Uttar Pradesh is the most populous state in India with more than 200 million population. However more than 77 per cent of the population live in rural area while only 22 per cent of the people live in urban area. Therefore it is no surprise that the state is heavily dependent on agriculture for its economic growth. This can be ascertained by two facts. Firstly, out of a total working population of around 66 million, about 39 million work as cultivators and agricultural labourers accounting for almost 60 per cent of the total work force. Secondly, in 2013-14, agriculture contributed more than 20 per cent to the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) which increases to 29.4 per cent when allied sectors are included.

Rural and urban population and classification of workforce

Uttar Pradesh has been divided into nine agro-climatic zones based on the physical attributes and socio-economic conditions prevailing in those regions , namely Tarai and Bhabar, Western plain, Mid-western plain, South-western dry plain, Central plain, Bundelkhand, North-eastern plain, Eastern plain, Vindhyan. However agriculture in Uttar Pradesh is also analyzed on the basis of the four administrative zones in the state, namely Western (30 districts), Central (28 districts), Eastern (10 districts) and Bundelkhand (7 districts).

Agro climatic zones in uttar pradesh

(Source: Twelfth Five Year Plan (2012-17), U.P)

The advent of Green revolution in the 1960s provided a major boost to the agriculture sector of India. The Green Revolution period is widely recognized as a period that provided major impetus to agriculture and lifted India from the status of a food deficient nation to a self-sufficient one. This was made possible due to development of rural infrastructure like irrigation facilities, road and electricity along with advancements in agricultural research, especially the introduction of High Yielding Variety Seeds (HYV). In particular the states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh were major beneficiaries of The Green Revolution.

In a paper published by Columbia University, titled Agricultural Performance in Uttar Pradesh: A Historical Account”, the authors review the growth in agricultural inputs between the pre-green evolution period (1962-65) and post-green revolution period (1980-83) in Uttar Pradesh. The percentage of irrigated gross cropped area (GCA) increased from 26.99 per cent to 47.42 per cent while the consumption of fertilizers (kg/ha) increased from 4.06 to 75.36. The number of tractors (per 1000 ha of net sown area) and number of pumpsets (per 1000 ha of net sown area) increased from 0.5 to 8.5 and 1.45 to 63.93.

Agricultural graphs

                                              (Source: Agricultural Performance in Uttar Pradesh: A Historical Account, Columbia University)

Simultaneously in the same period the crop yield (in Rs million) increased from 3970.10 to 5805.13 registering an increase in per cent compound annual growth rate from 1.64 in 1962-65 to 3.15 in 1980-83. The percentage of GCA of wheat in Uttar Pradesh saw tremendous boost during this period increasing from 16.85 to 31.12. However the percentage of GCA of rice registered a marginal growth as it increased by less than two percentage points. But this can be attributed to the fact that HYV seeds for rice were introduced much later to HYV seeds for wheat.

agriculture graphs 2

(Source: Agricultural Performance in Uttar Pradesh: A Historical Account, Columbia University)

Intrastate disparities within Uttar Pradesh also exist. While the western region of the state has taken long strides in achieving higher agricultural growth and output, eastern and Bundelkhand regions have historically always lagged behind. The above report attributes this to the fact that the western region has always had a historical advantage over eastern region in terms of public investment in irrigation which led to greater development of irrigation facilities. By 1950-51 area under canal irrigation in the west was 12 times that of east. However later new schemes were introduced to improve the irrigation facilities in the east. But with the expansion of tubewells, canal irrigation was no longer preferred and eastern region was again left behind. Other factors that were mentioned for the disparity were electricity and low use of fertilizer in eastern region as it is flood prone. They further go on to state With regard to U.P., during the initial Green Revolution period, it was only the western region of the state that could make good use of HYV seeds as this region was, relative to other parts of the state, in better shape as far as irrigation, and to a lesser extent as far as roads and power availability were concerned.”

A paper titled “Performance of Agriculture in Uttar Pradesh-A District-level Analysisfurther goes on to corroborate the regional differences in U.P. It compares regional variation between 1990-91 and 2008-09 on the basis of thirteen agricultural indicators. It observed that the western region was the best performing region of the state in terms of agricultural development with a majority of the best performing districts falling in it while Buldenkhand region was the worst performing as all five districts of the region fell in the low performing category in both the time periods. The problems compounding the Bundelkhand region were stated to be erratic rainfall, low soil fertility, small and marginal land holdings and majority of the people living below poverty line. They further went on to note that the disparity between the different regions, in terms of agricultural indicators has widened over time.

The state agricultural report, 2013 for U.P also observes that the western and central regions of the state are relatively more developed than eastern and Bundelkhand regions. Another report titled Farm Productivity and Rural Poverty in Uttar Pradesh: A Regional Perspectivepublished in the Agricultural Economics research review observed that Bundelkhand and Eastern region of the state were low productivity areas. It further went on to conclude that there exists a strong linkage between agricultural productivity and rural poverty.

 The above observations show that agricultural development in U.P has been highly skewed and polarized in favour of the western region of the state while other regions ,compounded with various problems have fallen behind.