Indian Economy (1950-1990)

Land Reforms

After the British left, India had to undo a lot of damage they had done to our economy and society. One such system of the British Raj that independent India had to correct was the zamindari system. To promote equity the government introduced land reforms. Let us see how this was implemented.

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Land Reforms

During the British times, the tillers of the lands were not its owners. So a farmer did not have actual ownership of the land. The ownership was with the intermediaries, i.e. the zamindars, jagidars etc. The farmer would farm the land and pay rent to these zamindars.

This did not motivate the zamindars to invest in the farm or invest in the agricultural practices. They were only focussed on collecting their rent. And as you can imagine the farm and the farmer both suffered.

But after independence, the government realized that the agricultural output was not sufficient for the whole country. One way to boost the produce was to make the tillers of the land its owner. And so efforts were made to abolish the intermediaries and this was known as the land reforms.

Objectives of the Land Reforms

The government of a newly independent India had a few objectives in mind to implement these land reforms. Let us take a look at the few important ones

  • The main objective was to bring systematic and complete changes to the agrarian structure of the country.
  • Its other main aim was to abolish the intermediaries of the semi-feudal landlordism system of India, i.e. get rid of the zamindars
  • Bring about equity in the economy and society and ensure social justice for past atrocities towards farmers
  • The land reforms would also prevent any exploitation of the tenant farmers by the hands of the landlords
  • And finally to motivate these farmers and implement practices to increase agricultural output.

Land Reforms

Steps Implemented under the Land Reforms

Immediately after independence, many states in India passed the Zamindari Abolition Act. In the states of Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar etc the surplus land of the landlords were seized by the states. Although the Supreme Court found the act unconstitutional, the legislature amended the article and corrected their actions.

By the abolition of intermediaries of all types, nearly 2 crore tenants became owners of their own lands. The tenure laws were updated and the land reforms were finally showing some positive results.

The other important step taken was the imposition of the land ceiling. This law fixes the total amount of land an individual or family can hold. Not only does the law implement the fixation of the ceiling, it also allows the government to take over the surplus land. Such land was then distributed among landless farmers or small farmers. The imposition of such a ceiling was to deter the concentration of land in the hands of a few.

The reforms also promoted consolidation of holdings. If a farmer had a few plots of land in the village, under this scheme these lands would be consolidated into one big piece of land. This can be done by the purchase or exchange of land. Actually, one problem of agriculture in India is that the land parcels are too small for commercial farming. This method can solve the problem of land fragmentation.

To solve the problems of land subdivision and lack of financing the government also began promoting co-operative farming. Here farmers can pool their lands and resources and gain the advantages of economies of scale and capital investment. But co-operative farming in India has only seen limited success.

Importance of Land Reforms

The main incentive of these land reforms is to act as an incentive for the farmers and the cultivators of the land. If the government can assure their protection (from exploitation) and provide them financial help, these farmers are willing to do the hard work. Once he is actually granted ownership he can raise credit and cultivate his land to the full potential.

Another major advantage of such land reforms is that they can increase the agricultural output of the country. This is done without any major influx of capital by the state. India was anyways struggling with food self-sufficiency. These land reforms were a cost-free method to increase grain and agricultural output from farms. And once the farmer is self-sufficient he will sell the market surplus and help the economy.

These land reforms also helped in establishing a relationship between the farmers and the government. During the British rule these farmers were heavily exploited and hence they became disenfranchised. These reforms opened a dialogue between the government and the farmers. They both cooperated to boost the agricultural sector of our economy.

And land reforms fulfilled one of the major goals of the five-year plan – Equity. It provided social justice to the crores of farmers across the country. It made sure the farmers benefitted from their own labour and promoted equality of wealth.

Solved Question for You

Q: Bhoodan movement was started in India by _______.

  1. Vinoba Bhave
  2. Sardar Patel
  3. M K Swami
  4. None of the above

Ans: The correct option is A. Vinoba Bhave initiated this movement in 1951. It was also known as the Land Gift Movement. This was a voluntary form of land reform where they collected surrendered land from landowners and gifted them to the poor landless farmers.

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