Agriculture provides gainful employment to nearly two-third of the population and contributes about 30% to the National income. It also earns valuable foreign exchange and supplies raw materials to various key industries. Recognizing the predominance of the agriculture sector in the Indian economy, department of agriculture and cooperation, ministry of agriculture, govt. of India collects and maintains agriculture statistics regularly and make it timely accessible to the planners and policymakers for decision making. In order to collect information relating to characteristics such as number, area, tenancy, land utilization, cropping pattern and irrigation particulars of different size classes, government of India decided to conduct the first agriculture census with the agriculture year 1970-71(July-June) as the reference year as part of the 1970 world agriculture census Programme sponsored by
Need for data by operational holding :
In the context of the strategy for agricultural development, a knowledge of the detailed structure and characteristics of agricultural holdings is imperative for responsive and efficient planning and implementation of the programmes. For this purpose, it is essential to have information by operational holdings as distinct from ownership holdings. Information by ownership holding is no doubt useful to have an idea of the distribution of wealth but information by operational holdings is more important for implementation of the Agricultural Development Programmes. As such an operational holding is defined as "all land which is used wholly or partly for agricultural production and is operated as one technical unit by one person alone or with others without regard to title, legal form, size or location". It is the operational holding which is the fundamental unit of decision making in agriculture and consequently for development programmes aimed at improving the lot of the individual cultivators and also the production. Thus, the census of operational holdings, what is otherwise known as the Agricultural Census, assumes importance for providing the basic data on the number, area, tenancy status, land utilisation, cropping pattern and irrigation status, etc.
While the system of Agricultural Statistics that was in vogue in the country provided for aggregate at various geographical levels, data on structure of holdings was not classified and tabulated. As early as 1830, the Famine Inquiry Committee stressed the need for adequate statistics of land holdings. Again, the Famine Inquiry Commission of 1945 tried to gauge the relationship between the land tenure systems and efficiency of agricultural production. But the Commission was handicapped in this regard due to non-availability of data and the commission made a number of recommendations for improvement of Agricultural Statistics. Due to various reasons, these recommendations were not given efforts to.
Need for Agricultural Census for planning & development:
The Agricultural Statistics collected through various sources in the past related mostly to aggregate the area, production and land use at various territorial levels. However, vital information for various characteristics of different size classes of holding was not available. Further, information on operational holding which is most essential for decision making in Agriculture and consequently for development of programmes aimed at improving the income and standard of living of the cultivators was also not available. Hence, the census of operational holdings providing data on their number, area, tenancy, irrigation status, size of holding, type of holdings and farming practices assumes special importance for planning and implementation of land reforms. etc. This information is also necessary for preparing schemes for the welfare of small and marginal farmers. Data from Agricultural Census are equally valuable for planning at micro and macro levels. The census data is useful for policy decisions and for planning Agricultural production programmes such as for planning and execution of the High Yielding Variety Programmes (HYVP) and programmes on multiple cropping, irrigation, fertiliser, Agricultural Credit, etc. Similarly, the Agricultural Census data would be essential in formulating appropriate policies for programmes of Agricultural machinery and implements, special area programmes, strengthening and streamlining of extension services and effective planning in respect of schemes like Small Farmers Development Agency, Marginal Farmers and Agricultural Labourers. Thus, a census of operational holdings called Agricultural Census assumes importance as a source of basic data relating to number, area and size of holding, tenancy, land utilisation, cropping pattern and irrigation particulars.
Agricultural Census in India:
In India, the Department of Agriculture & Cooperation is organising Agricultural Census quinquennially since 1970-71, in collaboration with the States and Union Territories on the recommendation of Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations as a part of World Agricultural Census. For collection of basic data on structure and other characteristics of agricultural holdings, planning and development purposes, the Govt. of India decided to conduct Agricultural Census from the year 1970-71. In the previous two Agricultural Censuses, namely, 1950 and 1960, data required for the World Agricultural Census were collected through sample Survey carried out by the erstwhile Directorate of National Sample Survey (Now called 'National Sample Survey Organisation' which gave estimates for the country as a whole and for the States. The number of holdings according to size classifications and the details of tenancy, livestock population, land utilisation etc., required under the FAO programme. The programme aimed at obtaining the data for different countries so as to fill up the lacunae in Agricultural Statistics and also to me them internationally comparable. At the instance of the Planning Commission, additional items which were of interest for plan coordination, namely, ownership holdings and land-lease due were also covered in the survey of land holdings. The concept adopted were also slightly different from those recommended by the FAO. In connection with the 1960 World Agricultural Census the National Sample survey Organisation again carried out a survey on land holdings in its 16th and 17th rounds. This survey besides covering the requirements of Food and Agricultural Organisation was also geared to fulfill the national need relating to the data on structure of land ownership. The 16th round of National Sample Survey started in July, 1960 and continued upto August, 1961 for this purpose. The reference period for collection of data pertaining to operational holdings related to Agricultural Year July, 1959 to June, 1960. The information on livestock and agricultural implements owned by the households was also collected through enquiry. The survey covered whole rural India including Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep and Jammu & Kashmir and North-east Frontier Agency. The survey on land holdings in the 17th round (September 1961 and July, 1962) of the National Sample Survey was an extension of the Survey conducted in the 16th round having the same concepts, definitions, etc. In the 1970-71 Census, the methodology adopted was complete enumeration by which data available in the land records were re-tabulated which was in line with the method recommended by the FAO. In the non-land record States, where comprehensive land records were not maintained, the data were collected through sample surveys. Due to fast changes in Indian Agriculture, the National Commission on Agriculture in their report submitted in 1976 recommended that Agricultural census be conducted on quinquennial basis. Accordingly, the second Agricultural census was due to be conducted in 1975-76, but had to be postponed due to administrative reasons and this was conducted with 1976-77 as the reference year for data. In this Census, information on number and area of operational holdings was collected on complete enumeration basis in land record States and Information on other items was collected on a sample basis. An Input Survey in a sample of 2% villages was also carried out for the first time, as a part of second Agricultural Census. In this survey, data relating to use of various inputs such as fertilisers, manures, besides livestock and Agricultural implements and machinery and Agricultural credit provided by various credit institutions to different categories of operational holdings were also collected. The third Agricultural census was carried out with the Agricultural Year 1980-81 as the reference period. It was undertaken on a complete enumeration basis in all land record States except Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Rajasthan where it was carried out on a sample basis due to administrative reasons. In the non-land record States, the Census was carried out on a sample basis as in the past. The data for the holdings of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes were also collected separately for the first time this Census. An input survey was also conducted with the Agricultural year 1981-82 as reference period, with a sample of seven percent villages. The 4th Agricultural census was conducted with the reference year 1985-86. The Census was also conducted partly on complete enumeration basis and partly on sample basis. The information on number and area of operational holdings was collected on complete enumeration basis while other characteristics were collected on a sample basis. The present Agricultural Census which is 5th in the series was conducted with the reference year 1990-91. As in the past, this census was also conducted partly on complete enumeration basis and partly on sample basis. The 4th Input survey was also conducted with reference year 1991-92 with a sample of 7% of the villages. No changes were introduced in this census and was conducted on the lines of the 4th Agricultural census. Separate data were also collected for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes holdings. These data were tabulated according to 11 size classes which was further summarised into 5 major size groups namely marginal (below 1 h.), small (1-2ha), semi-medium (2-4ha), medium(4-10 ha) and large (10ha and above.)