At a time when amendments to the land law have drawn sharp reactions, NITI Aayog vice-chairman Arvind Panagariya has said development of industry and services will not take land away from agriculture or harm food security.
“A common fear aired in the media is that the expansion of industry and services would divert land away from agriculture thereby undermining food security. But these views are aired without attention to some key facts on the pattern of land use,” he wrote in his blog posted on the NITI Ayog site, www.niti.gov.in, which was launched here on Monday.
In his blog 'Job Creation in Industry and Services and Shared Prosperity', he wrote that the area under non-agricultural use, which includes housing, industry, offices, roads, railways and other similar items, was only eight per cent in 2011-12, the latest year for which data is available.
“Fifteen years earlier, in 1997-98, this proportion was seven per cent,” said the blog. Accelerated growth over these 15 years facilitated by the one percentage point increase in non-agricultural use of land has produced more gains in per-capita income and poverty reduction than what had been achieved over the entire 50 preceding years, he said.
“Of course, even this one percentage point increase did not come at the expense of agriculture,” said Panagariya, adding that increased multiple cropping allowed the gross area sown to rise from 57.8 per cent to 59.4 per cent of the total land area between 1997-98 and 2011-12. “And, of course, productivity increases allowed agricultural output to rise proportionately much more. There remains much scope for further output increase through the extension of the Green Revolution to eastern states and rain-fed regions, as emphasized by the Prime Minister,” he said.
In sum, agricultural growth and the expansion of good jobs in industry and services can go hand-in-hand to bring rapid elimination of poverty and shared prosperity for all, he argued.
However, he did not directly touch the issue of proposed amendments in land law.
He said while there could be little disagreement that the fastest relief to the poor in India would come from productivity growth in agriculture, the potential of agriculture to bring prosperity to a vast population remains limited in the longer run.
“Over long periods, experiences such as that of Madhya Pradesh during 2011-12 to 2013-14 whereby agriculture grew in excess of 20 per cent annually are rare,” he said.
The fastest rate under which agriculture has grown nationally over a continuous 10-year period has been under five per cent, he noted.
“Put another way, in countries experiencing growth rates of 6 percent or more over long periods, overwhelmingly, industry and services have grown substantially faster than agriculture,” he emphasised.