The Violence of the Green Revolution

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Bespreking van het baanbrekende boek “The Violence of the Green Revolution” van Vandana Shiva, geschreven in 1991, in het kader van de cursus Stad, Platteland en Milieu aan de KUN, maart 2001.

Study-subject: Stad, platteland en milieu (cursus OS 2002)

University: Katholieke Universiteit Nijmegen
Nijmegen, 5 March 2001 Guus Geurts Studentnummer: 9912460


In this paper I will use the models of “Pressure and Relief” and “Access to Resources” which come from the book “At Risk – natural hazards, people’s vulnerability, and disaster” written by Blaikie, Cannon, Davis and Wisner in 1994 and reprinted in 1997. I will apply these two models to describe the causes and effects from the Green Revolution in Punjab in India. This province is lying in the Northwest of India at the border with Pakistan, and has through five big rivers streaming in it naturally a high fertility and also a high population density. Of the total area of 50.38 lakh hectares of Punjab, 42 lakh hectares are under agriculture. Since 1965 the Green Revolution has taken place in this countrystate.

For this paper I use the book from Vandana Shiva ‘The violence of the Green Revolution– Third world agriculture, ecology and politics’, written in 1991. To my opinion this book should be on the compulsory literature list of each student which studies environment and/or development of third word countries, and also for agricultural students both in the North and South. The strong part of this book is the comparison she makes between the western and traditional Indian vision on development in agriculture. This is a clash between thinking in balances in ecological and social systems, and thinking in economic growth with externalising negative effect. Her conclusion is that applying the western vision by the Green Revolution only brought disaster to most of the people and the ecological system.

In chapter two I will describe the pressure and release model from Blaikie, Cannon, Davis and Wisner. In chapter three I will apply this model to the situation in Punjab after the Green Revolution, according to the book of Vandana Shiva. In chapter four I will describe and apply in the model of Access to Resources of Blaikie et al., to the situation in Punjab. I will end with the conclusions.

Note: Because I like the words which Vandana Shiva chooses and the integration of all elements in her text, so much, a lot of this paper is coming directly from her book. When I use her words literally, you will find this by the page in her book in brackets. The most of chapter three is also coming from this book.
2. The Pressure and Release model
Although this model is constructed specially in cases that lead to disasters, it is also applicable to the Green Revolution. The model consists of five parts (Blaikie 1997 p.23):
1 Root causes  2 Dynamic pressures  3 Unsafe conditions  Disaster  Hazards

This process means the progression of vulnerability

Root Causes

In the model :

  1. Limited access to power, structures or resources

  2. Ideologies like political or economic systems

Root causes or underlying causes are ‘a set of well-established, widespread processes within a society and the world economy. The most important root causes that give rise to vulnerability (and to produce vulnerability over time) are economic, demographic, and political processes. These affect the allocation and distribution of resources between different groups of people.’ (Blaikie 1997 p.24)

Dynamic pressures

In the model:

  1. Lack of local institutions, training, appropriate skills, local investment, local markets, press freedom and/or ethical standards in public life

  2. Macro-forces like rapid population growth, rapid urbanisation, arms expenditure, debt repayment schedules, deforestation and/or decline in soil productivity

‘Dynamic pressures are processes and activities that ‘translate’ the effects of root causes into the vulnerability of unsafe conditions (…) that have to be considered in relation to the types of hazard facing those people. These include reduced access to resources as a result of the way regional or global pressures such as rapid population growth, epidemic disease, rapid urbanization, war, foreign debt and structural adjustment, export promotion, mining, hydropower development, and deforestation work through to localities.’ (Blaikie p.24)

Unsafe conditions

In the model:

  1. Fragile physical environment, like dangerous locations or unprotected buildings and infrastructure

  2. Fragile local economy, like livelihoods at risk or low income levels

  3. Vulnerable society, like special groups at risk or lack of social institutions

  4. Public actions, like lack of disaster preparedness or prevalence of endemic disease

‘Unsafe conditions are the specific forms in which the vulnerability of a population is expressed in time and space in conjunction with a hazard’ (Blaikie p.25). Examples of this unsafe conditions are people having to live in dangerous locations, people having little food entitlements, or entitlements that are prone to rapid disruption. The difference between unsafe and vulnerable is that people are vulnerable and live in or work under unsafe conditions. So vulnerable is not used in regard to livelihoods, buildings, settlement locations, or infrastructure. (Blaikie)


In the model:

Earthquake, High winds (cyclone, hurricane, typhoon), flooding, vulcanic eruption, landslide, drought and/or virus and pests.

Most of the mentioned hazards are natural caused hazards, although in some there is also a manmade component.


In the model:

Risk = Hazard + Vulnerability

The disaster is only happening when hazard and the vulnerability combined are big enough to lead to a disaster. At this point the physical hazard triggers to create a disaster.

3. Application of the Pressure and Release model in Punjab
By applying this model I use particularly the book of Vandana Shiva ‘The violence of the Green Revolution – Third world agriculture, ecology and politics’. ‘Two major crises have emerged on an unprecedented scale in Asian societies during the 1980s. The first is the ecological crisis and the threat of life support systems posed by the destruction of natural resources like forests, land, water and genetic resources. The second is the cultural and ethnic crisis and the erosion of social structures that make cultural diversity and plurality possible as a democratic reality in a decentralised framework. The two crises are usually viewed as independent, both analytically as well as at the level of political action.’ (Shiva 1991 p.11) In this book she however connects the ecological and cultural crisis.

In this chapter I will try to structure her book by using the Pressure and Release model of Blaikie, Cannon, Davis and Wisner.

3.1 Root causes

The Green Revolution started around 1965 in Punjab. There were several root causes that lead to this development.

Shiva defines in this vision ‘development’ as a strategy with the help of capital and technology, to combat scarcity and dominate nature to generate material abundance. In this vision ‘technology is a superior substitute for nature, and hence a means of producing growth, unconstrained by nature’s limits’ (p.15).

The Green Revolution is also used as a techno-politic strategy (combination of science and politics) ‘that would create abundance in agricultural societies and reduce the threat of communist insurgency and agrarian conflict’ (p.14). So with the help of foreign capital and experts, the goal was to stabilise the rural areas politically and create peace and prosperity in rural India.

  • The western vision on science

Science takes in this vision ‘a dual character. It offers technological fixes for social and political problems, but delinks itself form the new social and political problems it creates’ (p.21). ) ‘Through this split identity is created the “sacredness” of science.’ (p.21)

Shiva calls this the process decontextualisation, in which ‘the negative and destructive impacts of science on nature and society are externalised and rendered invisible. Being separated from their material and political roots in the science system, new forms of scarcity and social conflict are then linked to other social systems e.g. religion.’ (p.22) So also in Punjab along to this vision religious differences between Sikh and Hindus are the cause of conflicts, instead of the here mentioned root causes of the Green Revolution.

Comparable with Vermeersch in ‘De ogen van de panda’ (1988) who calls this the Science-Technology-Capital-system, Shiva says that the conceptual framework of western science is compatible with the needs of commercial capitalism. They ‘generate inequalities and domination by the way knowledge is generated and structured, the way it is legitimized, and by the way in which such knowledge transforms nature and society’ (p.23).

  • The western vision on agriculture

Although the agriculture of Asian ‘are almost as permanent as those of the primeval forest, of the prairie, or the ocean’, (Howard 1940 in Shiva p.25) they were regarded by western vision as primitive and backward. In the traditional agricultural systems people used their excellent knowledge to create a balance between the resources of nutrients and water. ‘Cropping systems include a symbiotic relationship between soil, water, farm animals and plants ‘(p.69). They were ‘preserving and building on nature’s process and nature’s paterns’ (p.26). This system was based on strengthening the ecological base of agriculture, and the self-reliance of the peasants of the country. This was the indigenous way of handling the food crisis after participation in 1947, also propagated by Gandhi.

The other was the exogenous way, and taking shape in American foundations and aid agencies. ‘This vision was based not on cooperation with nature, but on its conquest. It was based not on the intensification of nature’s processes, but on the intensification of credit and purchased inputs like chemical fertilizers and pesticides. It was based not on self-reliance, but dependency. It was based not on diversity but uniformity.’ (p.29) ‘The seed / chemical package sets up its own interactions with soils and water systems, which are, however, not taken into account in the assessment of yields.’ (p.69) As a result western expert ‘mistakenly believed that their technologies could substitute land, and chemicals could replace the organic fertility of the soils’ (p.104).

  • Pressure through the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations, the American Government, the World Bank, the seed and chemical multinationals, the central Government of India and the various agencies it controls.

American advisors and experts came with the aim to shift India’s agricultural research and policy ‘from an indigenous and ecological model to an exogenous, and high input one, finding, of course partners in sections of the elite, because the new model suited their political priorities and interests’ (p.29). Between 1952 and 1970 the mentioned organisations did everything to promote the Green Revolution, through for example education of Indian students, providing credit, forcing India to devaluate its currency and to provide favourable conditions for foreign investments, importing liberalisation, eliminating of domestic controls.

The main supporters of the Green Revolution strategy Subramaniam became agriculture minister in 1964, and Swaminathan became Director of IRRI (the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines) which with support from the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations was developing new high yielding varieties of rice. Some of the mentioned organisations made sure that indigenous varieties were lost. For example due to pressure of the World Bank and IRRI the MPRRI was shut down. They had conserved 20,000 rice varieties and were doing research to develop a high yielding strategy based on indigenous knowledge of the Chattisgarh tribals. ‘In the Philippines, IRRI seeds were called “Seeds of Imperialism”. (p.44)’

Also the opening up of markets was important, when ‘American producers of fertilizer were anxious to ensure higher fertilizer consumption overseas to recoup their investment. The fertilizer push was an important factor in the spread of new seeds, because wherever the new seeds went, they opened up new markets for chemical fertilizers.’ (p.105) The use of chemical fertilizers was also pushed by international agencies, government policy, the World Bank and US AID.

  • The centralisation of politics that results in a central state which controls agricultural policy, finance, credit, inputs and prices of agricultural commodities.

‘A policy of planned destruction of diversity in nature and culture to create the uniformity demanded by centralised management systems.’ (p.12) Instead of the traditional vision of diversity, decentralization and democracy this western vision concentrates on the demands of uniformity of the market, centralization and militarization.
‘The rise of the market and rise of the state that was part of the Green Revolution policy led to the destruction of community and the homogenising of social relations on purely commercial criteria. The shift from internal farm inputs to centrally controlled external inputs shifted the axis of political power and social relations. It involved a shift from mutual obligations within the community to electoral politics aimed at state power for addressing local agricultural issues.’ (p.175)

3.2 Dynamic pressures

As a result of the root causes the Green Revolution started in Punjab around 1965.

The Green Revolution contains the following components which all can lead to dynamic pressures:

  • use of new crops (wheat) and new varieties (rice), the so cold High Yielding Varieties (HYV)

These ‘miracle’ seeds were designed to overcome the limits placed on chemically intensive agriculture by the indigenous seeds. They became ‘central to breaking out of nature’s limits and cycles.’ (p.36) The ‘miracle seeds’ of the Green Revolution transformed the ‘common genetic heritage into private property, protected by patents and intellectual property rights.

Peasants and plant breeding specialists gave way to scientists of multinational seed companies and international research institutions like CIMMYT and IRRI. Plant breeding strategies of maintaining and enriching genetic diversity and self-renewability of crops were substituted by new breeding strategies of uniformity and non-renewability, aimed primarily at increasing transnational profits and First World control over the genetic resources of the Third World. The Green Revolution changed the 10,000-year evolutionary history of crops by changing the fundamental nature of seeds.’ (p.63)

  • use of chemical fertilizers

  • use of pesticides

  • use of mechanisation and petroleum

  • intensive and accurate irrigation, mostly made possible by building of dams

High yields are not intrinsic to the seeds, but are a function of the availability of required inputs, which in return have ecologically destructive impacts.
As a result of these components of the Green Revolution a lot of negative effects occurred. Most of them were decreasing of access to resources as a result of regional pressures. The dynamic pressures I discern are land degradation, genetic erosion which resulted in explosive growth of pests in the crops, other negative ecological effects and poverty under the local population.

  • Land degradation caused by:

  • water logging

  • salinization of the soil

  • desertification and water scarcity

  • destroying water resources

  • destruction of soil fertility

  • micronutrient deficiency

  • soil toxicity, by high use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers

  • biomass reduction used for fodder and organic manure

The Green Revolution only functions properly when the physical environment, especially the availability of water was sufficient. This higher need for water was caused by ‘the shift from water prudent crops such as millets and oilseeds to monocultures and multicropping such as wheat and rice’, and by ‘the replacement of old varieties of wheat with new varieties of wheat and rice’ (p.125). So intensive irrigation was required mainly by building large dams and applying surface irrigation. (see also unsafe conditions and disasters)

The dramatic increase in water use has led to ‘a total destabilisation of the water balance in the region. The water cycle can be destabilised by adding more water to an ecosystem than the natural drainage potential of that system. This leads to desertification through waterlogging and salinisation of the land. Desertification of this kind is a form of water abuse rather than water use.’(p.128) ‘Land gets waterlogged when the water table is within 1.5 and 2.1 metres below the ground surface. (…) The rich alluvial plains of Punjab which have a very negligible slope suffer seriously from desertification induced by the introduction of excessive irrigation water to make Green Revolution farming possible.’ (p.129)

The problem salinity arises through intensive irrigation in arid regions. ‘In regions of scarce rainfall, the earth contains a large amount of unleached salts. Pouring irrigation water into such soils brings those salts to the surface and leaves behind a residue when the water evaporates.’ It is estimated that about 0.7 lakh hectares in Punjab (about one third of the total area), just like in one third of the world’s irrigated land, are salt affected and produce either no yields or very poor yields.

‘Where irrigation is dependent on ground water, the water table is declining at an estimated rate of one to one and a half foot every year, due to over-exploitation.’ (p.140) So half of the development blocks in the state cannot sustain any further increase in the number of tubewells.

‘The nutrient cycle, in which nutrients are produced by the soil through plants, and returned to the soil as organic matter is thus replaced by linear non-renewable flows of phosphorous and potash derived from geological deposits, and nitrogen derived from petroleum’ (p.104). This led to a western NPK-mentality, with high gifts of these three minerals. As a result deficiency of micronutrients as zinc, iron, copper, manganese and magnesium arose.

Soil toxicity arose through irrigation and high chemical fertilizer input, for example fluorine -, boron -, selenium and aluminium toxicity. It is ‘posing a threat to crop production as well as animal health’. (p.116)

As a result of the reductionist approach only the output of crops were counted, but not the loss in maintaining the conditions of productivity. These outputs have also to be uniform likes the central market wants them, and not divers like the traditional crops which partly were used for own food. ‘The indigenous cropping systems are based on internal organic inputs.’ (p.72) So they used straw from the harvested crops and other through westerns considered wastes to feed the farm animals, and/or to increase soil fertility. Also the animals provided organic manure. The new varieties were however selected by producing little straw, because otherwise as a result of high fertilizer input they would lodge and the crop would be lost. So the straw production was much lower, with negative effects on soil fertility through lower input of biomass. This process also occurred because millet and course-grain were replaced by wheat and grain.

Also the heavy use of chemical fertilizers and new seeds directly led to decreased soil fertility, because the soil productivity (which also needs organic mass) was lowered and the nutrient recycling was disturbed. The results were new defiences and diseases.

As a result of replacing pulses by wheat and rice the nitrogen fixing capacity of crops was lost, so more fertilizers were needed. ‘As Kang has cautioned, “This process implies a downward spiralling of agricultural land use – from legume to wheat to rice to wasteland”’ (Kang (1982) in Shiva p.109-110).

  • Genetic erosion caused by:

  • ‘mixtures and rotation of diverse crops like wheat, maize, millets, pulses and oil seeds were replaced by monocultures of wheat and rice

  • the introduced wheat and rice varieties reproduced over large-scale as monocultures came from a very narrow genetic base, compared to the high genetic variability in the populations of traditional wheat or rice plants.’ (p.81)

which resulted in explosive growth of pests in the crops.

‘At present, rice cultivation in Punjab is vulnerable to about 40 insects and 12 diseases’ (p.97-98) mostly unknown before the Green Revolution. This leads ‘to ever increasing demands for pesticides. Yet the new costs of new pests and poisonous pesticides were never counted as part of the ‘miracle’ of the new seeds that modern plant breeders had gifted the world in the name of increasing ‘food security’.’ (p.98)

Diversity was a central principle of the indigenous breeding strategies. ‘Diversity contributed to ecological stability, and hence to ecosystem productivity. The less the diversity and the more the uniformity in an ecosystem, the higher is its vulnerability to instability, breakdown and collapse.’ (p.78) ‘The crop and varietal diversity of indigenous agriculture was replaced by a narrow genetic base and monocultures. The focus was on internationally grains, and a strategy of eliminating mixed and rotational cropping, and divers varieties by varietal simplicity.’ (p.45) As a result of the formal mixed cropping and using many varieties the growth of pests was controlled. ‘Indigenous varieties, or land races are resistant to locally occurring pests and diseases. Even if certain diseases occur, some of the strains maybe susceptible, while others will have the resistance to survive. (…) Cropping systems based on diversity thus have a built-in protection’ (p.93) The Green Revolution however resulted in high replacement rates of the new varieties in wheat, because after one or two years the varieties gets overtaken by pests. ‘The vulnerability of rice to new pests and diseases due to monocropping and a narrow genetic base is also very high. (…) Most of the high yielding varieties released so far are susceptible to major pests with a crop loss of 30 to 100 %…’ (p.89) ‘Most of the released varieties are not suitable for typical uplands and lowlands which together constitute about 75 % of the total rice area of the country.’ (p.90) ‘Howard believed that the cultivators of the East had a lot to teach the Western Experts about disease and pest control and to get Western reductionism out of the vicious and violent circle of “discovering more and more new pests and devising more and more poison sprays to destroy them” ((Howard, 1940) in Shiva p.94) Howard regarded the Indian peasants and even the insects and fungi themselves as his professors of agriculture. ‘Howard could teach the world sustainable farming because he had the humility to learn it first from practising peasants and Nature herself.’ (p.94-95)

Also ‘the shift from organic to chemical fertilizers reduces the plants resistance to pest attacks. Thus there is a linkage between heavy use of fertilizers and vulnerability of pests. (…) Even those high yielding varieties of crops, which are specially bred for disease resistance become highly susceptible to certain types of diseases when heavy doses of fertilizers are applied.’ (p.95)

  • Other negative ecological impacts:

  • greenhouse effect with atmospheric pollution

  • pesticide contamination of soil, water and animal life

  • lost of common lands under forests and pastures

The Green Revolution puts new demands on scarce renewable resources like water, and generated new demands on non-renewable resources like fuel.

As a result of high use of chemical fertilizers NO2 is released, which is a greenhouse gas, as is CO2 produced by more use of mechanisation instead of hand labour.

Also ‘common lands under forests and pastures have been put under agricultural crops. As the Green Revolution spread, local community management broke down and grazing lands and forest were broken up for monoculture cultivation. These former nature areas, where also less suitable for constant keeping under soil depleting crops.

  • Poverty under the local population caused by:

  • indebted farmers

  • landless farmers

  • unemployed or only seasonally employed land labourers

  • building dams or irrigation canals

As a result of the high inputs of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and the buying of the new varieties instead of saving (free) seeds from last years harvest, farmers needed much more money to purchase them. It was possible to get credits and loans from banks, but in years that the harvests or prices were low, especially small farmers couldn’t pay back their loans. So they get indebted. In worst cases after a few years they had to sell their land to bigger farms, and try to get work as land labourer.

Also by using machinery hand labour was replaced, so people got unemployed or could only work during planting and harvesting seasons. So this system was not sustainable in a region with a high population, with much labour available. Next to this big farmers who first had tenant farmers on their land who did all the work and had to give a part of the harvest to the landowner, were replaced because by using machinery the landowner could do the work in his own (with some land labourers).

As a result of all this small farmers, landless farmers and land labourers got in worsened conditions.

‘..many people had ended up as paupers when their land was acquired for the construction of the Bhakra main canal. Several displaced farmers had become drug addicts while many others had turned into alcoholics.’ (p.161) They also risk waterlogging and salinisation of their land, when canals have been built. Also many farmers have to leave their land, when by building dams their ground is flooded.

3.3 Unsafe conditions

Following the dynamic pressures vulnerable situations are created for the people of Punjab. These include:

  • Nutritional imbalances as a result of the reduction of pulses, oilseeds, millets and other crops

As a result of the Green Revolution agriculture of many different crops was replaced by mainly rice and wheat. Owing to this the supply of local produced food which contains all needed proteins, minerals and vitamins, decreased. If people want this crops who were produced outside the region at least the prices increased because of the transportcosts.

  • Pesticide contamination of food, water, and human life

As a result of the much higher use of pesticides since 1965, food and water got contaminated.

  • Building dams with by heavy rainfall can lead to floods (see also disasters)

  • Creating injustice and inequalities

During Green Revolution ‘technologies created were directed at capital intensive inputs for best endowed farmers in the best endowed areas, and directed away from resource prudent options of the small farmer in resource scarce regions. The science and technology of the Green Revolution excluded poor regions and poor people as well as sustainable options. (…) The science of the Green Revolution was thus essentially a political choice.’ (p.45)

‘Peasant movements had tried to restructure agrarian relationships through the recovery of land rights. The Green Revolution tried to restructure social relationships by separating issues of agricultural production from issues of justice.’ (p.50) Through increasing material prosperity the goal was to defuse agrarian unrest. So not through redistributive justice but through economic growth, the rural area of Asia had to be pacified.

But ‘injustice has been at the root of the worst forms of scarcity throughout history and injustice and inequality has also been at the root of societal violence.’ (...) ‘By-passing the goals of equality and sustainability led to the creation of new inequalities and new scarcities. The Green Revolution strategy for peace had boomeranged. In creating new polarisation, it created new potential for conflict.’ (p.57)

The increased demand for water by intensive irrigation caused by the Green Revolution led to social and ecological disruptions. ‘Social considerations of equity favour the extensive use of irrigation water which assures a protective dose of water over as large an area as possible. The Green Revolution limits the provisioning of irrigation to a smaller region. Thus leading to inequalities.

All those effects of Green Revolution led to growing inequalities and injustice, between local people and small and big farms. Before the Green Revolution farmers were dependent on each other for example during planting and harvest time and to maintain the irrigation system. After the Green Revolution farmers were more working on their own. Differences arose between farmers with more or less money and farmers who had the possibilities to sustain their farm or not. Also the number of indebted and landless farmers rose (see dynamic pressures) and the situation of land labourers got worse. Also the traditional culture, in which people worked in the community or village on mutual (though asymmetric) obligations, changed. After Green Revolution cultivators where fragmented and atomised and related directly to the state and the market (banks, seed and fertilizer agencies, food procurement agencies, and electricity and irrigation organisations) instead of to the community. When hazards occur this can lead too much more risk for the most vulnerable people, because they can not longer rely on their community. Next to this it generated an erosion of cultural norms and practices and it sowed the seeds of violence and conflict. (parts from p.172)

3.4 Hazards

The natural hazards which can damage Punjab are:

  • Heavy rainfall

  • Drought

3.5 Disasters
As a result of the unsafe conditions and the hazards disasters can arise.

These include:

  • Hunger and shortage of drinking water

Due to building of dams, by using explosives to construction natural springs and waterways are blocked, ‘causing a shortage of drinking water in the catchment of the Pandoh dam. Water scarcity has also been aggravated by the indiscriminate felling of trees, the blasting of rocks for the construction of the dam and the diversion.’ (p.143)

  • Conflict and violence

This has led to at least 15,000 people killed between 1985 and 1991.

The conflicts have developed between classes, between regions, between the local farming community and the central state, between the states of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan and between the representatives of the Sikh and Hindu religion. For example the conflict between Punjab and Haryana goes about ‘sharing of river waters in a context of exploding demands for water. After two decades, the conflict is no longer merely over how the water should be shared, but also over how much water there is to share.’ (p.164)

Water conflicts in Punjab are already taken places between 1950 and 1990, but worsened during the last 25 years caused by:

  • political fragmentation of Punjab,

  • the centralisation of water control to the central government for example by building large dams,

  • the increased demand for water for Green Revolution agriculture.

‘The centralised control of the Bhakra system had made the Indus basin more vulnerable to floods, as well as to water scarcity, which have further fuelled waterconflicts between neighbouring states, and between the states and the Centre.’ (p.144) According to Shiva the centralisation has increased the ecological and social vulnerability of Punjab, leading to violence. ‘Mega projects thus tend to centralize power and the loss of power by the federating units becomes a cause for conflict.’ (p.149)

Before the dams the older canal systems of Punjab were regionally managed within the State since the 19th century.

‘Intensive irrigation also introduces conflicts between private and social interests. Waterlogging does not recognize farm boundaries, and drainage cannot be managed except as a community activity. But community management of resources has been the first casualty in the privatisation thrust of the Green Revolution.’ (p.139) So this leads inevitable to conflicts, which are not resolvable immediately.

‘With government as referee, handing down decisions in all matters, each frustration becomes a political issue. In a context of diverse communities, that centralised control leads to communal and regional conflict. Ever policy decision is translated into the politics of ‘we’ and ‘they’. ‘We’ have been unjustly treated, while ‘they’ have gained privileges unfair. In Punjab, this polarised thinking gets expressed with the added dimension of religious discrimination against the Sikhs.’ (p.172)

In short ‘three kinds of conflicts seem to have converged in creating what has been called the Punjab crisis:

  1. Related to conflicts emerging form the very nature of the Green Revolution; such as conflicts over river waters, class conflict, the pauperisation of the lower peasantry, the use of labour-displacing mechanisation, the decline of profitability of modern agriculture etc., all heading to a disaffected peasantry engaged in farmers’ protests.’

  2. ‘Conflicts related to religion-cultural factors and revolving around Sikh identity. These conflicts were rooted in the cultural erosion of the Green Revolution, which commercialized all relations, and created an ethical vacuum where nothing is sacred and everything has a price. Religious revivalism which emerged to correct the moral and social crisis crystallised finally in the emergence of a separist Sikh identity.’

  3. Conflicts related to ‘the sharing of economic and political power between the centre and state.’ (p.174-175)

‘The paradox of separatism is that it is a search for identity in a framework of uniformity, it is a search for identity in a structure based on erasure and erosion of identities. The shift from Sikh farmers (who are the majority in Punjab) demands to the demand for a separate Sikh state comes from the collapse of horizontally organised diverse communities into atomised individuals linked vertically tot state power through electoral politics. The ecological crisis of the Green Revolution is thus mirrored in al cultural crisis caused by erosion of diversity and structures of local governance and the emergence of homogenisation and centralised external control over the daily activities of agricultural food production. (p.175-176)

  • Floods

This happened in September 1988, after a period of heavy rainfall. ’65 % of its 12,000 villages were marooned, 34 lakh people in 10 of the state’s districts were affected. (…) 80 % of the standing crop was destroyed, and 1,500 people were killed. Very much blame went to the central dam management board (BBMB) who filled the dam above the maximum storage capacity, and released water ‘without even warning to the thousands of people who live close to embankments of the two rivers.’ (p.146)
4. Application of the Access to Resources model in Punjab
In this chapter I will apply the Access to Resources model of Blaikie et al. to the situation in Punjab after the Green Revolution. Contrary to the Pressure and Release model, which I applied in the whole state of Punjab, this model is only applicable at village level.

I will choose a small village, which contains small farmers and land labourers. For this two groups I will make both apply this model.

  1. Social relations and flows of surplus

For both small farmers as land labourers after the Green Revolution the mutual dependency of other farmers and other people living in the village, decreased. In times of poverty or disaster other people in the village are not so much inclined to helping each other, in contrary to the times before Green Revolution. As a result of growing inequalities and independence the risk of conflict is higher.

Small farmers Land labourers

  1. A Households

- 10 small farms - 20 families of land labourers

B Their resources and assets

- land, labour, little capital, tools, cattle - labour

  1. A Income opportunities

- growing crops for self reliance and/or - working for big farmers, especially

markets or traders during particular seasons

B Access qualifications

- knowledge of soil, plants, water resources, - working skills for land labour

chemical fertilizers, pesticides and seeds

  1. Structures of domination

- centralised watercontrol , no power - relationship to landlords

- re lations to banks for loans, leading to debt - landlords keeps on mechanising,

- relations to markets and traders and decreases wages every year

- relations to traders/companies selling fertilizers, pesticides and seeds

- less access to common property resources, since Green Revolution

- degraded soils by salinisation and waterlogging, leading to decreasing crop outputs

- increasing pesticide use caused by ever increasing diseases and pests

  1. Choices of the household

- choice of crop, depending on agriculture - only choice is to work as much as

for self reliance only or for markets also possible during planting and harvesting


  1. Livelihood

- total income of food and money from sold - total income of wages by labour

products to the market or traders

  1. Household budget

- food and money depends on: the weather, - wages depends on relationship to land-

severeness of soildegradation, pest and lord. Job only at seasons or permanent

diseases, availability of water
8. Decisions 9. Outcome of decisions

When harvest is lost or too low for several years - stay in the village or move to the city

the indebtness may grow too high, so the to get higher wages

farmer may have to sell his land.

As a result of this cycle after one year some small farmers may have decided to sell their land to bigger farms and become land labourer. Also some land labourers may have decided to leave the village and move to the city to have a better chance on a better livelihood. So after a few years time the rural population will decrease and the urban population increase. In fact that is what happening all over the world.


The Green Revolution was particularly a fight between western visions on development, agriculture and science and the indigenous Indian vision. The western vision who promised so much won, but most people and ecosystems of Punjab lost. Although even the Green Revolution was bounded by ecological limits, and by attempting to break out of them, if further increased those limits, generating new levels of scarcity, insecurity and vulnerability.

Conflicts which arose are much more a result of the political, economic and cultural processes inherent to Green Revolution, than to religious differences between Sikh and Hindu which always were mentioned before as the cause of violence.
The Pressure and Release model was for me much more appropiate to explain the causes and effects of the Green Revolution, than the Access to resources model.

The main advantages in my opinion are:

  • the possibility to explain the root causes,

  • the macro instead of the micro level,

  • the surveyability and clearness of this model.


Blaikie, Piers & Cannon, Terry & Davis, Ian & Wisner, Ben (1997), At risk – natural hazards, people’s vulnerabiltity and disasters (Second edition), London, Routledge

CIDIN, (2001), Reader studievaardigheden 2001 Culturele antropologie Ontwikkelingsstudies, Nijmegen, Katholieke Universiteit Nijmegen
Dogra, Bharat, (1994) Green Revolution: no joy for the poor In Return to the good earth – Damaging effects of modern agriculture and the case for ecological farming (pp. 242-244), (Second edition) Penang, Malaysia, Third World Network
Howard, Alfred, (1940), Agricultural Testament, London, Oxford
Kang, D.S., (1982), Environmental problems of the Green Revolution with a focus on Punjab, India, in Richard Barett, (ed), International dimensions of the environmental crisis (p.204), Boulder, Westview Press
Shiva, Vandana, (1991) The violence of the Green Revolution – Third world agriculture, ecology and politics, London, Zed books – Third World Network
Vermeersch, Etienne (1997) De ogen van de panda – Een milieufilosofisch essay (Negende druk), Antwerpen, Stichting Leefmilieu

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