TATA INSTITUTE OF SOCIAL SCIENCES
Commercialization of Agriculture,
Great Depression and Famine in
25th September, 2014
Submitted by: Vibha Ashok Bhirud
Submitted to: Prof. Aparajita Bakshi
Prof. Gaurang Sahay
School of Development Studies
Table of Contents
Agriculture in India
3. Impact of Commercialization on Indian Agriculture
4. Great Depression and Indian Agriculture
5. Famine: Indian Agriculture strained by commercialization and Great Depression
The British rule had pronounced and profound economic impact on India. The various economic policies followed by the British led to the rapid transformation of India's economy into a colonial economy whose nature and structure were determined by needs of the British economy. One important aspect of British economic policy was commercialization of agriculture. Commercialization of agriculture which can be defined as a process where peasants start producing primarily for sale in distant markets, rather than to meet their own need for food or to sell in local markets, (Roy, 2007) has taken place at different times in response to different stimuli. In the Indian context though a number of commercial crops such as cotton, tobacco and sugarcane were grown fairly extensively even before the advent of British rule (Habib, 1982), since land revenue had to be paid mostly in cash and the prices of these crops were much higher at that time relative to the prices of foodgrains, however, commercialization of agriculture at that time corresponded only to the requirements of traditional ‗revenue economy‘ in which the main form of revenue payable happened to be an indistinguishable mix of tax, tribute and rent (Raj, 1985).
No doubt the need to pay revenue in cash was the initial compelling force for the marketing of agricultural produce, the large surpluses so extracted from agriculture, without a flow of goods and services in the reverse direction in exchange, was basically an impediment to further commercialization (Raj, 1985). Thus, commercialization of agriculture in pre-British period existed only in its embryonic form. In true sense, therefore, agriculture of India got a commercial orientation during the British rule.
Industrialization in Europe and Commercialization of Agriculture in India
The commercialization of Indian Agriculture took place not to feed the industries of India because India was far behind in industrial development as compared to Britain, France, Belgium and many other European countries of eighteenth century. The commercialization of Indian Agriculture was done primarily to feed the British industries that it was taken up and achieved only in cases-of those agricultural products which were either needed by the British industries or could fetch cash commercial gain to the British in the European or American market. For example, several efforts were made to increase the production of cotton in India to provide raw and good quality cotton to the cotton-textile industries of Britain which were growing fast after the Industrial Revolution in Britain. Therefore, cotton growing area increase in India and its production increased manifold with gradual lapse of time. Indigo and more than that, tea and coffee plantation were encouraged in India because these could get commercial market abroad. It was beneficial to the British planters, traders and manufacturers, who were provided with opportunity to make huge profits by getting the commercialized agricultural products at, throw away prices. The commercialization of Indian agriculture also partly benefited Indian traders and money lenders who made huge fortunes by working as middlemen for the British. This regard they acted as conduits delivering the products from peasants to the British company from where it was taken abroad.
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