Table of Contents
According to the 2011 Agricultural Census of India, for around 61.5% of the population, agriculture is the main source of livelihood. The land is the basis of sustenance of all aspects of life be it biological, economic, or cultural. Agriculture contributes around 18.8% to the Gross Value Added in the Indian economy, according to the Economic Survey of India, 2021-22. Land tenure reforms are the only ones covered by the term “land reforms.” The Latin word “teneo,” from which the term “tenure” is derived, means “to hold.” Thus, the term “land tenure” is used to describe the circumstances surrounding the ownership of land.
Since they aim to end exploitative relationships marked by stark inequalities between wealthy landowners and destitute peasants without security of tenure, land reforms are seen as a tool for social justice. By placing limits on the extent of holdings that a family can acquire, it takes a step against the accumulation of landholdings in the hands of a small number of absentee/non-cultivating proprietors. Although redistribution of land is the common understanding of land reforms, their scope is far broader. They primarily consist of five:
- Eliminating intermediate tenures;
- Rent reforms;
- Distribution of surplus land and a ceiling on land holdings;
- Holdings consolidation; and
- Gathering and maintaining land records.
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Land Reforms in India Reasons
India’s state policy has always included land distribution. The elimination of the Zamindari system was maybe the most significant land policy in independent India (feudal landholding practices). India’s land-reform programme had two main goals: “The first is to remove such impediments to increase in agricultural productivity that result from the agrarian structure inherited from the past. The second goal, which is closely related to the first, is to eradicate all forms of social injustice and exploitation within the agrarian system, to protect those who work the soil and guarantee equality of opportunity and status for all groups of rural residents. Introducing Land Reforms in India had the following objectives:
- Redistribution of land so that it is not controlled by a small number of individuals.
- A land ceiling that distributes surplus land to marginal and small farmers.
- The reduction of rural poverty.
- Elimination of middlemen
- Tenancy reforms
- Increasing production in agriculture.
- The consolidation of land ownership and the avoidance of fragmentation of the land.
- Promoting cooperative agriculture.
- To promote economic parity and social equality.
- Tribal protection by preventing outsiders from claiming their ancestral lands.
- Land reforms were also implemented for industrial and commercial growth.
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Impact of Land Reforms in India
Elimination of Middlemen such as Landlords
- Zamindars and Jagirdars, two strong classes, vanish from existence.
- This lessened the exploitation of the peasants because they now owned the land they farmed.
- The Zamindars, who used numerous strategies to get around the law, bitterly opposed this action.
- They used their relatives’ names when registering their own land.
- In order to prevent renters from acquiring incumbency rights, they routinely moved tenants among other land parcels.
- A family or individual was only allowed to own a certain amount of land, making it somewhat possible to distribute land fairly.
- The land reforms would not have been at least partially effective if only landlords were abolished and there was no land ceiling.
- The existence of the land ceiling prevented wealthy farmers or higher-class tenants from assuming the role as new avatar Zamindars.
- Land is a source of social stature in addition to economic wealth.
- Prior to the implementation of land reforms, it was not required to keep ownership documents.
- Additionally, it is required to record all tenancy agreements.
A Rise in Productivity
- Since tillers themselves became the landowners, more land was put under cultivation, which boosted production.
- Because of the left-wing governments’ political commitment to successfully implementing land reforms, it was generally effective in West Bengal and Kerala. Regarding ownership and landholding practices, as well as the state of the peasantry, there was a form of revolution in these regions. “Land to the tiller” was the campaign’s rallying cry.
- Additionally, the redistribution of land to landless labourers saw some success in Jammu and Kashmir.
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Importance of Land Reforms
The encouragement of landowners and growers is the main driver driving these land reforms. If the government can promise to safeguard them (from exploitation) and provide them with financial help, these farmers are willing to put in the grueling effort. He may establish credit and completely develop his land once he is really handed possession. The main advantage of such land reforms is that they increase the country’s agricultural output. Without a substantial input of governmental funding, this is accomplished. India already struggled to provide for its own food needs.
- These land modifications provide a cost-free way to increase the production of grains and other agricultural goods on farms.
- The farmer will also sell the extra produce to the market once he has enough to eat to help the economy.
- The government and farmers’ relationships improved as a result of these land reforms.
- Under British rule, these farmers were badly exploited, which resulted in their disenfranchisement.
- These adjustments made it possible for farmers and the government to connect. Together, they strengthened the agriculture sector of our economy.
- One of the key goals of the Five Year Plan, equity, was also realized through land reforms.
- For the millions of farmers in the country, it provided social justice.
- It encouraged wealth equality and made sure farmers benefited from their own labour.
- When India became independent from the colonial authority, it was given a framework that was rather feudal and agrarian.
- Most of the land and its ownership were in the hands of a small number of powerful landowners and zamindars.
- India has made a number of efforts since achieving independence to get rid of the corrupt system and give the farmers greater power.
- To better enhance agricultural development, certain measures were implemented:
- Cutting out middlemen: The Zamindari system was done away with. The “Property to Tillers” policy, which recognised landowners’ rights to have their land worked, encouraged more investment in agriculture.
- Tenancy rules were changed to confirm tenants’ rights to occupy space and set a cap on the amount of rent that could be demanded. Additionally, this encouraged farmers to take the initiative to increase farm output.
- Rearranging land holdings: Land ceiling legislation was passed to set a restriction on the amount of land a person may own. It was only partially effective because it was only able to reorganize 2% of the region.
- Support for the Boodhan and Sarvodaya moment: They advised individuals to think about donating land for the benefit of people.
- Consolidation of land holding: To increase production, this measure was implemented. Punjab and Haryana succeeded, whereas the South and Eastern States failed.
- Collective cooperative farming: In order to benefit from economies of scale, it was proposed to merge the diverse land holdings within village communities. People were unwilling to sell their land, hence it was unsuccessful.
- National Land Records Modernization Program: The National Land Records Modernization Program, which launched in 2008 and aims to upgrade and digitize land records, has increased transparency and made clear who owns what land.
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Implementation of Land Reforms of India
In the manufacturing process that combines labor and land, it has been observed that land ownership turns into a determining factor. The quantity and distribution of agricultural products are thus impacted. Land reforms aim to change the socioeconomic standing of the people that is dependent on agriculture in various ways. The quality and amount of agricultural lands being used productively is crucial to growth for nations with a significant agricultural base. In India, the goal of land reform was to promote equity in the ownership of land by transferring it from the rich to the poor. Large disparities and inconsistencies in the distribution of agricultural lands in India led to rural residents’ discontent and rebellion. India has implemented a number of land reforms since gaining its independence in order to give farmers more authority. The following are some crucial actions:
- The Zamindari system’s abolition and the acknowledgement of peasants’ ownership rights to the land.
- Reforms to tenancies that recognize tenants’ use of real estate and control the setting of rent.
- A drive and plea to landowners to donate arable land for the benefit of the populace and society.
- Updated records under the National Land Records Modernization program will increase transparency in the declaration of land holdings.
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Advantages of Land Reforms in India
- After intermediaries were eliminated, nearly 2 crore tenants became owners of the land they farmed.
- A parasitic species has become extinct as a result of the removal of middlemen.
- The government has taken over more land to give to farmers who lack access to land.
- Private woodlands and substantial tracts of arable wasteland that belonged to the intermediaries are now mostly owned by the State.
- After the law was repealed, cultivators had direct communication with the government.
Disadvantages of Land Reforms in India
- Sharecropping, landlordism, and other institutions survived in many places despite the end of the zamindari.
- Only the top layer of landlords was removed from the multi-layered agricultural structure.
- It led to widespread evictions.
- There are several social, economic, administrative, and legal problems as a result of mass eviction.
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Measures of Land Reforms in India
Following Independence, the government established the Agrarian Reforms Committee, which J.C. Kumarapppa, for doing a thorough analysis of the country’s current agrarian relations. The group suggested that all middlemen between the state and the tiller be abolished and that, subject to certain restrictions, the tiller should own the land. Various measures through which the land reforms were achieved are:
Removal of Zamindari
- The zamindari system was abolished as a result of this reform in the 1950s, which also recognised the peasants’ “occupancy rights” (i.e., who the land actually belongs to).
- It did not, however, acknowledge the rights of the tiller.
- Due to political will and a strong rural mass social base, it was successful in states like West Bengal and Kerala, but failed in other states due to a lack of political will, bureaucratic indifference, corruption, and zamindar influence over the implementation process.
- Tenant rights were recognized in the land reforms that followed.
- The Second Five Year Plan proposed that eliminating intermediary tenures and placing tenants in a direct line of communication with the government would restore the landowner to his proper position in the agrarian system and provide him full incentives to boost agricultural output.
- The legal limit size beyond which no individual farmer or farm household may hold any land is referred to as the “ceiling on land holdings.”
- The goal of such a ceiling, like all other land reform initiatives, is to advance economic growth while upholding social justice.
- By the end of 1959, all states were to have enacted agrarian legislation limiting the extent of land holdings, according to the Nagpur Resolution of the Indian National Congress.
- As a result, all state governments in the 1960s set maximum land holdings, with the exception of the north-eastern region.
Consolidation of Land
- Consolidation of holdings is the process of amalgamating and redistributing scattered land in order to combine all of a cultivator’s plots into a single, manageable block.
- However, with the exception of Punjab, Haryana, and western Uttar Pradesh, the progress gained in terms of holding consolidation was not very good due to a lack of significant political and administrative backing.
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Challenges of Land Reforms in India
- Regarding land use planning, India is currently in a precarious situation.
- The output of food grains increased by approximately four times in the decades following independence, but there is an increasing shortage of rice, pulses, and oilseeds.
- Lacks of pastureland, a lack of fuel, and a rapid loss of forest resources are taking on serious proportions.
- Ecological imbalances caused by numerous development projects, such as soil erosion, dams that are being built quickly, a lack of groundwater, contamination of the land and water, water logging, etc., are getting worse and are negatively hurting agricultural output.
- The importance of land as a source of livelihood for social justice, human dignity, subsistence, and life has largely been lost:
Shifting Economic Imperatives
- The goal of national economic development should be to improve everyone’s quality of life inside a specific country.
- Does the current paradigm of development meet these requirements?
- The opposite seems to be true: “Development has become a major business, focused more with its own expansion and imperatives than with the people it was initially created to serve.”
Maintaining Ecological Balance Forests
- An ecological balance between the percentage of land set aside for forestry, agriculture, and non-agricultural uses has been argued for above.
- Exploring the connections between rural poverty, landlessness, and unequal land tenure systems is necessary, paying special attention to the issues with deforestation.
- The loss of forests will always upset the natural balance.
- This has been clearly connected to cyclical patterns of droughts followed by floods.
- Land Degradation
- Land deterioration and soil erosion are also influenced by land use patterns.
- Given the ecosystem’s fragility and the degradation of the land quality brought on by this reliance on chemical inputs, future land-use decisions must take care to avoid overusing groundwater.
Preserving Human Diversity
- The idea of land as a commodity is prevalent among communities like those of numerous tribal groups in India, who typically lack a formalized system of property rights.
- Because many tribal communities, or 7% of all Indians, reside in resource-rich areas, the question of land use is raised in this context.
- Therefore, accessing and controlling the land or its mineral wealth is of great interest to both the government and the corporate sector.
- Tribal communities have been systematically deprived of their land as a result of this process, and they are typically unable to seek compensation since they lack formal documentation proving their ownership.
- Since independence, it is estimated that over 20 million people have been uprooted by significant projects (such as dams and railroads), with indigenous communities making up the majority of those affected.
Complexities of Common Property
Regimes Resources that are controlled and managed as common property, both natural and artificial, create additional difficulty in the context of land-related issues. Common property, such as woods, grazing grounds, water, and fisheries, can also be held and managed under a community resource management system in addition to private property or property owned and controlled by the state.
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