Land Reforms

Land Reforms in India: In the agricultural development process, land reforms and technological change are complementary rather than mutually exclusive factors. The goal of land reform, and thus tenancy reform, is twofold. On the one hand, it aims to make better use of scarce land resources by influencing holding conditions and imposing ceilings and floors on holdings, allowing for the most cost-effective cultivation, i.e. without wasting labor and capital.

In order to end exploitation, it is a method of redistributing agricultural land in favor of less privileged groups, as well as improving the terms and conditions under which the land is held for cultivation by the actual tillers.  There are 2 types of land reforms-

  • Traditional Land Reforms (Post 1951)
  • Market-led land reform (Post 1991)

Traditional land reforms (1951-1991)

Tenants used to pay rent to intermediaries, who then passed it on to the government in an intermediary system. Because Zamindars must pay a significant amount to the government, this system was extremely exploitative for tenants. Furthermore, this type of system deterred agricultural investment. Because they were poor, tenants were unable to invest. In addition, the Zamindari system was not indefinite. As a result, they were also unwilling to invest.

As a result of land reforms, intermediaries were phased out after independence. The government was now in direct contact with the tenants. In addition, land revenue was drastically reduced. As a result, their standard of living rose. They were able to invest more in agriculture as they received more surplus from agriculture, which helped to increase productivity.

They are the ones who previously had land occupancy rights. They benefited when the Zamindari system was abolished. Sub-tenants made up a larger percentage of the population. They are either landless or have a small plot of land. Small-scale farmers have a limited amount of land. As a result, they must earn a living by working on other people’s land. As a result, the abolition of Zamindari benefited occupancy tenants but not subs tenants.

Security of tenure

It leads to an increase in productivity because a tenant who feels more secure will be more interested in producing; technologies are only used by subtenants at the end of the day. As a result, they are more motivated to increase productivity as a result of the increased security. The first reform was a huge success, but the second failed miserably. The success of reforms is determined by the factors mentioned below.

Conferment of ownership rights to tenants

The abolition of Zamindars was made possible by monetary compensation given to them. Landowners, on the other hand, were politically powerful and influential. They had no desire to give subtenants much autonomy. There were numerous loopholes in the application of tenancy reforms. Subtenants were not legally registered, which is a requirement for the reform to take effect. Subtenants were discouraged from registering by the landowners.

Because of the Communist Party’s aggressive support for subtenants, two states, West Bengal and Kerala, were successful in enacting tenancy reforms. When the communist party took power in West Bengal, it launched a subtenant campaign known as “Operation Barga.” It is a registration drive by the government to ensure that as many subtenants as possible are registered.

Ceiling on land holdings & redistribution of surplus land

A landholding ceiling was established, and surplus land was redistributed as part of this reform. This was done to help alleviate land ownership disparities. There were a few large landowners and a large number of landless or subtenants. However, there is a productivity argument, as more evenly distributed land leads to higher productivity in other countries. For example, South Korea primarily used this type of land reform, which was successful and increased productivity. China is another such example. This reform was a complete failure in India.

Bhoodan: It was voluntary reform, just like the previous reform. However, the goal was thwarted when infertile lands were redistributed.

Consolidation of Land Holdings

Productivity was being harmed by smaller and more dispersed farms. Consolidation refers to bringing smaller/scattered plots together, i.e. giving one farmer a compact plot in one location. This reform introduced us to a new issue: the lack of conclusive rights. It entails snatching upland. They’re very subjective when it comes to lands in the village, which means that some powerful people may be able to take this land.

Farmers believed that consolidation was a pretext to seize their small plots of land, and they were partially correct. Another issue is that, as a result of consolidation, one powerful farmer will receive all fertile land while another will receive only infertile land.

Punjab, Haryana, and Western Uttar Pradesh were successful in implementing this reform. Large-scale farming is easier in larger plots, so states that were aggressive in land consolidation were more successful in the Green Revolution. However, there is still a debate about consolidation today. As a result of the government’s aggressive land reforms during consolidation, many small farmers lost their land. As our agricultural fields become smaller, a similar reform is required today. However, the aforementioned issues should be kept in mind.

Market-led land reforms (Post 1991)

The fundamental difference with traditional reform is, earlier reform was strictly associated with agriculture, but post-1991 reform was brought with idea that land is important not only for agriculture but also for industry & infrastructure development.

Modernization of land & revenue records

Modernization became synonymous with digitization after 1991. Because it is difficult to modify digitized land records, digitization helped to solve the problem of conclusive rights. Because lands can only be sold if the farmer has a conclusive right to them, the government took it very seriously. 

Agriculture was not harmed by digitization because the sale or purchase of land was voluntary, even though it was beneficial in that it could solve problems associated with previous land rationing, such as consolidation. However, the problem with digitization is that any changes made to a land record during digitization become permanent. The UPA government launched the National Land Record Modernization Program (NLRMP) in 2008, with the goal of fully digitizing all land records by 2017. In this reform, the government was to ensure that landowners and leaseholders were both required to register.

Digital India Land Record Modernization Programme (NLRMP)

land reforms

Computerization of Land Records (CLR) and Strengthening of Revenue Administration and Updating of Land Records were two Centrally Sponsored Schemes that the Land Reforms (LR) Division was implementing (SRA&ULR). The Cabinet later approved the merger of these schemes into a modified scheme known as the Digital India Land Records Modernization Programme on 21.8.2008. (DILRMP). The main goals of the DILRMP are to implement a system of updated land records, automated and automatic mutation, integration between textual and spatial records, inter-connectivity between revenue and registration, and to replace the current deeds registration and presumptive title system with conclusive titling with title guarantee system.

The DILRMP has three major components: (a) land record computerization, (b) survey/re-survey, and (c) registration computerization. The District has been designated as the implementation unit, with the District serving as the focal point for all program activities. Except where cadastral surveys are being conducted for the first time, it is hoped that all districts in the country will be covered by the end of the 12th Plan period.