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Centre sets up high-level committee to prepare roadmap for regularisation of land leasing in agri sector


The Centre has set up a high-level committee to prepare a roadmap for regularisation of land leasing in the agriculture sector, eager to push through a reform that would lay down the rights of landless farm workers who miss out on welfare benefits.

The government is keen to top up the agricultural reforms rolled out as part of the Atma Nirbhar package that includes allowing farmers to sell their produce freely and de-regulating trade in cereals, edible oils, pulses, onions and potatoes under the Essential Commodities Act. A separate legal framework was announced to enforce a standard mechanism for predictable prices of crops for farmers even before they begin sowing.

The government’s view is that a concrete roadmap is needed for land-leasing legalisation to enable small farmers to augment the size of their operational holdings and ensure that welfare benefits also reach farm workers who don’t own any land.

The current system does not allow farm workers to benefit from support schemes run by the government. Agricultural landholdings in the country are fragmented and small, and benefits handed out by the government such as income support under the PM Kisan scheme are based on land ownership.

Although the share of agriculture in India’s gross domestic product is only about 14%, it employs 49% of the country’s workforce and 64% of the rural workforce. The proposed land-leasing framework will recognised the rights of landowners and cultivators and farm workers.

The committee, to be headed by the secretary of the department of land resources under the ministry of rural development, will submit its report to a group of ministers on the model legislation on land leasing.

“It will suggest a way forward on land leasing in order to facilitate extension of benefits of Central government schemes to the actual tillers and cultivators on the one hand and to protect the interests of landowners on the other,” a government official told ET.

The government set up the GoM in November to finalise the model legislation on land leasing, which will be circulated to the states. The GoM was set up after the rural development ministry, which administers land resources, opposed the draft model legislation as it had concerns over some constituents. It was of the view that it could lead to loss of farm income in the current form.

A final decision on the legislation would be taken up at the highest level in the government after the committee prepares its report.

A Niti Aayog expert committee led by T Haq had proposed legalising land leasing to promote agricultural efficiency, equity and poverty reduction and to ensure complete security of the ownership rights of the landowner as well as security of tenure for the tenant through the agreed lease period. It had proposed that the terms and conditions of the lease were to be determined mutually by the landowner and the tenant.

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