Land Reforms

After achieving political independence, India had to win economic independence because without the availability of sufficient eco-resources, political independence was meaningless to the vast majority of Indian people. The Land Reforms initiated by the Government of India represented the most serious efforts to empower the citizen economically. Several laws were invented by the government to enforce land reforms beginning in 1950.

What was the need for Land Reforms?

Land Reforms were necessary to wipe out the evils left behind by the British in the Indian agrarian system. These were responses & reactions of the colonial legacy. Land Reforms settlement like permanent settlement, Malgujari settlement & Talukdar settlement introduction by British had resulted in the deprivation of the vast majority of Indian peasant of their traditional land returns.

The Zamindars have been recognized as owners of lands and peasants proprietor transformed into landless tenant cultivators. At the time of Indian independence, more than 80% of people were dependent on land. Their empowerment was linked with the success of land reforms. That’s why Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had commented that the success of Land Reforms majority will indicate our commitment towards democracy.

Approaches towards Land Reforms

Representational image
Representational image

Three main approaches emerged in the context of Land Reforms in India. These were the Gandhian Approach, Nationalist Approach, and Marxist Approach. Gandhian Approach manifested itself in form of the “Sarvodaya” movement of Gandhi, the Bhoodan movement (1951) & (Gramadan movement (1957) of Acharya Vinoba Bhave were also based on the same approach.

These movements were reeling upon voluntary action on part of Zamindars. They were persuaded to give away their excess land holding so that it could be redistributed among landless & marginal farmers. This was a failure because, in any absence of compulsion, most landlords didn’t give away their excess land & whenever the lands were surrender for sake of social prestige, it was found to be completely fallowed.

A total of 46 lakh acres of land were collected through this movement out of 17.38 lakh acres of land rejected as it was completely wasted. Only 11.9 lakhs acre could be redistributed & no taker was found for the remaining 13.4 lakhs acres of land. The national approach relied on the force of law in the implementation of Land reform.

The Marxist approach emphasized the use of radical, revolutionary methods people were extracted not to share with landlords & treat themselves as owners of the land. This approach manifested itself in form of the Naxalbari movement & other Maoist movements.

Aims and Object of Land Reforms Laws

The Land Reforms law enacted by the government was guided by five main objects which were recognition of the ownership return of actual cultivator over lands, to safeguard the interest of tenants & cultivator by fixing land rent & tenure, to carry out the consolidation of landholding, and to impose land ceiling, so that redistribution of land could be carried out among landless & marginal farmers.

It also aims to promote co-operative farming, so that agricultural activity could be profitable. Land Reform law enacted by the government was only partially successful. In the communist-ruled state of Kerala & West Bengal, Land Reforms were highly successful. In states like Andhra Pradesh, Land Reforms were a miserable failure. In other states, Land Reforms were successful only marginally.

Causes behind the Failure of Land Reforms

Lack of coordination between center & state government was an important factor behind the failure of Land Reforms. Laws enacted by the different state governments were not uniform in many cases the amount of land ceiling was kept so high that no redistribution of land could be carried out.

Land Reforms enacted by the government were having serious loopholes. These laws were not applied to every category of land. The archers the land, trees & semi fertile land were kept out of its previous. Benami’s action proved to be the biggest factor in the failure of Land Reforms because the government started enacting Land Reforms laws, the big landowner transferred their land into names of relatives, etc to escape the imposition of the land ceiling.

Lack of political will on part of the government was another fact behind the failure of Land Reforms. Lawmakers were big landowners, as a result of which they deliberately enacted weak laws. Improper implementation of Land Reforms law also contributed to their failure. Corruption prevailing in government departments dealing with the implementation of Land Reforms also contributed to the failure.

Impact of Failure of the Land Reforms

Failure of Land reform ensured that the vast majority of Indian people had to live the life of the marginalized citizen. They couldn’t enjoy the benefits of Independence. Their suffering continued even after the British Rule. The production of Indian agriculture remained very low. The failure of Land Reforms was responsible for the continuation of failure like situation in India in the 1950s & 1960s.

Lack of self-sufficiency in the field of food grain adversely affected national sovereignty. India had to depend on programs like “Rat food” (Public Law 480) to feed the citizens. The continuation of the suffering of the vast majority pushed way peasants into the fold of revolutionary ideology. The Naxalbari movement was a product of this circumstance. The discontent of peasants was exploited by anti-national forces to raise violent struggles against the state.