Land Reforms in India: Being a source of productivity of food, a place to live or work, the land is considered as a precious asset for every country. Before colonial rule, the entire land used by a community in India, but at the time of the British Raj, this rule had been changed. In 1793, in the states like Bihar, Bengal and Orissa rule named as Permanent Land Settlement had introduced by Lord Cornwallis. In this rule, the tax farmers appointed by the British rulers were considered to pay fixed commission to East India Company. To make the transactions accurate and facilitate, these intermediaries were formed, known as Zamindar or Jagirdar.
Advent of Tenants: Due to the establishment of the Land Settlement Act, 1793, there were landlords, from where the farmers can purchase land for agriculture purpose. The farmers who hired the land for agricultural use are known as tenants. There are different ways used by the farmers to pay for the land they are using. These are in the form of:
- Cash: They pay a fixed amount of money for the time they are using the land.
- Share: They pay some cash and rest crops
- Crop: Instead of paying the cash, they pay crops
Existence of Land Reforms & Land Distribution
In an ancient time, there had been a practice of the distribution of land in an unequal manner in India. The landowners had been using their power in a way to keep the poor persons away from getting a portion of land. Since independence, there has been a rule in which landless and poor people take a part of the land. This rule or policy was named as land reform. After this, the Indian government introduced a number of land reforms such as the abolition of ‘Zamindari’ as revenue collectors, granting a ceiling on landholders and awarding of the surplus land’s rights in favour of landless, and tenancy reforms.
In brief, land reform is a process of reallocating of land by dragging some portion of the rich people’s land to poor people. This policy includes regulation of ownership, sales, leasing, operation, and inheritance of land.
In India, due to the massive number of the population below the poverty line, this political and financial decision for the land reforms is well-appreciated because this policy offers the efficient use of vacant lands.
History of Land Reforms in India
Prior to Independence in India, there were different land programs. During the time of Mughals as British didn’t arrive, there was a different land taxation system. Only peasants (Pre-industrial agricultural farmers or labourer) continued to grab customary rights over the land they occupied and never get evicted unless they became unable to pay the fixed amount of land revenue to the state. At that time, the task of assembling revenue was done by agents known as Zamindars.
But due to the existence of the East India Company (EIC) in the 17th century, there was a big change occurs in agriculture structure. The EIC brought the right to get all the collected revenue. Later they declared Zamindars as owners of the land as per the Permanent Settlement Act. Those Zamindars further involved intermediaries for revenue collection which resulted in an increase in rent which failed the peasants to pay the increased rent. All this has resulted in large-scale evictions, disturbance, and decreased in agriculture production.
Later on, under the Bengal Rent Act of 1859, the restriction was placed on the power of landlord’. They could not endow to increase the rent, but this act was protected only fixed-rent tenants (those having proof of cultivation of land for 12 consecutive years). There was no favour for bargadars or agricultural labourers. Only a very few were able to prove the consecutive record of cultivation of land. Later on, there were other bodies existed, who had controlled on the lands.
Once India got independent, the government took an effective step. It eliminated the systems of Zamindaris and Jagirdari as well as eradicated intermediaries between state and peasant. This act was implemented and accepted by all the states in India, famous as Abolition of Zamindari /Jagirdari systems Act.
Objectives of the Land Reforms in India
The land reforms were implemented due to the following intentions:
- To indulge in the reallocation of land thereby inequalities in landowners can minimise.
- To eradicate poverty in rural areas.
- To ensure land ceiling and allocate surplus land among the small and marginal farmers.
- To establish a good relationship between tenancy and ceiling and also legitimise tenancy with the ceiling limit.
- To help in registering all the tenancy with the village Panchayats.
- Enhancing socialist development to decline social inequality
- Giving empowerment to women thereby they can fulfil their dreams
- To hike up the productivity of agriculture
- Make sure that all have a right on a piece of land.
- Protecting the land of landowners from outsiders
Tenancy Systems of Land
During the time of independence, there were many types of proprietary land tenures in India. Following all are highlighted one by one:
In 1772, there was an Act known as the Ryotwari system in Madras which was later used in other states as well. In it, the only cultivator was responsible for paying the land revenue to the government as there was no intermediate in between him and the state. Besides, the Ryot had authorized for sale, transfer and leasing of land. He was not considered to evict from the land until he would pay the land revenue. But this Ryotwari system was temporary and later extended to Bombay Presidency.
Mahalwari system was established by William Bentinck in Agra and Oudh, but later it was extended to Punjab and Madhya Pradesh. In it, there were the village communities who owned the village land commonly. It was the joint responsibility of those communities to pay the land revenue. Moreover, the land of joint ownership could be cultivated by tenants who could pay cash or share or kind.
As stated above, this system was made by Lord Cornwallis in India. It was introduced the first time in West Bengal in 1793 as well as later also adopted by the other states. In it, there was a person appointed, who was responsible for collecting the payment of land revenue. He got the land free of cost from the government as per British rule which was known as an estate. In it, landlords were not considered to cultivate the land as they further handed over to the cultivators. The fact is, under this system, the whole land of a village was under the control of one landlord.
The farmers who were interested could work on the land as tenant or labourer under an agreement the Zamindar. But this system was worthless, and after some times, Zamindars hiked up the prices of rent which endowed the labourers unable to pay.
The Jagirdar was authorized to control the land. The relationship between the production and land tenure differed from state to state. Hence, the result was different tenancy reform laws in each state. The result of tenancy was not good which endowed some states to ban it. The states like Karnataka had banned this law while Punjab and Haryana not got banned for tenancy policy.
Impact of Land Reform in India
Due to the introduction of land reforms, is there any positive effect? Following, it has discussed its impact in India:
1. Land Ceiling
The fact is, the land is the best and simple source to earn income in the rural areas in India. It is a significant part of agricultural labourers, marginal farmers, and small farmers. By the introduction of an act known as Land ceiling, there has been equal distribution of land to all farmers. The goal behind this law is to offer economic growth with social justice. It should be noted that this law is eligible on all types of lands such as Cultivable, Fallow, Uncultivable, and irrigated land. In addition, this law varies from state to state.
2. Eradication of Zamindars and Jagirdars
- Due to introduction land reforms, the power of Zamindars and Jagirdars turned into inexistent.
- The elimination of intermediaries results in stopped exploitation
- The new peasants get a scope for innovation in land reforms which results hiking up revenue to the state governments.
- The ex-jagirdars and ex-Zamindars have indulged in other activities which in turn offering the benefits to National growth.
- Transfer to land to peasants by taking from intermediaries results in declination in disparities.
3. Land Possession and Social Power
The fact is, the land is not only used for production but also leads to generating power in the community. It is transferred from one generation to another but for this, there is a need for all valid documents. To make this rule runs flawless, the government of India has become it mandatory to all landowners to get land registered as soon as possible.
Thus, the Indian government has taken worthwhile steps to reallocation the excess land to those having no source of income. The intention behind it has been to help the weaker or poorer society of India.