Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Land Ownership in India vs. Urban Economic Growth

by CBSagar, April 2008

If the millions of landless own small amounts of land in India, we can improve the lives of hundreds of millions and help close the rural-urban gap where years of rapid growth have disproportionately benefited the cities, as per a Rural Development Institute report published in Washington Times.

Lack of clear rules regarding land ownership has locked many rural residents into deep poverty. Economic growth was disproportionately generous to Indian cities, forging a glaring rural-urban gap and a population of 60 million landless families. Some economists argue that clear property rights, giving the poor a clear ownership of his tiny plot of land are the foundation for free markets, prosperity and honest governance.

Millions landless families in India are forced to live and work on others property, earning very little in terms of a tiny agricultural wage. Most land reforms are at best short-term solutions for rural Indian poverty, not permanent solutions, as per economists. With 800 million rural residents and only 400 million acres of arable land in India, people should be out of the countryside. The future of Indian agriculture requires widespread irrigation, technology investments and large acreage agriculture farmlands similar to those found in mainland USA! Real Estate times (courtesy)

Landholding distribution too has become skewed. According to government data compiled from sources such as the All India Report on Agriculture Census 1991-2000, in 1995-96:

  • 1.2% of landholdings in the country accounted for 14.8% of the total operational holdings with large holdings of 10 hectares and above (average holding: 17.21 hectares).
  • 6.1% of holdings accounted for 25.3% of the total operational holdings with medium holdings of 4 to 10 hectares (average holding: 5.8 hectares).
  • 12.3% of holdings accounted for 23.8% of the total operational holdings with semi-medium holdings of 2 to 4 hectares (average holding: 2.73 hectares).
  • 18.7% of holdings accounted for 19.8% of the total operational holdings with holdings of 1 to 2 hectares (average holding: 1.42 hectares).
  • As many as 61.2% of holdings accounted for only 17.2% of the total operational holdings. On average, the size of these marginal holdings was 0.4 hectares.

Landless labour

According to the India Rural Development Report of 1992, 43% of the country’s rural population was absolutely or near landless. Landless agricultural labour makes up almost half of those living below the poverty line in rural India.

A majority of the economically and socially weaker sections of society, such as scheduled castes and tribes, dalits, adivasis and women, make up the majority of landless population working as labour.

Landlessness has been steadily rising among the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. According to a government Rural Labour Enquiry report, the percentage of landless households among scheduled castes increased from 56.8% in 1977-98 to 61.5% in 1983, while among adivasis it increased from 48.5% in 1977-78 to 49.4% in 1983.

Even among those who own land, a majority own marginal plots that provide them little or no food security. The government describes such marginal landowners as ‘mere landless’ (those who own less than 0.002 hectares) and ‘near landless’ (those who own between 0.002 and 0.2 hectares). According to the draft paper of the Ninth Five-Year Plan, 77% of dalits and 90% of adivasis are either ‘absolute landless’ (own no land) or ‘mere landless’.

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