Consolidation of land holdings

Source: Indian Express

Syllabus: Gs3: Land Reforms in India

Context: In the last three decades, the issue of land and consequently land reforms was an important topic.

The elements of land reforms:

  • The abolition of intermediaries.
  • Regulation and stability of the tenurial system
  • Ceiling on land holding.
  • Consolidation of land holdings.

Background of land reforms:

  • After Independence, compulsory consolidationwas replaced by voluntary consolidation in almost all states. However, considering its utility, the National Commission of Agriculture recommended that consolidation schemes should be made compulsory across the country.
  • Land consolidation:
    • As much as 120 lakh Ha had been consolidated by the end of the Fourth Plan, while 440 lakh Ha of land was consolidated by the end of the Fifth Plan.
    • Punjab and Haryana have almost completed the work of consolidation of landholdings.
    • The Sixth Five Year Plan had targeted the completion of consolidation in 10 years. During its period, only 64.75 lakh hectare of land was consolidated. Progress was not uniform across the states.
    • Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu and other southern states have not even begun the task.
  • Now, structure and composition of the economy changed, the importance of agriculture and consequently of land-related matters went down.
  • In the last 15 years, land acquisition and computerisation of land records have become more important issue than land reforms.

Current scenario:

  • Farmer crisis: for instance, Rural debt waivers, farmers’ agitations, farmers’ suicides, migration and reverse migration in the wake of COVID-19.
  • Fragmentation of land: The average holding size in 1970-71 was 2.28 hectares (Ha), which has come down to 1.08 Ha in 2015-16. The holdings are much smaller in densely populated states like Bihar, West Bengal and Kerala.
  • Uneven and skewed distribution:Nagaland has the largest average farm size, Punjab and Haryana rank second and third respectively.
  • Rise in number of holdings:the number of holdings is rising at almost the same pace as the population. These holdings are not in one chunk but in multiple sub-parcels located at different places in a village.

Implications:

  • Poor investment: fragmentation of land leaves no incentive for the farmer to invest in the farm land due to lack of productivity.
  • Subsistence farming:Farmers are unable to raise plantations because the size is not substantial for them to invest in ancillary works like drip or appoint a caretaker.
  • Difficult to dispose of such fragmented land:As there are number of landholders, that’s why buyers do find it attractive to buy. It is difficult to deal with so many landholders and to arrange necessary infrastructure like road, water supply and electricity.
  • Fragmentation of land and difficulty in disposing of such land leads to poor investment in rural areas.

Significance of land consolidation:

  • It helps farmers to make investments, enabled roads and irrigation channels to be laid.
  • Reduced litigation.
  • Allows farmers to formalise informal partitions
  • Reduced inequity in landholdings to some extent.
  • Enhance farmer’s autonomy.
  • Increased production and productivity.
  • Promote rural investment.

Way forward:

  • Non-farm sector employment contributes about 60 per cent to the household income in rural areas. Therefore, policies conducive for the promotion of sectors such as small industries, education, health and other service enterprises need to be made.
  • Encourage land consolidation:consolidated holdings would make it easy for the government or private enterprises to acquire land, and for public agencies to lay the road, pipeline or electric supply.
  • Land leasing: It is also proposed by NITI ayog. It should be adopted on a large scale to enable landholders with unviable holdings to lease out land for investment, thereby enabling greater income and employment generation in rural areas.
  • Promote use of technology: information technology, drone technology, and land record digitisation can be used to consolidate land.
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