According to Some Aspects of Operational Land Holdings in India, 2002-03, Report No. 492(59/18.1/3), National Sample Survey 59th Round (January–December 2003), August, 2006:
A sample of 52,265 rural households and 29,893 urban households was surveyed in the sixth Land Holding Survey of NSS, carried out in 2003. The following highlights relate to rural India only.
• There were 101.3 million holdings operated during the kharif season of 2002-03 and 95.7 million holdings operated during the rabi season of the same agricultural year.
• The number of operational holdings** increased rapidly from 51 million in 1960-61 to 101 million in 2002-03, whichis understandable considering the growth of population. However, the rate of growth of operational holdings, which accelerated over the three decades from 1960-61 to 1991-92, appears to have slowed down in the decade prior to 2002-03.
• The total operated area of 133 million hectare in 1960-61 had dropped to 126 million hectare in 1970-71 - a fall of about 5.8%. It dropped by around 5.6% again between 1970-71 and 1981-82. The estimate for total operated area from the 48th round showed a rise to 125 million hectare, that is, back to the 1970-71 level, casting doubt on the 37th round estimate. However, the present survey’s estimate of 108 million hectare amounts to a fall of about 8% since 1981-82, that is, in the last 21 years, which is consistent with the declining trend observed up to 1981-82. The overall fall over the 42-year period is about 18.5% - which is roughly equivalent to a 5% fall every decade.
• Fragmentation of holdings has been a chronic problem in Indian agriculture. The estimates available from the last four landholding survey (LHS) show that the average rural holding, though smaller, is less fragmented than it was earlier, the number of parcels*** per holding having dropped from 5.7 in 1960-61 to 2.3 in 2002-03.
• Average area operated per holding in 2002-03 was 1.06 hectares compared to 1.34 hectares during 1991-92 and 1.67 hectares in 1981-82. Over the four decades, the average size of a holding came down by nearly 60% - from 2.63 hectare in 1960-61 to 1.06 hectare in 2002-03.
• During the four decades from 1960-61 onwards, land tenure status of operational holdings has undergone significant changes. While the percentage of holdings with partly or wholly owned operated area changed little between 1960-61 and 2002-03, the proportion of holdings with partly or wholly leased in land (henceforth called ‘tenant holdings’) declined sharply from around 24% to 10% during the period after 1970-71. This trend, indicating a continuous shift from tenant cultivation to self-cultivation, has been a characteristic feature of Indian agriculture during this period.
• Over the three decades the number of marginal holdings has multiplied from 19.8 million in 1960-61 to over 71.0 million in 1991-92 – an increase of over three and a half times.
• Marginal holdings (of size 1 hectare or less) in 2002-03 constituted 70% of all operational holdings, small holdings (size 1 to 2 hectares) constituted 16%, semi-medium holdings (2 to 4 hectares), 9%, medium holdings (4 to 10 hectares), 4%, and large holdings (over 10 hectares), less than 1%.
• The share of marginal holdings in total operated area climbed by 6-7 percentage points since 1991-92 to reach 22-23%, drawing level with the shares of the semi-medium and medium holdings, which had the largest shares in 1991-92.
• Tenant holdings, that is, holdings with partly or wholly leased-in land, formed about 10% of operational holdings during 2002-03 compared to 11% in 1991-92. On an average, a tenant holding operated 0.7 hectares of tenanted land in 2002-03.
• The percentage of tenant holdings in 2002-03 was highest in Orissa (19%). It was14% in West Bengal, 12-13% in Andhra Pradesh, Punjab and Bihar, about 12% in Uttar Pradesh, and 11% in Haryana.
• The share of leased-in land**** in operated area came down to 7.2% in 1981-82 from 10.6% in 1970-71. The 1991-92 survey estimated the share to have risen to 8.5%. The share of leased-in land in total operated area, which has been declining more or less steadily from 10.7% in 1960-61, was 6.5% for the kharif season of 2002-03.
• The percentage of leased-in area, in 2002-03, was highest among the 15 States in Punjab (17%) and Haryana (14%). The same two States had reported the highest percentages of leased-in area in 1981-82 and 1991-92. Orissa, too, reported a high percentage (13%) of leased-in area in 2002-03. In all other major States, the percentage was less than 10 in 2002-03.
• At the all-India level, the size distribution of operational land holdings exhibited more or less the same degree of concentration (as measured by Gini’s coefficient of concentration) as in 1991-92.
• In West Bengal, Bihar (including Jharkhand), and Orissa, the degree of concentration of the size distribution of operational land holdings was appreciably lower in 2002-03 than it was in 1991-92. In Kerala, the degree of concentration registered a fall in each of the three decades prior to 2002-03.
• Except for a slight rise during the 60’s, the percentage of tenant holdings has been continuously declining. From over 20% in 1960-61 it has declined to 11% or less in all the size categories of holdings except the large holdings. Among the large holdings the percentage is still as high as 14%, which is an increase over the 1960-61 percentage.
• Sharecropping remained the most widely prevalent form of lease contract, covering 41% of all tenanted land. However, the shares of “fixed money” and “fixed produce” appeared to be on the increase, together accounting for over 50% of leased-in land in 2002-03.
• In Punjab and Haryana - the two most agriculturally advanced states in the country - the most prevalent form of contract was fixed rent in cash. About 79% of the tenanted land was contracted for fixed money in Punjab and about 71% in Haryana.
• Fixed crop rent was reported as the most common form of tenancy in terms of leased-in area in Gujarat, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. In all the Southern States except Kerala, fixed rent (cash or kind) contracts covered over 60% of tenanted land.
• Sharecropping was found to be the predominant form of tenancy in Orissa (73%), former Bihar (i.e. including Jharkhand) (67%), Assam (55%) and former Uttar Pradesh (inclusive of Uttaranchal) (53%). In Madhya Pradesh (including Chhattisgarh), Rajasthan, Maharashtra and West Bengal, too, sharecropping was the most prevalent form of contract, covering 35-40% of tenanted land.
• Net sown area constituted 87% of operated land during the kharif season and 57% during the rabi season.
• Irrigated land formed 42% of net sown area during the kharif season and 67% during the rabi season.
• In Punjab, extent of irrigation of net sown area (irrigated area as proportion of net sown area) was as high as 97-98% not only in the rabi but also in the kharif season. In Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, extent of irrigation was 91% during rabi and 78-80% during kharif. Extent of irrigation even during the rabi season was only about 22% in Assam.
• About 64% of net sown area was under cereal cultivation in both the seasons of the agricultural year.