The land around us has been put to different uses. While some land has been occupied by rivers, some by trees, roads, buildings, etc. Human beings use land as a resource for production as well as residence and recreation. There are several categories in which land is used. The records are maintained by the land revenue department. The land use categories add up to reporting area, which is somewhat different from the geographical area, as per the class 12 geography chapter 5 NCERT textbook. The Survey of India is responsible for measuring the geographical area of administrative units in India.
The land-use categories are maintained in the land revenue records. It includes:
Forests: The area under actual forest cover is different from the area classified as forest. The latter is the area that the government has identified and demarcated for forest growth. Tthere may be an increase in this category without any increase in the actual forest cover.
Land put to non-agricultural uses: This category includes land under settlements (rural and urban), infrastructure (roads, canals, etc), industries, shops, etc. An expansion in secondary and tertiary activities would lead to an increase in this category of land use.
Barren and wastelands: This category of land consists of those such as barren hilly terrains, desert lands, ravines, etc, and typically cannot be brought under cultivation with the available technology.
The area under permanent pastures and grazing lands: Most of this type of land is owned by the village ‘Panchayat’ or the government. The land owned by the village panchayat comes under ‘Common Property Resources’. Only a small proportion of this land is privately owned.
The area under miscellaneous tree crops and groves: The land under orchards and fruit trees is included in this category. This land is privately owned for the most part.
Culturable waste-land: A land that is left fallow or uncultivated for more than five years comes under this category. It can be brought under cultivation after improving it through reclamation practices.
Current fallow: Land that is left without cultivation for one or less than one agricultural year comes under this category. Fallowing is a cultural practice adopted for giving rest to the land. During this time, it recoups the lost fertility through natural processes.
Fallow other than current fallow: This is a cultivable land that is left uncultivated for more than a year but less than five years. If the land is left uncultivated for more than five years, it would fall under the culturable wasteland category.
Net area sown: The physical extent of land on which crops are planted and harvested is known as net sown area.
Changes throughout the years
India has undergone major changes within the economy over the past four or five decades, which has influenced the land-use changes in the country. As many as four categories have undergone increases, while four have registered declines. The share of area under forest, the area under non-agricultural uses, current fallow lands, and the net area is sown have shown an increase. While the four categories that have registered a decline are barren and wasteland, culturable wasteland, the area under pastures and tree crops, and fallow lands.
Agricultural Land Use in India
The land resource is more crucial to the livelihood of the people depending on agriculture:
— Agriculture is a purely land-based activity, unlike secondary and tertiary activities. This means the contribution of land to agricultural output is more compared to its contribution to the outputs in the other sectors. Lack of access to land is directly correlated with the incidence of poverty in rural areas.
— Quality of land has a direct bearing on the productivity of agriculture, which is not true for other activities.
— In rural areas, aside from its value as a productive factor, land ownership has a social value and serves as a security for credit, natural hazards, or life contingencies, and also adds to the social status.
Cropping season in India
There are three distinct crop seasons in the northern and interior parts of the country — kharif, rabi, and zaid.
The kharif season largely coincides with the southwest monsoon under which the cultivation of tropical crops such as rice, cotton, jute, jowar, bajra, and tur is possible.
The rabi season begins with the onset of winter in October-November and ends in March-April. The low-temperature conditions during this season facilitate the cultivation of temperate and subtropical crops such as wheat, gram, and mustard.
The zaid is a short-duration summer cropping season beginning after the harvesting of rabi crops. The cultivation of watermelons, cucumbers, vegetables, and fodder crops during this season is done on irrigated lands. However, this type of distinction in the cropping season does not exist in southern parts of the country. Here, the temperature is high enough to grow tropical crops during any period of the year provided the soil moisture is available. Therefore, in this region same crops can be grown thrice in an agricultural year provided there is sufficient soil moisture.
Problems with agriculture in India
The nature of problems faced by Indian agriculture varies as per agro-ecological and historical experiences of its different regions in the country. Therefore, most of the agricultural problems in the country are region specific. However, there are some problems that are common and range from physical constraints to institutional hindrances. This includes dependence on erratic monsoons, low productivity, constraints of financial resources and indebtedness, lack of land reforms, small farm size and fragmentation of landholdings, lack of commercialisation, vast under-employment, and degradation of cultivable land.
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