On use of arable land
Thursday, 05 June 2008

We are happy that the Ministry of Land has started working on earmarking land with a view to formulating a national policy on land use. In the absence of any such policy we are fast losing arable land to miscellaneous uses and we shall be inviting disaster if this is not checked at the right point.  Available statistics point to the gravity of the situation. Our total area of land is about 36.5 million hectres of which 19.2 million hectres are available for cultivation. This is about 53 per cent of total land. But due to unplanned use of land for industry and other purposes we are losing about 82,000 hectres or one per cent of the total every year. Against this food requirement is increasing by about 1.4 per cent annually. If the present rate of population growth continues then we shall have 180 million people to feed by 2016. That means food requirement will increase by 25 per cent by 2016 while land available for agriculture will be less.  We need a comprehensive policy that will address everything linked with the problem. The plain and simple truth is we just cannot afford to lose land for activities other than agricultural production any more. Countries with big land mass can afford luxuries but we cannot. The first task should be recovering land from those who have no interest in its proper use. There would be lakhs of people who own precious land but do no depend on the income from their use. Many industrial undertaking have ten, twenty or even fifty times more than their land requirement. Secondly, land available for agriculture should not allowed to be used for other purposes. Thirdly, allocating land for housing and industry should be done properly to main the balance.  It is quite clear that in the coming years we shall not be able to buy food items from the international markets because of fund constraints. So, if we want to ensure at least two square meals a day for the people we shall have to produce that much ourselves making arable land usable.

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