India is a nation that has always been heavily reliant on agriculture and its farmers. It has been a main source of food and livelihood since pre-historic times and continues to hold an important role today. The country recognizes the importance of agriculture and has assigned a Minister of Agriculture to help shape and guide its overall development. So, who is the first agriculture minister of India?
The first agriculture minister of India was Raja Bahadur Vishwanath Prasad Singh who took office in 1947. An Independent member of the Constituent Assembly of India, Singh joined the cabinet of Jawahar Lal Nehru who was India’s first Prime Minister. He was responsible for introducing agrarian reforms that gave farmers in hundreds of villages across India more control over their land.
Singh was a strong advocate for education and development of rural India, and under his leadership, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food made vast improvements to India’s agrarian sector, including making concessions for smaller farms, subsidies for peasant farmers, the implementation of high-yielding varieties of seeds in their farms, and providing long-term credit to farmers. He was instrumental in the creation of the Agricultural Price Commission in 1952 and in formulating the Second and Third Five-Year Plans.
Singh was also a member of the Foundation Committee of IRMA, or the Institute of Rural Management, Anand which was founded in 1979 and serves as a premier institution offering education and training to managers, policymakers and rural development professionals. In 1992, he was awarded with the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second highest civilian award, offering recognition for his lifelong dedication to improving India’s agricultural sector and the lives of millions of farmers and their families.
Singh passed away in July 1998, but left behind an extraordinary legacy, both in his home state of Bihar and beyond. He is remembered as a true champion of Indian farmers and someone who was passionate and dedicated to the progress of rural India.
Agriculture Policies of Raja Bahadur Vishwanath Prasad Singh
Singh was a pioneer in the agricultural policies of independent India. He implemented the Land Ceiling Act of 1950, an Act that empowered the state to take action to bring about an equitable distribution of land ownership in the country, in a bid to ensure that the needy and the landless get to own a piece of land of their own and also benefit from its usufructuary rights. He was known for encouraging the cooperative farming which ultimately aimed at eliminating the unhealthy and unprofitable competition characteristic of private farming. He also introduced subsidies for power, crop insurance for certain crops, stamp duty exemptions and brought back the old system of farmers having to pay rent to landlords.
Singh was instrumental in the setting up of a separate Ministry of Agriculture in 1951, which was initially known as the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, and later renamed as the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Processing Industries. This led to the formation of a separate agricultural advisory body as well, which was called the Agricultural Prices Commission or APC. The aim of this body was to decrease the burden of agriculture on farmers by setting fair prices and to keep the prices of essential commodities in line with the poverty line.
In addition to the Land Ceiling Act and the setting up of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Processing Industries, other measures taken by Singh included encouraging the spread of high-yielding crop varieties and fertilisers, giving incentives for farmers to boost their production levels and providing power subsidies for selected high-yielding crops.
Furthermore, Singh’s policies also led to a massive expansion of the network of rural credit cooperatives for small farmers. This helped to provide much needed access to credit and insurance to the underprivileged, thus ensuring sustainable agricultural production.
Singh also introduced the concept of block farming, a type of collective farming where farmers form a cooperative and share the costs of agricultural input and output, enabling them to produce food at a lower cost and better terms.
Transformation of Indian Agriculture
The considerations taken by Singh have had a lasting transform the Indian agricultural sector, leading to a 50% improvement in agricultural growth over the period 1947-1970. In fact, it was the period during which agriculture productivity increased the most, contributing significantly to the country’s total growth rate and making India self sufficient in food grains. In addition, it had an immense impact on rural communities as well, which saw a 20% drop in poverty levels. This can be attributed largely to Singh’s implementation of land reforms, access to decentralised credit, incentives to boost farm production, and the formation of cooperatives.
Apart from the introduction of the Land Ceiling Act, Singh’s other measures that were particularly effective in improving agricultural performance included the introduction of various land reforms such as the Agricultural Produce Marketing Act and the Agricultural Credit Act, and increased support for irrigation, fertilisers and pesticides. By introducing incentives and subsidies to boost farm production, Singh also provided a huge fillip to India’s agricultural sector, which saw a significant increase in food production and prosperity among rural populations. Furthermore, the introduction of marketing reforms and access to decentralised credit helped to provide much needed financial security for small farmer households.
In addition to the transformation of Indian agriculture, Singh also had an immense effect on the overall economy, by leading to job creation and alleviating poverty in rural communities. Today, India is one of the world’s largest agricultural producers, and Singh’s contributions to the development and growth of the sector are recognised and appreciated across the globe.
Singh and Green Revolution
In the 1960s, Singh was instrumental in the introduction of high-yielding crop varieties which brought a revolution in Indian agriculture, known as the Green Revolution. The Green Revolution was a massive agricultural effort that made use of modern scientific technology and inputs such as new crop varieties, improved irrigation, chemical fertilisers and other agro-chemicals, to increase agricultural yields and incomes. The implementation of these technologies, along with Singh’s land reforms, government subsidies and marketing reforms, transformed India into an agricultural powerhouse with huge growth in agricultural production and exports.
Singh was also a key figure in the formation of the International Rice Research Institute in 1966, an organisation responsible for the development and spread of high–yielding crop varieties and other agricultural technologies in Asia and other parts of the world. Along with increasing crop yields, the IRRI also worked on enhancing farmers’ access to different inputs, from seeds to financing, to substantially increase their agricultural incomes. Today, the IRRI is one of the most respected agricultural research institutes in the world.
Singh’s contributions to the introduction of high-yielding crop varieties and marketing reforms went a long way in establishing India as an agricultural powerhouse. The Green Revolution ushered in a period of unprecedented agricultural productivity and ushered in an era of economic growth and stability.
Agricultural Policies of Singh
Raja Bahadur Vishwanath Prasad Singh was an advocate of science and technology that had the potential to change rural life in India. He played a pivotal role in the formation of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute or IARI in 1969, an institution that works on modern methods of crop and animal breeding and research, and provides training on the latest techniques for efficient and productive farming. This institute has been credited with introducing several high-yielding crop varieties and also developing a number of agro-mechanised tools and practices to boost agricultural productivity.
Singh also encouraged the adoption of modern crop management techniques such as integrated pest management, the planting of trees for windbreaks and soil conservation, and the use of cover crops to protect crops from pests and diseases. He also laid down policies for reducing costs and risks related to farming, such as crop insurance and loan waivers, lifting restrictions on trading in commodities, and eliminating monopolies in food distribution.
In addition, Singh made it possible for people to access improved seed varieties and agricultural inputs through government extension services, as well as providing access to credit through cooperative banks and other financial institutions. He was also responsible for the establishment of the National Dairy Development Board, a body that works to improve milk production and productivity in the country.
Raja Bahadur Vishwanath Prasad Singh’s agricultural policies have had a profound effect not only on India’s agricultural sector but on the country’s overall economy. His efforts have helped to ensure food security, increase agricultural productivity, reduce poverty and improve the livelihoods of millions of farmers and their families.
Conclusion of Singh’s Legacy
Though he may not be remembered on a global scale today, Raja Bahadur Vishwanath Prasad Singh was a major player in the development of Indian agriculture and his policies have contributed significantly to the country’s food security and economic growth. His contributions to Indian agriculture are still evident today, and his legacy will continue to be remembered for years to come.