Agriculture Sector on the Eve of Independence

It is a well-known fact that at least two-thirds of the national income of India is derived from the agriculture sector of the country. However, before 1947, under British rule, more than 90% of the national income relied on the Indian agriculture sector. A significant portion of the country’s population resided in rural areas where agriculture was the primary source of livelihood. 

The pre-colonised India produced primarily two crops, i.e. wheat and rice. Even if it was only two types of crops, country’s agricultural sector was sustainable and self-sufficient. The British invasion resulted in total commercialisation of India’s agriculture industry. On the eve of independence, the once most prominent sector of this country was known to be suffering from stagnation and constant degradation.

Agriculture Sector of India - Stagnation During British Rule

Indian agriculture during British rule went towards stagnation. Lack of supervision led to negligence in reforms, which were introduced to ensure development in productivity. Meanwhile, the British government continued in their trade deals, extracting more profit that inevitably led to the fall of India’s agricultural sector. 

Agriculture Sector of India – Causes of Stagnation

There are various causes for stagnation in the Indian agricultural sector during British rule. Some of these are –

  • Zamindari System

One of the primary reasons for the cause of stagnation in India’s agricultural sector was the zamindari system. This agricultural system was mainly practised in Bengal, which was the then capital of British India. 

As per this system, the majority of the profits went to landowners, i.e. zamindars instead of cultivators. As a result, the colonial bosses ultimately made the most income, while such farmers were not remunerated adequately. 

These zamindars, who were vassals of their colonial masters, did not help to improve the agriculture sector but only wanted to reap its benefits. Even though economic conditions were degrading gradually, zamindars did not issue any rebates on tariffs. Moreover, such tariffs had unethical rules and guidelines that did not favour cultivators. For example, if cultivators did not pay their rent on time, the colonial leaders would repeal all of their rights. 

  • Forced Commercialisation

Even though there was a shortage of resources, the British rule insisted on widespread commercialisation to bring in more profits. Their objective was to make this industry evolve and undergo ‘cultivation for sale’ from the orthodox methods of ‘cultivation for self’. 

That led to the production of crops only for sale. In India, where the majority of cultivated crops were used for self-consumption were then sent to markets for sale. Brits also introduced the cultivation of commercial crops such as Indigo to enhance their profits. Even though Indigo is a favourable crop for a commercialised agriculture sector, it brought more harm to India as it damaged the fertility of soils in vast proportions.

  • Partition

India’s partition into Pakistan and Bangladesh brought in a food crisis all over India as several crop-cultivating lands were now divided. Various rice-producing agricultural lands in Punjab, India then became a part of Pakistan. 

Features of Indian Agriculture on the Eve of Independence

There are various reasons behind the decline of the agricultural sector on the eve of the independence of India. They are –

  1. Fragmented Land Ownership

On the eve of independence, our Indian economy was known to be in an agro-state. Despite being a primary mean of livelihood, India’s agriculture sector was in a rapid decline. One of the main reasons behind it being scattered land owned by different individuals which made it even harder for cultivation.

  1. Outdated Technology

Even after India achieved independence, old fashioned technology and outdated methods were used in its agriculture sector. Not only there was a lack of machines, which would help in minimising human resources but also an absence of growth enhancement ingredients, such as fertilisers, etc. 

  1. Low Productivity

Due to the absence of innovative methods and fragmented ownership of cultivated lands’ existence, the total output per hectare of lands was significantly low. So, productivity in India’s agriculture sector reached rock bottom and thus affecting its economy at a large scale.

  1. Feud Amongst Landowners and Cultivators

Another reason behind the agriculture sector’s decline on the eve of independence was the long-lasting feud between landowners and cultivators. Landowners never paid cultivation costs but only shared the output. Cultivators not only had to pay their landowners a particular rent but also had to bear the overall production cost. It affected cultivators’ finances substantially resulting in a continuous feud between these two sides.

  1. Dependence on Rain

Since India’s agriculture sector lacked innovative methods and valuable equipment, it depended a lot on rainfall. High rainfall led to increased productivity, whereas little rainfall meant there would be insufficient production.

  1. Cultivation for Self

Subsistence farming was also a significant cause for the fall of India’s agriculture sector during this period. In such an agricultural method that focused on self-consumption only instead of selling it in markets brought severe instability in India’s agriculture sector.

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FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What were the Causes of Stagnation of the Indian Agricultural Sector during British rule?

A few primary reasons for the stagnation of India’s agricultural sector during the British rule are zamindary system and its demerits, forced commercialisation of crops, the partition of India, etc.

2. How was the Condition of the Agriculture Sector on the Eve of Independence?

The condition of India’s agricultural sector on the eve of independence can be summed up with the following points – fragmented land ownership, outdated technology, rainfall dependant, low productivity, subsistence farming, and feud amongst landowners and cultivators.