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Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 28 March 2024

  1. Mechanisation Needed to Tackle Farm Issues
  2. On Sustainable Building Materials


The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, and Food Processing has recently emphasized the urgent requirement to enhance farm mechanization for small and marginal farmers in India. Their recent report underscores that comprehensive mechanization is not just necessary but vital for addressing the diverse challenges confronting the agricultural sector, which is central to the nation’s economy.


GS3- E-technology in the aid of farmers

Mains Question:

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, and Food Processing in its recent report has highlighted the urgent need to increase the mechanisation of farms for small and marginal farmers in India. In this context, discuss the status of farm mechanisation in India. What significance does it hold for the Indian agricultural sector? (15 Marks, 250 Words).

Agriculture in India:

  • Despite India occupying only 2.4 percent of the world’s land area and having access to just 4 percent of its water resources, its agriculture sustains 17 percent of the global population and 15 percent of the livestock.
  • This sector contributes 20 percent to the nation’s GDP and provides employment to 65 percent of the population.
  • Hence, there is an urgent need to boost productivity and profitability by promoting increased mechanization among small and marginal farmers, especially in areas with low mechanization levels.
  • Revitalizing Indian agriculture and improving farmers’ incomes necessitates transitioning from traditional methods to advanced mechanization.

Mechanisation Status:

  • The level of mechanization in our country’s agriculture stands at less than 40 percent, which is considerably lower compared to other developing nations such as China at 60 percent and Brazil at 75 percent.
  • Notably, regions like Punjab and Haryana, which spearheaded the green revolution, have achieved mechanization levels around 40 percent, whereas in areas like the northeastern states of India, mechanization is minimal.
  • Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, and Food Processing:
  • The Committee has highlighted that 86 percent of land holdings fall under the category of small and marginal, necessitating specific efforts for their mechanization.
  • They stress that small farmers encounter significant obstacles in acquiring machinery unless suitable equipment for small holdings is made available or land consolidation occurs. It is projected to take another 25 years to reach a mechanization level of 75 percent.

Significance of Farm Mechanisation:

A Driver of Growth:

  • The pivotal role of farm mechanization is crucial in reducing cultivation expenses and boosting productivity through effective resource utilization.
  • Experts and committees have underscored that agricultural mechanization in India facilitates prudent and cost-efficient use of inputs, resulting in savings of 15-20 percent in seeds, improvement of 7-25 percent in germination rates for fertilizers, time savings of 20-30 percent, weed reduction by 20-40 percent, labor savings of 20-30 percent, a 5-20 percent increase in cropping intensity, and a 13-23 percent increase in crop yields. Additionally, this aids in the conservation of natural resources such as water and soil nutrients.

Farm Machinery Overview:

  • Continuous modernization is essential in the agriculture and allied sectors, including livestock farming.
  • Given the varied nature of farming, encompassing both large-scale and small-scale operations, as well as rural labor shortages, there is a need for a wide range of agricultural equipment.
  • This includes basic machinery like tractors to more advanced equipment such as combine harvesters. The sector demands a nuanced understanding of equipment applications and requirements, which span feeding machinery, poultry tools, cattle corral systems, and more.
  • The Indian agricultural machinery market is estimated to be valued at approximately US$16.73 billion in 2024 and is forecasted to grow to around US$25.15 billion by 2029.

Way Forward:

Mechanization Advancement Measures:

Establishment of Agricultural Engineering Directorates:

  • The parliamentary Committee suggests the establishment of a Directorate of Agricultural Engineering in each state to effectively implement the government’s mechanization policy. Presently, such directorates exist only in Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
  • Efforts are underway by the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) to establish these directorates across all states.
  • Additionally, there is a need for agricultural engineers at the block and district levels to provide demonstrations, training, assistance in repairs and maintenance, and guidance to farmers at their doorsteps, as there is currently a lack of engineering manpower for these tasks.

Farm Machinery Banks:

Due to the high cost of farm machinery, small farmers encounter challenges in purchasing it. To tackle this issue, the Government has introduced custom hiring centers and farm machinery banks in nearly all states, allowing farmers to share equipment. However, the benefits of these initiatives have yet to reach the grassroots level at the gram panchayat level.

Comprehensive Scheme:

  • In September 2022, the Sub-Mission on Agricultural Mechanization was merged into the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, diluting its original purpose.
  • Hence, there is a need for the Government to establish a comprehensive agricultural mechanization scheme to expedite the process.

Funding for Research and Development (R&D):

Budgetary allocations for the Research and Development (R&D) of the Farm Mechanization Scheme have been steadily declining over the past four years, with a notable 30 percent decrease from 2019-20 to 2023-24.

Tax and Duty Incentives:

  • To promote the usage of low horsepower tractors, predominantly utilized by small and marginal farmers and orchard growers, the current GST rate of 12 percent is imposed on tractors and their components. This translates to a significant burden for small farmers, as a small tractor costing approximately Rs 5-7 lakh incurs GST of Rs 60-84 thousand.
  • To make it more accessible for small farmers, GST could be reduced to nil or 5 percent. Additionally, tax and duty incentives are crucial to support manufacturing units in areas with low mechanization levels, fostering sustainable growth.

Targeted Initiatives:

  • Given that 86 percent of land holdings fall within the small and marginal categories, targeted initiatives are imperative.
  • Mechanization not only reduces costs but also enhances productivity and preserves resources.
  • To promote mechanization, the committee advocates for the establishment of agricultural engineering directorates, expansion of access to farm machinery through banks, revitalization of existing schemes, augmentation of funding for research and development, and provision of tax incentives.
  • These measures are critical for rejuvenating Indian agriculture, elevating farmers’ incomes, and ensuring sustainable sectoral growth.


The Parliamentary Standing Committee underscores the pressing need to bolster farm mechanization to support India’s small and marginal farmers. Despite the country’s significant agricultural output, mechanization levels lag behind those of global counterparts, impeding productivity and profitability. By embracing comprehensive mechanization, India can surmount diverse agricultural challenges and cement its position as a global agricultural leader while empowering its farming community.


India is experiencing an unparalleled surge in construction, with more than 300,000 housing units being built each year. While this growth presents economic prospects and enhances living conditions, it also presents significant environmental hurdles.


GS3-Environmental Pollution & Degradation

Mains Question:

Why is addressing energy inefficiency in residential buildings important? What are some of the optimal building materials with respect to embodied energy and construction time? How can India achieve energy efficiency in the construction industry? (15 Marks, 250 Words).

India’s Construction Sector:

  • The construction sector, a substantial energy user, consumes over 33% of India’s electricity, leading to environmental degradation and contributing to climate change.
  • The India Cooling Action Plan predicts an eight-fold rise in cooling demand from 2017 to 2037, underscoring the importance of achieving thermal comfort while minimizing the need for active cooling methods.

The Construction Industry and Energy Efficiency:

  • Addressing energy inefficiency in residential buildings is essential, particularly considering India’s escalating energy and cooling demands due to economic expansion, urbanization, urban heat islands, and climate change.
  • Initiatives like the Eco-Niwas Samhita (ENS) and the Residential Energy Conservation Building Code represent positive strides in this direction.
  • The ENS introduces the concept of the Residential Envelope Transmittance Value (RETV), a metric gauging heat transfer through a building’s envelope.
  • Residential Envelope Heat Transmittance (RETV) is defined as the rate of net heat gain (during the cooling period) through the building envelope of residential units (excluding the roof), divided by the area of the building envelope (excluding the roof) of residential units. Its measurement unit is watts per square meter (W/m²).
  • Lower RETV values result in cooler indoor environments and reduced energy consumption.
  • For optimal efficiency, enhanced occupant comfort, and decreased utility costs, it is recommended to maintain an RETV of 15W/m2 or less.

Which materials are most suitable?

  • An examination of four warmer climate cities in India highlighted the prevalence of materials such as Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (AAC) blocks, red bricks, fly ash, and monolithic concrete (Mivan).
  • Despite sustainability concerns, monolithic concrete construction was preferred by developers due to its speed, durability, quality, and scalability.
  • Over 60% of buildings in the design and construction phases opted for monolithic concrete, especially in high-rise buildings and skyscrapers.
  • The evaluation of Residential Envelope Transmittance Value (RETV) for these buildings revealed that AAC blocks consistently exhibited the lowest RETV across all climatic conditions, suggesting their potential as thermally efficient materials.
  • A review of literature comparing building materials for a 100 sq. ft wall area showed significant differences in embodied energy (the energy consumed during product manufacturing), with monolithic concrete having an embodied energy 75 times higher than AAC.
  • When considering the estimated construction time for a 100 sq. ft room, red bricks required the longest duration, while Mivan construction required the least.
  • Mivan technology facilitated faster building construction compared to traditional masonry work, particularly for taller structures.
  • Sustainability concerns are a primary consideration across all materials. Red bricks, while displaying moderate embodied energy, contribute to resource depletion, emissions, and waste. Although AAC blocks have lower embodied energy, they still contribute to emissions and waste.
  • Monolithic concrete, despite its rapid construction time, presents the highest embodied energy, significant environmental impact, and sustainability challenges.
  • Consequently, AAC blocks offer a better balance between embodied energy and construction time compared to red bricks and monolithic concrete.

Way Forward:

  • India possesses significant untapped potential for innovative building materials. Collaborations across disciplines with sustainability experts to explore integrated design and optimize strategies such as building orientation, Window Wall Ratio (WWR), U-value (rate of heat transfer) of walls, roofs, and window assemblies, glazing performance, and active cooling systems can unlock the potential for a sustainable built environment.
  • The construction industry’s preference for Mivan as a primary building material raises sustainability concerns, including high embodied carbon and thermal discomfort.
  • Achieving sustainable construction necessitates innovation from building materials manufacturers to create cost-effective, scalable, durable, fire-resistant solutions with superior thermal performance and climate resilience.
  • However, prevailing construction practices often prioritize rapid, energy-intensive methods coupled with active cooling strategies, leading to compromises in thermal comfort. There is a pressing need for broader dissemination of knowledge about climate-appropriate design and architecture.
  • Moreover, perceptions regarding high initial costs must change to encourage the design and construction of climate-responsive buildings.


The path to sustainable construction is demanding but vital for a more environmentally friendly future. By rethinking construction design and practices, developing innovative walling materials, and promoting a culture of sustainability, we can construct resilient and energy-efficient structures that align with environmental objectives and significantly enhance the quality of life for the population.

April 2024