Union Home and Cooperation Minister Amit Shah recently claimed that the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) led to an addition of as much cultivable land in the country as had been made cultivable in the 70 years since Independence. FactChecker found this claim to be misleading.

While speaking about the rural economy at the Agriculture and Rural Development Banks (ARDBs) National Conference, Shah claimed, "In the 70 years since Independence, 64 lakh hectare of land became cultivable, but under the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana, 64 lakh hectares of agricultural land has increased in eight years."

There is a slight mismatch between the tweet text and the video attested. Shah seems to have misquoted himself in the tweet by writing 'krishi yogya bhoomi' or 'cultivable land', while he can be heard speaking of increase in coverage of PMKSY irrigation scheme in the attached video. In the video, he can be heard saying, "Under the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana, in just eight years, 64 lakh hectare land has been increased… in 70 years 64 lakh hectares and in the last eight years 64 lakh hectares."

FactChecker looked at available official data on both cultivable land and irrigated land and found that while cultivable land has shrunk in the country, the increase in the area of irrigated land also doesn't match Shah's claim.

If Amit Shah was Referring to Cultivable Land

The latest official data on cultivable or agricultural land was published in November 2021 by the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Directorate of Economics and Statistics under the Land Use Statistics Report, but it contains data from the year 2018-19.

Under this report, the components of cultivable/agricultural land are "net area sown, current fallows, fallow lands other than current fallows, culturable waste land and land under miscellaneous tree crop".

In 1950-51, cultivable land area in the country was 1,897 lakh hectares and by 2013-14, this shrunk to 1,819 lakh hectares. This means that when the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government was elected in the Centre, India's cultivable land was 1,819 lakh hectares and not 64 lakh hectares, as Amit Shah claimed.

Between Independence and 2013-14, agricultural land had thus reduced by 78 lakh hectares. The shrinking didn't stop there though. The latest data, which is from 2018-19, pegged India's agricultural land size at 1,809 lakh hectares. This means India's cultivable land further shrunk by 10 lakh hectares in the next five years, which is not what Shah claimed.

This shows that the text of his tweet was not true.

If Amit Shah was Referring to Irrigated Land

While the text in Shah's tweet was about cultivable land, in the video he could be heard talking about land increased under Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana.

Although one of the objectives of Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) is to expand cultivated area under assured irrigation, there is no data available on the measure of land made cultivable under PMKSY. FactChecker, however, found data on farm area benefitted through micro irrigation practices under the scheme.

According to a Rajya Sabha response by Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Narendra Singh Tomar in April 2022, 62.4 lakh hectare land has been covered under micro-irrigation (drip and sprinkler) through the 'Per Drop More Crop' (PDMC) component of the scheme. Tomar also said that under the 'Watershed Development' component of the scheme, a protective irrigation potential of 5.6 lakh hectares has been added. The recent data is also available on the PMKSY website.

The Water Resources at a Glance 2022 Report published by the Central Water Commission showed that an irrigation potential of 64.14 lakh hectares had been created by March 2021 through PMKSY-AIBP (Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme). It also mentioned that the irrigation potential created in the country was already 1,135 lakh hectares by the end of the 11th five-year plan (2007-2012). This proves Amit Shah's claim misleading.

Also, it doesn't necessarily mean that the land now under micro-irrigation was not cultivable before, as a big chunk of India's net sown area is still rain-fed, experts told FactChecker. The percentage of gross cropped area that is irrigated by different methods increased from 17.1% in 1950-51 to 47.7% in 2013-14. This has grown by around 4 percentage points in the first five years under the Modi government, reaching 52% in 2018-19. This means around 48% of cropped area in India is still rain fed.

Moreover, irrigation alone is not enough to make land cultivable, Dr GV Ramanjaneyulu, Executive Director of the Center for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA), told FactChecker. "Irrigated lands sometimes get degraded because salinity increases, so focus should also be on soil fertility and land restoration. Irrigation is only one of the factors," he said.

And this can be seen happening in India as 29.7% of India's total geographical area was undergoing degradation in 2018-19. There was an increase of 14.5 lakh hectares of degraded land in seven years — 978.5 lakh hectares in 2018-19 from 964 lakh hectares in 2011-13, according to the 2021 ISRO Desertification and Land Degradation Atlas.

When FactChecker called up the Media and Communications Department of the Home Ministry to ask for clarification on Shah's statement, an official who refused to be named asked us to email our query. We did but had not received a response by the time of publishing. If we do, it will be added here.

Claim Review :   In the 70 years since Independence, 64 lakh hectare of land became cultivable, but under the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana, 64 lakh hectares of agricultural land has increased in eight years
Claimed By :  Union Home Minister Amit Shah
Fact Check :  Misleading