The increase in farm land holdings, a consistent trend since the 1970s, has been slowing down in the past 20 years but there is a rise in the number of female land holders, a possible indicator of higher involvement in farm activities, the provisional agriculture census 2015-16, has revealed, reported Times of India.
The trend could mean the association of farming with “kisan bhai (farmer brothers)” might be less exclusively a male domain than popular belief has it.
The trend may reflect migration of men to cities for non-agricultural activities and also explain slowing down of land division as rural people seek alternate livelihoods.
The figures show landholdings have doubled in past 45 years (from 71 million in 1970-71 to 146 million in 2015-16), resulting in decline in average size of farms by more than 50% — a real worry for policy-makers as this makes agriculture unremunerative for farmers.
But the pace of such division is declining. Number of land holdings increased by 12% from 1995-96 to 2000-01, 7.5 % after that till 2005-06, 6.9% by 2010-11 and 5.33% till 2015-16.
The agriculture census is carried out at five-year intervals as part of the world agriculture census programme.
The first census in India was conducted in 1970-71. Data provides valuable inputs to policy makers as they plan various intervention.
The current agriculture census is the 10th in the series whose final figures, comprising other details, are expected to be released by December.
According to provisional data, the percentage share of female land holders increased from 12.79% (17.65 million) in 2010-11 to 13.87% (20.25 million) in 2015-16. Their numbers were nearly 11% ( 15.11 million) in 2005-06.
Decreasing size of land holdings, however, remains a serious challenge.
Being the final unit for agriculture-related decisions, an operational holding has been taken as statistical unit at micro-level for various policy interventions.
The 2015-16 figures show the total number of operational holdings in the country has increased from 138 million in 2010-11 to 146 million in 2015-16 - an increase of 5.33%.
The highest variation (increase) was found in the case of Madhya Pradesh (12.74%) followed by Andhra Pradesh (11.85%), Rajasthan (11.12%), Kerala (11.02%), Meghalaya (10.90%), Karnataka (10.78%) and Nagaland (10.50%).
The small and marginal holdings taken together (up to 2 hectares) constitute over 86% (125 million) of the total holdings in 2015-16 as against nearly 85% (117 million) in 2010-11.
Similarly, there is decrease in the operated area from 159.59 million hectares in 2010-11 to 157.14 million hectares in 2015-16, showing a decrease of 1.53% - it means diversion of farm land for non-agriculture activities during the period.
As far as operational land holding is concerned, the sharpest fall has been in Goa (28.17%) and lowest in Manipur (0.09%). The operational land is used wholly or partly for agricultural production.
The Census found that the average size of operational holding has declined to 1.08 hectare in 2015-16 as compared to 1.15 hectare in 2010-11. The average size of operational holding is highest in Nagaland (5.06 hectare) and lowest in Kerala (0.18 hectare).
Out of 36 states and UTs, 14 states -- Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal -- account for about 91.03% in terms of number of operational holdings.