12 lakh hectares of cultivable land lying unused: Government

New Delhi: As much as 12 lakh hectares of cultivable land is lying unused in the country and one of the reasons for this was the existence of different leasing laws in different states, government said in Rajya Sabha on Friday.

Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh said this after many opposition members expressed fears of 'corporatisation' of agriculture after a recent meeting in NITI Aayog where a draft Land Leasing Bill was discussed with states.

During Question Hour, Congress member Shantaram Naik asked what was the need felt by the government to hold such a meeting and whether the government wanted to introduce private companies in development of agricultural lands. Similar apprehensions were expressed by some other members including D Raja of the CPI.

In his reply, the Agriculture Minister said while people had harboured 'doubts' over the meeting, in reality it had "nothing to do with the industry". Singh said that land and its management fell within the jurisdiction of states and the role of Centre was only advisory in nature.

Referring to the meeting held in Niti Aayog, he said it was only continuation of the work initiated during UPA government's rule when Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, who was present in the House, was a minister.

Singh said there were fears among people that if they gave up their land on lease, they could over the years lose its ownership. This, he said, was because different laws related to leasing of land were in practice in various states.

Maintaining that 12 lakh hectares of land was not under cultivation, Singh said that Niti Aayog has constituted an experts' group on September 7, 2015 to prepare a draft model agricultural land leasing Bill in consultation with state governments and the Centre was only playing the role of an advisor.

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