Land Reform Can Rework India’s Agriculture Sector

Amravati, Maharashtra, India, 6/25/2020 © Dipak Shelare / Shutterstock

Based on the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economic system, India faces a critical decline in employment as a result of COVID-19 disaster. An estimated 122 million folks misplaced their jobs through the first quarter of 2020. Streams of migrant staff returned to their villages — typically the one fallback choice for the tens of millions working in city casual sectors. No matter their vows to by no means come again to the cities, the vast majority of them will seemingly should return with a purpose to earn their livelihood. Within the current state of affairs, agriculture, the mainstay of rural India, can’t provide them incomes akin to industries and development corporations in cities.

360˚ Context: The State of the Indian Republic


Regardless of its falling share within the economic system, agriculture is India’s most essential sector. Its contribution to the nation’s GDP has decreased from 51.81% in 1950-51 to 15.87% in 2018-19, but it surely nonetheless employs about 42% of the nation’s workforce. Whereas rising shares of secondary and tertiary sectors is a pure phenomenon of financial development, in India, this has occurred with out maximizing the potential for development in agriculture. Per-acre yields of rice and wheat in India are drastically decrease than these of different BRICS nations.

The shift in GDP share is the results of excessive development charges in secondary and tertiary sectors regardless of relative stagnation in agriculture. The agricultural sector nonetheless has an enormous scope to generate larger revenue and employment. Nonetheless, this may be finished solely with the spirit of liberalization, just like what different sectors of the economic system have acquired because the 1990s.

Overregulation and Underutilization

Quickly after independence, land reform legal guidelines have been enacted all through the nation with the target of distributing land equitably and rising the effectivity of farm operations. This produced solely partial success on account of quite a lot of causes. The possession of solely 4% of operated land may very well be transferred to cultivators, 97% of which lies in simply seven states — Assam, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra and West Bengal. However this uninspiring consequence, land reform legal guidelines foisted extreme restrictions on the tenancy of agricultural land.

This has adversely affected the expansion of agriculture within the nation. Landowners are reluctant to lease out their land beneath formal tenancy on account of their worry of shedding it completely. Based on Nationwide Pattern Survey Studies, about 15 million tenants domesticate 10 million hectares of land on a casual foundation; 92% of those tenants are landless laborers or marginal farmers. They haven’t any safety of tenure or entry to institutional credit score, crop insurance coverage and different advantages provided to farmers beneath authorities schemes. As a consequence of authorized restrictions on tenancy, many landowners who can’t domesticate themselves choose to go away their land fallow. In 2015-16, 26.72 million hectares of land have been left fallow throughout India.

These restrictions on entry to cultivable land not solely deprive poor folks in rural areas of alternatives to boost their incomes, but in addition have a detrimental impact on the expansion of the complete agriculture sector. Merely formalizing tenancy and cultivating tens of millions hectares of fallow land could be a game-changer for agriculture in India. As soon as tenants get safety of tenure and entry to institutional credit score, they may have requisite incentives and funds to make long-term investments on their land.

This may be achieved solely with fast and efficient coverage interventions by state governments. The Nationwide Establishment for Remodeling India, the premier coverage assume tank of the federal government of India, has set the ball rolling by publishing the Mannequin Agricultural Land Leasing Act, 2016, to assist the states enact new legal guidelines or make required modifications to their current legal guidelines on the tenancy. The Mannequin Act seeks to formalize tenancy agreements, circumventing the restrictions imposed by the land-reform legal guidelines of the state. It goals to combine the safety of tenure together with the safety of possession. Nonetheless, till now, just a few states have gone forward on this path.

Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Madhya Pradesh have amended their current legal guidelines to permit the renting of agricultural land on liberal phrases. The Maharashtra Agricultural Land Leasing Invoice, 2017, now awaits the assent of the president of India. The Andhra Pradesh Land Licensed Cultivators Act, 2011, was enacted even earlier than the Mannequin Act of 2016 was framed. This particular regulation has just lately been changed with the Andhra Pradesh Crop Cultivator Rights Act, 2019. The opposite states additionally must implement this very important reform to rework agriculture of their states.

Alternate Options

The enactment or modification of legal guidelines is simply a primary step in bettering the entry of the agricultural poor to the land. Even in states the place these legal guidelines have been enacted, only a few landowners and tenants have come ahead to enter formal agreements. Landowners are nonetheless apprehensive of shedding their land, and tenants are nonetheless afraid of getting ousted in the event that they insist on formal agreements. Subsequently, state governments additionally must successfully talk with tenants and landowners to allay their fears and convey the advantages of formal agreements to them.

Till the time when requisite legal guidelines are enacted successfully, group loans can present aid to casual tenants. In Kerala, the place tenancy is unlawful, about 250,000 casual tenants have organized themselves into joint legal responsibility teams. These teams obtain crop loans from banks with out requiring formal tenancy agreements. The rules of the Reserve Financial institution of India and the Nationwide Financial institution for Agriculture and Rural Growth enable such agreements with out requiring formal tenancy. Alternatively, Odisha has just lately launched the Balaram scheme to offer agricultural credit score to teams of landless laborers. Different states also needs to liaise with banks to offer credit score to casual tenants till the time when authorized provisions for permitting tenancy are put in place.

Such reforms have monumental potential to revamp and develop Indian agriculture, particularly through the ongoing financial turmoil. On the nationwide stage, the central authorities has proven the way in which ahead by deregulating agricultural markets. Now it’s time for states to behave decisively.

The views expressed on this article are the creator’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Honest Observer’s editorial coverage.

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