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Land Use and Agrarian Relations

Francis Kuriakose & Deepa Kylasam Iyer

Land is a finite resource and there is conflicting and competing demands on it. For 80% of the world, agriculture land is the primary source of life and livelihood. India holds 2.4% of the world's geographical area (328.73 mha) but supports 17.5% of the world's population. India is home to 18% of the cattle population of the world while owning a mere 0.5% of the total grazing area. Of the total 328 mha (total geographical area). Land use statistics is available for approximately 305 mha (93%) of the total land. 228 million ha (69%) of its geographical area falls within dryland that encompasses arid, semi-arid dry and sub humid land as per Thornthewaite classification.

India is blessed with a wide range of soil pattern, each particular to the locale. The alluvial soil (78 mha) that covers the great Indo-Gangetic Plains, the valleys of the rivers Narmada and Tapti (Madhya Pradesh), the Cauvery Basin (Tamil Nadu) supports cereals, oil, pulses, potato and sugar cane. The Black Cotton soil (51.8 mha) found in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh supports cereals, cotton, citrus fruits, pulses, oil seeds and vegetables. The red soil of South India and Madhya Pradesh. West Bengal and Bihar supports rice, millets, tobacco and vegetables. The laterite soil (12.6 mha) and desert soil (37 mha) are not found suitable for agriculture.

Water is a resource precious and scarce in India. The variability of precipitation spatially and in quantity can be inferred by the fact that rainfall has been recorded as low as 100 mm in West Rajasthan and 9000 mm in Meghalaya in North Eastern India. India receives 4000 cubic kilometre of precipitation in the country in its 35 meterological sub divisions. Of this amount, only 50% is put to benefit due to topographical and other constraints. The fact that water is crucial to agriculture in a country that has 68% of its net cultivated area as rain fed, can hardly be exaggerated. Of the total cultivated area of 142 mha, 97 mha is rainfed. The full irrigation potential of the country has been revised to 139.5 mha out of which 58.5 mha is watered by major and minor irrigation schemes,

15 mha by minor irrigation schemes and 40 mha by groundwater exploitation. India's irrigation potential increased from 22.6 mha (1951) to 90 mha (1995-96) but water usage efficiency is a meagre 30-40%. That is why more than 50% of the total cultivated area is still rainfed. The state of soil and water that mainly determine land and its utility in agriculture is of prime importance to maintain sustainable development. We need to define and examine land use pattern with an emphasis on a viable land use policy taking the above factors into consideration.

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