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LAND REFORMS IN INDIA INDEPENDENCE ERA & BHOODAN MOVEMENT POST
LAND REFORMS REMAIN AN UNFINISHED BUSINESS If China has continued to be stable in spite of its size, defying the biological dictum that corpulence is a sign of decay, China watchers ascribe it to their land reforms. In India everyone was talking about land reforms but this vital area has taken a back seat with nothing being done. Land reforms have been half-heartedly attempted at various times and this has proved to be a case of the remedy being worse than the disease. Commenting on the process of land reforms, Prof. M.L. Dantwala observes "By and large land reforms in India enacted so far and those contemplated in the near future, are in the right direction; and yet due to lack of implementation the actual results are far from satisfactory".
Joshi observes: "There is no doubt that during the past twenty five years land reforms in India have not assumed the form of gigantic revolutionary upheaval as in China, or that of a dramatic change brought about from above as in Japan. But from this to jump to the conclusion that the land reforms programme has been a hoax or a total fiasco is to substitute assertion for a detailed empirical examination India has also witnessed important changes in the agrarian structure, which have gone unnoticed because of the absence of a down-to- earth approach in assessing these changes
Evaluating the Indian land reforms, a recent comment from G.S Balla is apt. He observes: "The Indian Government was committed to land reforms and consequently laws were passed by all the State Governments during the Fifties with the avowed aim of abolishing landlordism, distributing land through imposition of ceilings, protection of tenants and consolidation of land-holdings. One of the significant achievements of these acts was the abolition of absentee landlordism in several parts of India However, land reforms were half-hearted with regard to the imposition of ceilings and security of tenure. Consequently, the skewness in land distribution was not reduced in any significant manner. Further, a very large number of tenants were actually evicted in the name of self-cultivation. In spite of it, land reforms brought about a significant change in land relations in so far as self- cultivation, rather than absentee landlordism, became a predominant mode of production
The Government of India is aware that agricultural development in India could be achieved only with the reform of India's rural institutional structure. It was said that the extent of the utilisation of agricultural resources would be determined by the institutional framework under which the various inputs were put to use. M. Dandekar observed: "Among the actions intended to release the force which may initiate or accelerate the process of economic growth, agrarian reform usually receives high priority". The First Five-Year Plan stated:"This (land reform) is a fundamental issue of national importance. The former Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, emphasised: "Land Reforms is the most crucial test which our political system must pass in order to survive." Land reforms therefore became one of the vital aspects of the agricultural development policy especially after the concept of the Five-Year Plan came to stav.
LAND REFORMS IN INDIA Land is precious for any countrv and used by people for productivitv and as a source of food, for place to live, for wood, for place to work. In India, before colonial rule the land used to be in the hands of the community as a whole. However during the British Raj, this was changed Lord Cornwallis had introduced Permanent Land Settlement for Bengal, Bihar and Orissa in 1793. According to this the tax farmers appointed by the British rulers was converted as various Land Lords. Under this rule they had to pay fixed commission to East India Company. Thus these intermediaries were formed and called as Jagirdar/ Jamindar.
. Emergence of Tenants: Following the Land Settlement Act, 1793, the farmers purchase lands from the Land Lords and hire it for their agricultural use. These people who hired the land were called tenants. . Variations in Tenency: Cash Tenents: They pay a fixed tax for the use and occupy of the land Share - cash Tenants: They pay part of their rent in cash and other part as share of the crop. Crop - share Tenants: They pay a share of crops only. Croppers: They pay crop of the share. But they were not independent and work under the landlord Other unspecified tenants: Land Lord - Tenant Relationships Land lord - Tenant Landlord - Agricultural Labour
LAND REFORMS In India, there was a practice of land holdings from historic times and it was distributed in a highly unequal manner and have always been used as a source of social power. To get secure access to land for the poor and landless, policies of land reform were implemented to benefit poorer section of society since independence. After that a number of land reforms have been done by the government such as abolition of 'Zamindari' or middlemen as revenue collectors, imposing ceiling on landholdings and awarding of the surplus lands rights to landless, and tenancy reforms (Mearns, 1998). Land reform is described as redistribution of land from the rich to the poor.
More broadly, it comprises of regulation of ownership, operation, leasing, sales, and inheritance of land (indeed, the redistribution of land itself requires legal changes). In an agricultural economy such as India with great dearth, and an unequal distribution, of land, coupled with a large mass of the rural population below the poverty line, there are enthralling financial and political opinions for land reform. Purpose of land reforms is efficient use of scarce land resource, redistributing agricultural land in favour of the less privileged class in general & cultivating class in particular.
Historical review of Land Reforms in India: Land program in post-Independence India has evolved through different phases. During the Mughal period, before the arrival of the British there were numerous changes in the system of land taxation or revenue. Peasants continued to enjoy customary rights over land they occupied and generally could not be evicted unless they failed to pay the required land revenue (land tax) to the state. The task of collecting land revenue was assigned to a class of agents called zamindars (Bhaumik, 1993)
. The Bengal Rent Act of 1859 placed restrictions on the power of landlords' to increase rent or evict tenants. However, the Act only protected fixed-rent tenants and did not protect bargadars or agricultural labourers. But it only protected those fixed-rent tenants who could prove they had cultivated the land for 12 consecutive years. Constant cultivation was difficult to prove due to poor records and the Act resulted in an increase in evictions by Zamindars to prevent tenants from possessing land for the required time period . The 1885 Bengal Tenancy Act also sought to protect long-standing tenants, and was similarly ineffective During this period, another form of landholder emerged in Bengal. The Jotedars were a rich class of peasants who reclaimed and gained control of large quantities of uncultivated forests and wetlands outside the territory governed by the Permanent Settlement The Jotedars refined some of this land through the direct supervision of hired labour or servants . Nevertheless, the bulk of the Jotedars' land, like much of the land in Bengal, was cultivated by Bargadars.
The 1949 Constitution left the adoption and implementation of land and tenancy reforms to state governments. This led to a lot of dissimilarity in the implementation of these reforms across states and over time. After India Independence, the government took major step to eradicate the systems of Jamindaris and Jagirdari, to remove intermediaries between state and peasant. This was the first legislature taken by almost all the states called as Abolition of Jamindari/Jagirdari systems Act
Tenancy Systems: At the time of independence, there existed many types of proprietary land tenures in the country. 1. Rvotwari: It was started in Madras since 1772 and was later extended to other states. Under this system, the responsibility of paying land revenue to the Government was of the cultivator himself and there was no intermediary between him and the state. The Ryot had full right regarding sale, transfer and leasing of land and could not be evicted from the land as long as he pays the land revenue. But the settlement of land revenue under Ryotwari system was done on temporary basis and was periodic after 20, 30 or 40 vears. It was extended to Bombay Presidencv
The amount of land revenue may either be fixed once one for all when it was called permanent settlement or settlement with regard to land revenue may only be temporary and may, therefore, be revised after every 30-40 years, as the practice may be The Zamindari system is known as absentee landlordism. Under this system the whole village was under one landlord. The persons interested can work in the Jamindar's land as tenant / labourer based on the agreement with the jamindar. The jamindari system was known to be more exploitive, as the jaminder used to fix / hike the prices of land according to his desire.
Jagirdari: It is similar to Jamindari system. The jagirdar is powered to control the unproductive masses of village by engaging them in agricultural activities. Because land is controlled by state in India and the relationship between production and land tenure varies from state to state, the national policy recommendations resulted in differing tenancy reform laws in each state. Tenancy is completely banned in some states but completely free in others. Punjab and Haryana have not forbidden tenancy whereas Karnataka has a near complete ban on tenancv.
Some states have discussed ownership rights on tenant cultivators except for sharecroppers, whereas West Bengal chose to provide owner-like rights only to the sharecroppers. Tenancy reforms may have indirect effects in the form of reduced tenancy shares if poorly implemented. Most tenancy reform laws also contained provisions concerning the ability of tenants to surrender the land back to the landlord voluntarily. These provisions were used by landlords to wane the impact of the laws. In most states the surrender of land falls under the jurisdiction of the revenue authorities.
Reform legislation in india is categorized in to four main sections that include Abolition of intermediaries who were rent collectors under the pre-independence land revenue system, Tenancy regulation that attempts to improve the contractual terms faced by tenants, including crop shares and security of tenure, A ceiling on landholdings with a view to redistributing surplus land to the landless and lastly, Attempts to consolidate disparate landholdings. collectors e preindependence land
Abolition of intermediaries is generally established to be effective land reforms that has been relatively successful. The record in terms of the other components is mixed and varies across states and over time. Landowners naturally resisted the implementation of these reforms by directly using their political influence and also by using various methods of evasion and coercion, which included registering their own land under names of different relatives to bypass the ceiling, and shuffling tenants around different plots of land, so that they would not acquire incumbency rights as stipulated in the tenancy law. The success of land reform was driven by the political will of particular state administrations, the prominent achievers being the left-wing administrations in Kerala and West Bengal
The Second Five-Year Plan emphasised the objectives of the land reforms thus: . To remove the impediments in the way of agricultural production as may arise from the character of agrarian structure and to evolve an agrarian economy conducive of high levels of efficiency and productivity; . To establish an egalitarian society and to eliminate social . Again in the Third Plan, the Planning Commission summed up . "The first is to remove such impediments to increase in agricultural inequality; the obiectives of land reforms thus production as may arise from the agrarian structure inherited from the past. This should help to create conditions for evolving as speedily as possible an agricultural economv with a high level of efficiency
After Independence, attempts had been made to alter the pattern of distribution of land holdings on the basis of four types of experiments, namely; Land reforms "from above" through legislation on the lines broadly indicated by the Central Government, enacted by the State legislators, and finally implemented by the agencies of the State Government. Land reforms "from above" as in the case of Telengana and the naxalite movement also to some extent in the case of the "Land Grab" movement, Land reforms through legislative enactments "from above" combined with peasant mobilisation "from below" as in the case of controlled land seizure in West Bengal and protection of poor peasants in Kerala Land reforms "from below" through permission of landlords and peaceful processions by peasants as in the case of Bhoodan and Gramdan
The land reform legislation was passed by all the State Governments during the Fifties touching upon these measures; Abolition of intermediaries, Tenancy reforms to regulate fair rent and provide security to tenure. . Ceilings on holdings and distribution of surplus land among the . Consolidation of holdings and prevention of their further . Development of cooperative farming. landlords. fragmentation and
By 1972, laws had been passed in all the States to abolish intermediaries. All of them had two principles in common: 1) abolition of intermediaries between the state and the cultivator and 2) the payment of compensation to the owners But there was no clear mention about just and equitable compensation Therefore, the Zamindari Abolition Act was challenged in the High Courts and the Supreme Court. But the Government accomplished the task of abolishing intermediary tenures bringing nearly 20 million cultivators into direct contact with the state. Nearly 57.7 lakh hectares were distributed to landless agriculturists after the successful completion of the Zamindari Abolition Act. The abolition also had a favourable economic impact on the country. By conferring the ownership of land to the tiller, the Government provided an incentive to improve cultivation. This paved the way for increase in efficiency and yield. This was an important step towards the establishment of socialism and the Government revenue increased. It also ushered in cooperative farming
The efficacy of the legislation was, however, considerably reduced for the following reasons; . The act did not benefit sub-tenants and share croppers, as they did not have occupancy rights on the land they cultivated Intermediaries were abolished, but the rent receiving class continued to ex st. Many landlords managed to retain considerable land areas under the various provisions of the laws. Benami holdings became the order of the day in many States. The problems of transferring ownership rights from the actual cultivators of the land, the tenants, the sub-tenants, share croppers, therefore, remained far from resolved Result, land reforms remain incomplete and unfinished.
Tenancy reforms This focused on three areas: 1.Rent regulation 2. Tenure security 3.Conferring ownership to tenants
After independence, the payment of rent by the tenants of all classes and the rate of rent were regulated by legislation. The first Five-Year Plan laid down that rent should not exceed one-fifth to one-fourth of the total produce. The law along these lines has been enacted in all the States. The maximum rate of rent should not exceed that suggested by the Planning Commission in all parts of the States. Maximum rents differed from one State to another - Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Gujarat fixed one-sixth of the produce as maximum rent. In Kerala, it ranges between one-fourth and one-third and in the Punjab one- third. In Tamil Nadu, the rent varies from one-third to 40 per cent of the produce. In Andhra Pradesh it is one-fourth for irrigated land The rent could be paid in cash instead of kind
With a view to ensuring security of tenure, various State Governments have passed laws which have three essential aims 1) Ejectment does not take place except with the provisions of law, 2) the land may be taken over by the owners for personal cultivation only, and 3) in the event of resumption the tenant is assured of the prescribed minimum areas The measures adopted in different States fall in four categories; First, all the tenants cultivating a portion of land have been given full security of tenure without the land owners having any right to resume land for personal cultivation. This is in operation in Uttar Pradesh and Delhi. Secondly, land owners are permitted to resume a limited area for personal cultivation, but they should provide a minimum area to the tenants. This is in vogue in Assam, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab and Rajasthan.
As a result of all these measures, 92 per cent of the holdings are wholly owned and self-operated in the country today. In spite of the progress made in this regard, the tenancy reforms are still plagued by deficiencies some of which are: 1) The tenancy reforms have excluded the share croppers who form the bulk of the tenant cultivators, 2) Ejection of tenants still takes place on several ground 3) The right or resumption given in the legislation has led to land 4) Fair rents are not uniform and not implemented in various states 5) Ownership rights could not be conferred on a large body of tenants grabbing by the unscrupulous because of the acute land hunger existing in the country because of the high rates of compensation to be paid by the tenants. The proof of continuous possession for 12 consecutive years to get occupancy rights also led to tardy implementation of tenancy reforms.
Land Ceiling: Land is a source of Income in rural India land and it provides employment opportunities. Therefore it is important for the marginal farmers, agricultural labourers, and small farmers. The concept 'ceiling on land holdings' denotes to the legally stipulated maximum size beyond which no individual farmer or farm household can hold any land. The objective of such ceiling is to promote economic growth with social justice. Land Ceiling should be imposed on all kinds of lands such as Fallow, Uncultivable, irrigated and Cultivable land. All the mentioned are inclusive of ceiling Act. The ceiling act varies from state to state on ceiling on two crops a year land. However in most of the places the ceiling is 18 Acres.
Land possession and social power: It is observed that the land is not only the source of production but also for generating power in the community. In the Indian system, the land is often transferred from one generation to another generation. However all this lack the documentation of possession of land. In this framework, the government had made it mandatory to register all tenancy arrangements.
. The process involved in the distribution of surplus land was complicated and time consuming thanks to the intervention of the court, Many land owners surrendered but only inferior and uncultivable land. The allottees, in many cases, could not make proper use of the land as they did not have the money to improve the soil. . Several States have passed the Consolidation of Holdings Act. Statistics reveal that 518 lakhs of hectares had been consolidated in the country at the beginning of the Seventh Five Year Plan, which constitute about 33% of the cultivatable land. The food and the agricultural organisation (FAO), after studying the position in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh regarding the operation of the consolidation of holding act, remarked;" A significant reduction in the cost of cultivation, increased cropping intensity and a more remunerative cropping pattern were developed in these two States.'"
The Planning Commission in the first three Five Year Plans, chalked out detailed plans for the development of cooperative farming. Only two per cent of the agriculturists have formed cooperative societies farming only 0.2 per cent of the total cultivable area. Cooperative farming has certain difficulties to surmount. The big and marginal farmers are sceptical and the small peasants are not easily convinced that the movement would help them
On the question of increasing productivity, it is difficult to assess the exact contribution of land reforms because productivitv has been more related to the technical revolution ushered in the Indiarn agricultural sector. As Dhingra says, "It is difficult to say either (a) that land reforms did not contribute at all to an increase agricultural production or (b) that institutional arrangements alone should be credited with an increase in agricultural production. It is for the future research workers to determine what has been the relative share of institutional and technological factors in agricultural development.
In order to achieve success, the asian development bank has recommended a strategy on these lines; . Political commitment at the top, . Administrative preparedness including the improvement of the technical design of enactments, The provision of financial resources and . The streamlining of the organisational machinery of implementation, Creation of necessary supporting service for the beneficiaries and finally . The organisation of beneficiaries themselves.
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