The seeming abundance of net sown area of 141.2 million hectares and total cropped area of 189.7 million hectares (1999–2000) pales into insignificance when we see that it is divided into economically unviable small and scattered holdings. The average size of holdings was 2.28 hectares in 1970–71 which was reduced to 1.82 hectares in 1980–81 and 1.50 hectares in 1995–96. The size of the holdings will further decrease with the infinite Sub-division of the landholdings.

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The problem of small and fragmented holdings is more serious in densely populated and intensively cultivated states like Kerala, West Bengal, Bihar and eastern part of Uttar Pradesh where the average size of land holdings is less than one hectare and in certain parts it is less than even 0.5 hectares.
Rajasthan with vast sandy stretches and Nagaland with the prevailing ‘Jhoom’ (shifting agriculture) have larger average-sized holdings of 4 and 7.15 hectares respectively. States having a high percentage of net sown areas like Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, and Madhya Pradesh have holding size above the national average. Further, it is shocking to note that a large proportion of 59 percent holdings in 1990- 91 were marginal (below 1 hectare) accounting for 14.9 percent of the total operated area. Another 19 percent were smallholdings (1–2 hectare) taking up 17.3 percent of the total operated area.
Large holdings (above 10 hectares) accounted for only 1.6 percent of total holdings but covered 17.4 percent of the operated area (Table 22.1). Hence, there is a wide gap between small farmers, medium farmers (peasant groups), and big farmers (landlords).
The main reason for this sad state of affairs is our inheritance laws. The land belonging to the father is equally distributed among his sons. This distribution of land does not entail a collection of consolidated one, but its nature is fragmented.
Different tracts have different levels of fertility and are to be distributed accordingly. If there are four tracts that are to be distributed between two sons, both the sons will get smaller plots of each land tract. In this way, the holdings become smaller and more fragmented with each passing generation. Sub-division and fragmentation of the holdings are some of the main causes of our low agricultural productivity and backward state of our agriculture. A lot of time and labor is wasted in moving seeds, manure, implements, and cattle from one piece of land to another.
Irrigation becomes difficult in such small and fragmented fields. Further, a lot of fertile agricultural land is wasted in providing boundaries. Under such circumstances, the farmer cannot concentrate on improvement.
The only answer to this ticklish problem is the consolidation of holdings which means the reallocation of holdings which are fragmented, the creation of farms which comprise only one or a few parcels in place of a multitude of patches formerly in the possession of each peasant.
But unfortunately, this plan has not succeeded much. Although legislation for consolidation of holdings has been enacted by almost all the states, it has been implemented only in Punjab, Haryana and in some parts of Uttar Pradesh.

KISANMAIL

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