India uses 10 million hectares of agricultural lands for other purposes, puts back barren lands for cultivation, says report

India uses 10 million hectares of agricultural lands for other purposes, replaces them with barren lands, says a report of the Committee on Doubling farmers’ Income. In its seventh report, the Committee has found a systemic change in land use that has been hurting farmers’ income. According to this report, India has been diverting large tracts of productive agricultural lands for other purposes like making way for new townships and to accommodate expanding settlements besides being given for industrial purposes.

These statistics hint at a rough path for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s flagship project of doubling farmer’s income. According to the report, there are more and more barren and uncultivable lands being brought under farming. This has impacted the farmers’ productivity, income security and viability of cultivation.

Since 1970-71, the area under non-agriculture has increased by 10 million hectares (mha). This, the report suggests, is basically of productive agricultural lands being diverted for other uses. On the other hand, during the same period (1971-2011-12), lands under the barren and uncultivated category have declined from 28.16 mha to 17.23 mha. It is more than a million hectares.

“The often overlooked fact behind the almost stagnant net-cultivated area is a significant diversion of prime agricultural lands for non-agricultural purposes and the simultaneous induction of barren and uncultivable lands. An apparent logic behind this statement is that the expansion of cities and towns and other infrastructure activities in the name of development often take place in prime agricultural lands around cities/townships,” says the report.

India’s net-cultivated areas remain stagnant at around 140 mha since 1970. But lands under non-agricultural purposes have gone up from 19.66 mha in 1970 to 26.19 in 2011-12. In the decade of 2000-2010 alone, India has added close to 3 mha in this category, points the report.

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