At the time of independence ownership of land was concentrated in the hands of a few. This led to the exploitation of the farmers and was a major hindrance towards the socio-economic development of the rural population. Equal distribution of land was therefore an area of focus of Independent India's government. Laws for land ceiling were enacted in various states during 50s & 60s which were modified on the directives of central government in 1972.
Under the 1949 Indian constitution, states were granted the powers to enact (and implement) land reforms. This autonomy ensures that there has been significant variation across states and time in terms of the number and types of land reforms that have been enacted. We classify land reform acts into four main categories according to their main purpose.
Existing assessments of the effectiveness of these different reforms are highly mixed. Though promoted by the centre in various Five Year Plans, the fact that land reforms were a state subject under the 1949 Constitution meant that enactment and implementation was dependent on the political will of state governments. The perceived oppressive character of the Zamandari and their close alliance with the British galvanized broad political support for the abolition intermediaries and led to widespread implementation of these reforms most of which were complete by the early 1960s. Centre-state alignment on the issue of tenancy reforms was much less pronounced. With many state legislatures controlled by the landlord class, reforms which harmed this class tended to be blocked, though where tenants had substantial political representation notable successes in implementation were recorded.
Despite the considerable publicity attached to their enactment, political failure to implement was most complete in the case of land ceiling legislation. Here ambivalence in the formulation of policy and numerous loopholes allowed the bulk of landowners to avoid expropriation by distributing surplus land to relations, friends and dependents. As a result of these problems, implementation of both tenancy reform and land ceiling legislation tended to lag well behind the targets set in the Five Year Plans. Land consolidation legislation was enacted less than the other reforms and, owing partly to the sparseness of land records, implementation has been considered to be both sporadic and patchy only affecting a few states in any significant way. Village level studies also offer a very mixed assessment of the poverty impact of different land reforms. Similar reforms seemed to have produced different effects in different areas leaving overall impact indeterminate. There is some consensus that the abolition of intermediaries achieved a limited and variable success both in redistributing land towards the poor and increasing the security of smallholders.
For tenancy reform, however, whereas successes have been recorded, in particular, where tenants are well organized there has also been a range of documented cases of imminent legislation prompting landlords to engage in mass evictions of tenants and of the de jure banning of landlord-tenant relationships pushing tenancy under- ground and therefore, paradoxically, reducing tenurial security. Land ceiling legislation, in a variety of village studies, is also perceived to have had neutral or negative effects on poverty by inducing landowners from joint families to evict their tenants and to separate their holdings into smaller proprietary units among family members as a means of avoiding expropriation. Land consolidation is also on the whole judged not to have been progressive in its redistributive impact given that richer farmers tend to use their power to obtain improved holdings. There is a considerable variation in overall land reform activity across states with states such as Uttar Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu having a lot of activity while Punjab and Rajasthan have very little.
New Agency for Land reforms: Government is planning to establish a separate agency for land reforms & upgradation of wasteland. New agency named; “Jai Prakash Narayan Mission for Land Reforms & Wasteland Management” will work under the ministry of rural development. This body will be authorized for making policies and implementing them for land reforms & wasteland upgradation.
DISCLAIMER: JPL and its affiliates shall have no liability for any views, thoughts and comments expressed on this article.