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    Rural land may be classified to protect farm interest

    Synopsis

    Rural ministry has drawn up a plan to demarcate rural land depending on its use to ensure that fertile agricultural land is not used for industrial purpose.

    NEW DELHI: The rural development ministry has drawn up an ambitious plan to demarcate rural land depending on its use to ensure that fertile agricultural land is not used for industrial purpose.

    An inter-ministerial group that will include experts from the national remote sensing agency and the town and country planning organisation will work out a feasibility plan.

    "While passing by huge tracts of fields full of crops it is not unusual to come across huge brick kilns or other factories polluting the surroundings. This kind of unplanned development of our countryside has to stop," land resources secretary Anita Chaudhary told ET.

    The rural development ministry has already written letters to all state governments on the issue as their consent is necessary, land being a state subject.

    "We want to start the process with states that are most amenable to the idea of mapping and demarcating land use in villages. We will gradually rope in all states," Chaudhary said.

    Of India's total land area of 29.73 lakh square km, about 53% is arable land where crops can be grown, according to World Bank indicators.

    However, due to increasing pressure on land, there is a steady degradation of land. Under such circumstances, using fertile land for industrial use can undermine the food security objective.

    With the country building special economic zones and manufacturing zones, it is imperative to have land-mapping and planning, said Sachin Chaturvedi, agriculture expert at RIS, a think-tank.

    "We should draw a lesson from Thailand's 'one-village-one-product' programme, which was successful because of the extensive land-mapping that was involved," Chaturvedi said.

    There is no law that can stop individuals from selling their multi-crop fertile land for industrial use, the secretary pointed out, adding that there was an urgent need to preserve agricultural land to ensure food security in the coming decades.

    The ministry hopes that a comprehensive law will ensure that prime agricultural land is protected for farm use to ensure food availability for all.

    "There are reserved lands for forests in our country. But there is no reservation for land in which food is grown," Chaudhary said. However, any legislation on the matter can only come from states.

    The technical committee working on the feasibility plan for country planning has met once last month and is scheduled to meet again later this week.
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