Center For Workers Education

for building a democratic labour movement in India

Why integrated labour law reforms is necessary to upgrade labour standards-9

This development looks more like destruction

  • As we referred earlier, according to government reports in organized/formal sector total employment increased by 8.5 million during 1999-00 to 2004-05, and almost all of this incremental employment was of largely informal nature. However, it is to be kept in mind that even this may be inflated and not correct.
  • On the other hand, in the same period, the destruction of lively-hoods is alarming:
  • Cultivated area, (net sown area plus current fallows), rose steadily until 1989-90, stabilized for more than a decade at about 156 million hectares, and then showed symptoms of tailing off after the drought of 2002-03. Subsequently, cultivated area never recovered to the higher level of the preceding decade. At the same time, the area under non-agricultural uses rose steadily from 19.66 million ha in 1980-81 to 26.51 million ha in 2010-2011. That is, more than two million hectares per decade were shifted to non-agricultural uses during the last three decades. In 1971-72, in India as a whole, there were roughly 168 million agricultural workers; in 2009-10, their numbers had increased to 237 million. All these factors resulted in fall in land /man ratios from 0.9 ha per agricultural worker in 1972-73 to only 0.68 ha per worker in 2009-10. The average farm size in the country declined from 2.3 ha in 1970-71 to 1.23 ha in 2005-06. Considering all these aspects, along with destruction of livelihoods of forest workers and coastal fish workers due to large scale acquisition of forests and coasts, the cumulative impact may be to the extent of lively-hood loss for about one million people per decade.


  • Total area under SEZ across India is expected to be over 200,000 hectares, an area of the size of the National Capital Region. This land – predominantly agricultural and typically multi-cropped – is capable of producing close to one million tons of food grains. Estimates show that close to 114,000 farming households (each household on an average comprising five members) and an additional 82,000 farm worker families who are dependent upon these farms for their livelihoods, will be displaced. In other words, at least 10 Lakh (1,000,000) people who primarily depend upon agriculture for their survival will face eviction. Experts calculate that the total loss of income to the farming and the farm worker families is at least Rs 212 Crore a year. This does not include other income lost (for instance of artisans) due to the demise of local rural economies.


  • In current situations of population growth and the status of grain production, the country will have to feed about 1.3 billion people by the year 2020 requiring 5-6 mts of additional feed grains every year.


  • Rainfed agriculture occupies 67 percent of net sown area, contributing 44 percent of food grain production and supporting 40 percent of the population. Even after realization of full irrigation potential of the country, 50 percent of net sown area will continue to be rainfed.


  • In the above background, and in a situation when we are already compelled to import the food grains and the import is showing an increasing trend, is it wise to adopt such development strategies of transferring huge amount of agriculture land to non-agriculture, especially when it is leading towards more destruction of livelihoods than creating any significant and decent additional employment?

(The report of the Committee on State Agrarian Relations and Unfinished Task of Land Reforms (2009) ; B. Venkateswarlu, Director, Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture;;  Sheila Bhalla, 2014. Scarce Land: Issues, Evidence and Impact; Working paper no. Wp 02/2014, IHD;; India’s Agricultural Development under the New Economic Regime:  Policy Perspective and Strategy for the 12th Five Year Plan; )

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