacts. To meet this challenge other alternatives to farming have emerged like small subsistence farms, family homesteads, New Age communes, village and community farming collectives and women's cooperatives with the common purpose of producing organically grown, chemical-free food. In green revolution areas of the country, increasing numbers of families are experimenting on their own with alternative systems of land management and the growing of crops. Building upon the idea of sustainable development, commercial models for large-scale food production have been developed by integrating traditional farming systems with appropriate energy efficient technology.[24]


  1. ^ Kumar, Manoj, and Matthias Williams. 2009 January 29. "Punjab, bread basket of India, hungers for change." Reuters.
  2. ^ The Government of Punjab (2004). Human Development Report 2004, Punjab (PDF) (Report). Archived (PDF) from the original on 8 July 2011. Retrieved 9 August 2011. Section: "The Green Revolution", pp. 17–20.
  3. ^ Hardin, Lowell S. 2008. "Meetings That Changed the World: Bellagio 1969: The Green Revolution." Nature (25 Sep 2008):470-71. Cited in Sebby 2010.
  4. ^ Swaminathan, M. S. (10 August 2009). "From Green to Ever-Green Revolution". The Financial Express. Retrieved 16 April 2020.
  5. ^ Rajagopal, Gopi (13 October 2016). "The Stories of Ehrlich, Borlaug and the Green Revolution". The Wire (India). Retrieved 16 April 2020.
  6. ^ a b "About IARI". IARI. Retrieved 11 June 2015.
  7. ^ a b "Rust-resistant Wheat Varieties. Work at Pusa Institute". The Indian Express. 7 February 1950. Retrieved 13 September 2013.
  8. ^ Newman, Bryan. 2007. "A Bitter Harvest: Farmer Suicide and the Unforeseen Social, Environmental and Economic Impacts of the Green Revolution in Punjab, India." Development Report 15. Food First. Cited in Sebby 2010.
  9. ^ Swaminathan, M. S. (1 September 2013). "Genesis and Growth of the Yield Revolution in Wheat in India: Lessons for Shaping our Agricultural Destiny". Agricultural Research. 2 (3): 183–188. doi:10.1007/s40003-013-0069-3. ISSN 2249-7218. S2CID 18272246.
  10. ^ Rudolf, John Collins (19 January 2010). "Father of India's Green Revolution Says Nation Is Threatened by Global Warming". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 3 December 2021.
  11. ^ Dugger, Celia W. (10 November 2000). "Chidambaram Subramaniam, India's 'Green' Rebel, 90, Dies". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 3 December 2021. Chidambaram Subramaniam, the political architect of the green revolution in India...
  12. ^ "'Father of Wheat Revolution' DS Athwal passes away". Hindustan Times. 15 May 2017. Retrieved 3 December 2021.
  13. ^ "The Green Revolution in India". U.S. Library of Congress (released in public domain). Library of Congress is Country Studies. Retrieved 6 October 2007.
  14. ^ Rowlatt, Justin (1 December 2016). "IR8: The miracle rice which saved millions of lives". BBC News. Retrieved 5 December 2016.
  15. ^ a b c d e f Dutta, Swarup (June 2012). "Green Revolution Revisited: The Contemporary Agrarian Situation in Punjab, India". Social Change. 42 (2): 229–247. doi:10.1177/004908571204200205. ISSN 0049-0857. S2CID 55847236.
  16. ^ a b Davis, Mike (2017). Late Victorian holocausts : El Niño famines and the making of the Third World. ISBN 978-1-78168-360-6. OCLC 1051845720.
  17. ^ Sangha, Kamaljit Kaur (2014). "Modern agricultural practices and analysis of socio-economic and ecological impacts of development in agriculture sector, Punjab, India - A review". Indian Journal of Agricultural Research. 48 (5): 331. doi:10.5958/0976-058x.2014.01312.2. ISSN 0367-8245. S2CID 59152682.
  18. ^ a b Jain, H. K. (2012). Green revolution : history, impact and future. Studium Press LLC. ISBN 978-1-4416-7448-7. OCLC 967650924.
  19. ^ a b Sandhu, Jashandeep Singh (2014). "Green Revolution: A Case Study of Punjab". Proceedings of the Indian History Congress. 75: 1192–1199 – via JSTOR.
  20. ^ Shiva, Vandana. (1991). The Violence of the green revolution : Third World agriculture, ecology, and politics. Zed. ISBN 0-86232-964-7. OCLC 24740968.
  21. ^ Bharti, Vishav (12 February 2019). "Farm suicides unabated in Punjab, over 900 in 2 years". The Tribune.
  22. ^ "Ethiraj College for Women (Autonomous) – Department of Business Economics: Syllabus" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 January 2021. Retrieved 23 January 2021.
  23. ^ "Green Revolution Bypassed Eastern India". GKToday. Retrieved 26 December 2021.
  24. ^ George, Lathika (2018). Mother Earth, Sister Seed. Penguin Books. pp. 177–191.

Further reading