Over the period 1980-81 to 1989-90, the actual growth of GDP was 5.18 per cent per annum as compared to 3.52 per cent per annum over 1950-51 to 1980-81. Over this period, population grew at a rate of 2.15 per cent per annum. Even in the period 1980-81 to 1989-90, population grew at 2.13 per cent per annum. Taking the entire period of 1950-51 to 1989-90, per capita GDP grew at 1.55 per cent per annum.
The first Five Year Plan had projected that the per capita GDP would double in about 27 years. However, in reality GDP doubled in 40 years. This high rate of population growth implied that the labour force would grow fast, and indeed it grew at the rate of 2.4 per cent per annum over the period 1960-1990. Growth in employment, however, lagged behind, growing at 2 per cent per annum in the 1960s and 1970s and at 1.8 per cent per annum in the 1980s. The growth in employment in agriculture was quite low in the 1980s less than 1 per cent per year.
Agricultural production as a whole has grown at a fairly constant rate of 2.6 per cent per annum over the period 1951-1990. In the 1950s, much of the increased production came through the expansion of cultivated area. Later on, the scope for bringing in additional area under cultivation decreased.
Then in the mid- 1960s the New Agricultural Strategy, popularly known as the ‘Green Revolution’, was launched. This entailed the use of four complementary inputs (i) High Yielding Variety (HYV) seeds, (ii) chemical fertilisers, (iii) machineries such as tractors and harvester-threshers, and (iv) irrigated water facilities.
Thus in the period since the mid 1960s, much of the increase in output has come through increases in yield. But at the same time it is true that fluctuations and instability in the production of foodgrains has increased in the period since the Green Revolution was put into operation.
Agricultural growth was actually negative in the 15 years preceding Independence. Moreover, agricultural production was slightly lower in 1947 than in 1901, for undivided India. So definitely in the period since Independence, agricultural growth and productivity has shown marked progress, although it is well behind the yield level achieved in developed countries.
India achieved self-sufficiency in foodgrains during the mid-1970s that is India no longer resorts to massive imports of foodgrains. But some problems remain. The geographical base of high performing regions has to be expanded. It has mainly been confined to Punjab, Haryana, western part of Uttar Pradesh and some other regions. Secondly, public (government) investment in agriculture has declined since the 1980s.
This has led to sluggish growth rates in agriculture in the 1990s. Sustained use of high yielding seeds and intensive cultivation has led to deteriorating soil fertility. Groundwater has been over- exploited, so that there is depletion in water-table.