Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and eastern Uttar Pradesh are the states that covers a vast geographic area of Eastern India. Rice production is the single most dominant agricultural activity in these states. Approximately, 25 million ha of land were used for production of rice in 2002 and the land usage doesn’t vary much since then but urbanization of small towns to cities and growing population led to emphasis on greater utilisation of land. Many villages turned to towns and rainfed cultivation shifted to deepwater rice cultivation in some areas. The technological requirements in these environments that vary widely in hydrological conditions are naturally different.

Rice cultivation

Mere contraction in area of land under rice farming and only technological requirements to improve cultivation can’t yield more. It need to be balanced otherwise yield would be more or less constant for the growing population. Urbanization became the barrier to an expansion in the area under cultivation. No doubt that yield growth picked up after 1981 and is now clearly the major source of growth in output in eastern India but the growing population and industrialisation included alot of farm lands. A need for urban re-planning and smart cities to include more people in pre alloted space is requisite otherwise many places in India may also see level farming like Singapore for seasonal vegetables.

West Bengal has always achieved the highest level of average yield with eastern Uttar Pradesh having the second highest. The growth rate in rice output was well in excess of the annual production growth rate in these states. Assam and Chhattisgarh also sustained an annual growth rate in output. Combined Bihar and Jharkhand performed relatively poor with the annual growth rate in rice output of 1.72 per cent – well below its population growth rate whereas Punjab, the northern state, showed green revolution in past and maintained the high yield due to planned irrigation facilities. Eastern states need to sustain the flood and modernize the irrigation system.

Note: India statistical systems report rice yields and production in terms of milled rice. The variables are expressed in terms of rough rice (i.e., unhusked paddy) using the conversion factor of 1 kg of unhusked paddy = 0.66 kg of milled rice.

The impressive growth in productivity experienced during 1980-89, however, was not maintained during 1990-2001. The growth rate in rice output dropped from 4.74 per cent per annum during 1980-89 to 1.86 per cent per annum during 1990-2001. Green revolution had just begun in the late sixties with the development of fertiliser-responsive improved varieties. The adoption of improved varieties steadily increased over time. Expansion of irrigation, especially that of the private tubewell irrigation, has been a major phenomenon that played an important role in the rapid growth in rice production in eastern Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

An active ground water market existence led to the utilisation of ground water in Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. Water purchasing were also in practice and is still in practice today where farmers lack adequate capital for investing in pumps or those with a very small irrigable area. As a result of the evolution of ground water market, even small and marginal farmers are able to acquire ground water in small divisible quantities as needed but the dependency on rainfed cultivation shifted to underground water pumps fed. Farmers became more and more dependent on alternate water source and rain pattern become less friendly than it were earlier. As a result of climate change many farmers even suffered from floods and uncertain rains. The main reason of people being affected by rain is the habitation of rainfed lowlands where agriculture were only prime activities. People living in lowlands majorly suffer from flood and rain which otherwise were boon with natural-herbal water from Himalayas that didn’t require the fertilizers. Sowing post flood were the conversion and rain pattern were well adapted. Today we need to learn more about climate change and human behaviour change with respect to farming. People are more drawn to urbanisation and a city type life in village may not be best fit. On one-side the reduction in risk due to ability to provide supplemental water as and when needed for the winter rice crop has encouraged rapid adoption of modern varities and the increased use of fertilizers in eastern India, the other-side raised the concern of the high cost of diesel and diesel operated pumps along with power dependency. Natural calamities and post calamities irregular power supplies also led to problems. The pattern of changes in rice productivity in eastern India need to be carefully examined and understood. The growth has been non-uniform across the states. The performance across district over time suggests that the yield growth has been widespread in eastern Uttar Pradesh, few parts of Bihar and West Bengal.

Chronic incidence of flood may be a major cause of low productivity in the districts of north bank plains zone and the lower Brahmaputra Valley zone. The differential performance could have resulted from the variations in biophysical conditions (e.g., soil types, rainfall patterns), investment in irrigation and other infrastructure, and institutional setup across districts and states.