Impact of Globalization on Indian Agriculture

(Note: Reproduced below with kind permission, in its entirety, is an essay written by my friend Dipanjali Rao as a research project for her Master’s course. It is long but it makes a very interesting as well as a sad read.)


The liberalisation of India’s economy was adopted by India in 1991. Facing a severe economic crisis, India approached the IMF for a loan, and the IMF granted what is called a ‘structural adjustment’ loan, which is a loan with certain conditions attached which relate to a structural change in the economy. The government ushered in a new era of economic reforms based on these conditions. These reforms (broadly called Liberalisation by the Indian media) can be broadly classified into three areas: Liberalisation, privatization and globalization. Essentially, the reforms sought to gradually phase out government control of the market (liberalisation), privatize public sector organizations (privatization), and reduce export subsidies and import barriers to enable free trade (globalization). There was a considerable amount of debate in India at the time of the introduction of the reforms, it being a dramatic departure from the protectionist, socialist nature of the Indian economy up until then. However, reforms in the agricultural sector in particular came under severe criticism in the late 1990s, when 221 farmers in the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh committed suicide. (The damage done, 2005) The trend was noticed in several other states, and the figure today, according to a leading journalist and activist, P. Sainath1, stands at 100,000 across the country. (Sainath, 2006) Coupled with this was a sharp drop in agricultural growth from 4.69% in 1991 to 2.06% in 1997. (Agriculture Statistics at a Glance, 2006) This paper seeks to look into these and other similar negative trends in Indian agriculture today, and in analyzing the causes, will look at the extent to which liberalisation reforms have contributed to its current condition. It will look at supporting data from three Indian states which have been badly affected by the crisis: Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Kerala. Andhra Pradesh’s (AP’s) experience is particularly critical in this debate because it was headed by Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, who pursued liberalization with enthusiasm. Hence liberalization in AP has been faster than other states, and the extent of its impact has been wider and deeper. (Sainath, 2005)

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