Agriculture Census in India
Agriculture Census forms part of a broader system of collection of Agricultural Statistics in India. It is a large-scale statistical operation for collection of requisite data and derivation of quantitative information about the structural characteristics of agriculture in the country. Through Agriculture Census, basic data on important aspects of agricultural economy of operational holdings in the country is collected.
The basic unit of data collection in Agriculture Census is the operational holding. Periodic Agriculture Census is important as it is the main source of information in the country on basic characteristics of operational holdings such as land use, cropping pattern, irrigation status and tenancy particulars. This information is tabulated by different size classes (marginal, small, semi-medium, medium and large) and Social Groups including Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes, which are needed for development planning, socio-economic policy formulation and establishment of national priorities. Census also provides the basis for development of a comprehensive integrated national system of agricultural statistics and has links with various components of national statistical system.
Evolution of Land Record System and collection of Agriculture Statistics
India is one of the few countries in the world which has developed a sound system of land records including village maps which dates back to very early times. In the 16 century, Sher Shah initiated land settlement operations for assessment and collection of land revenue. This was later systemised during the reign of Akbar and further reformed during the British period with a view to improve land revenue system and augment the revenue. These changes resulted in the development of two major types of land revenue systems. A system of permanent settlement was introduced where designated private landlords acted as intermediaries and enjoyed limited rights of private property. While in large parts of the country, a system of temporary settlement (Ryatwari system) was introduced. Many changes were made in these two systems during the course of the 19th century.
After the independence, the various land laws were introduced to bring the farmers and State into direct contact. The gradual evolution of the land systems in the country necessitated the maintenance of the village forms and registers giving details of the land held, various conditions under which they are held. A regular system of revenue administration was established for the purpose. These forms and registers in vogue for the maintenance of land records in different States constituted the basis for land utilisation, crop and irrigation statistics.
Due to the dominant position of the Agriculture sector in the Indian economy, collection and maintenance of Agricultural statistics assumes importance, particularly, in respect of statistics relating to the agricultural holdings. The initiation of various land reform measures adopted since independence, necessitated the maintenance of detailed and up-to-date land records.
The land records maintained in the forms and registers at village level became essential for agricultural planning and development as they constitute the basis for land utilization, crop and irrigation statistics. The National Commission on Agriculture, after examining the various alternatives for collection of Agricultural Statistics concluded that the best method of collection of such statistics was by way of land records. In this process, the Patwari, who is primarily responsible for maintenance of land records was considered to be the most suitable person who undertakes the job of crop inspection. The Commission concluded that the basic structure for collection of Agricultural Statistics could be improved by enabling the Patwari to do his job better and other revenue officials at the village and Taluk/Tehsil level to devote adequate attention to the collection of Agriculture Statistics.
The architects of Agricultural Census thought it prudent to build the design of Agricultural Census by taking advantage of existing system of land records in the country. These land records relate to record of ownership of land and season-wise area enumeration for crops. Such detailed land records are maintained in about 91% of the operated area of the country. In the remaining 9% area of the country, covering north-eastern States, West Bengal, Kerala and Orissa, an approach of household inquiry is followed.